Two days after what were reported to have been cordial and productive talks between Russian president Boris Yeltsin and German chancellor Helmut Kohl, the Kremlin yesterday pointedly reemphasized its strong opposition to the NATO alliance’s enlargement plans. According to Russian news sources, Yeltsin summoned Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, presidential chief-of-staff Anatoli Chubais, Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, and the secretaries of Russia’s Defense and Security Councils — Yuri Baturin and Ivan Rybkin — to discuss ways of cooperating with NATO, but also to consider counter-measures that would be implemented should enlargement proceed. Kremlin sources indicated that the meeting, which had not been announced in advance, was occasioned by the failure to reach any sort of breakthrough on the enlargement issue during Yeltsin’s talks with Kohl.
That assessment differed markedly from Kohl’s own confident prediction following the talks that Moscow and the Western alliance would manage to resolve their differences in the course of the coming year. (See Monitor, January 6) Kohl also indicated that he and Yeltsin had discussed several proposals that might help ease Russia’s concerns over enlargement, and the German leader said he would raise them with other NATO leaders. Western diplomatic sources in London suggested yesterday what at least two of those proposals may have been. One involved a pledge that NATO would not extend its military structures to new member states–an issue on which NATO and Moscow are likely to be able to find common ground.
But Yeltsin reportedly also demanded a legally-binding commitment from NATO to involve Moscow in formal consultations with the alliance on issues that would include enlargement itself. The Russian daily Segodnya, probably alluding to the same demand, claimed that Yeltsin wanted a binding agreement that would define the rules of military behavior in Europe and that would give Russia the right to veto any Western military build-up. Such demands are presumably unacceptable to the West. (Reuter, Itar-Tass, Interfax, January 6) They also raise questions as to whether Moscow’s renewed intransigence on the enlargement issue is aimed primarily at improving the Kremlin’s bargaining position in upcoming talks between NATO and Moscow, and to what lengths Moscow is prepared to go to stop or to counter NATO enlargement. (On this last point, see the items that follow.)
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