Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 46

Cook’s subsequent talks in Moscow and Sochi were reported to have dealt with a wide range of bilateral and international issues, including Russia’s economic woes. On March 4 Cook met in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Both sides proclaimed their satisfaction with the state of Russian-British relations following the Cook-Ivanov talks, and several agreements were signed. They included one accord which commits the foreign ministers of each country to meet at least once a year. Ivanov described the agreement as evidence “of the two sides’ desire to boost political dialogue on key international issues.”

But Russian sources suggested that the two men had failed to narrow their differences on at least two of the most important of those issues: the desirability of deploying a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo and the utility of maintaining the “no-fly” zones in Iraq (Russian agencies, March 4).

The continued differences in these two areas was no surprise. Moscow has consistently joined Belgrade in opposing the introduction of a NATO force in Kosovo to implement any possible peace agreement. Britain and the United States, on the other hand, have insisted that the NATO force is a necessary part of any possible peace settlement. Cook did nevertheless repeat the West’s offer to make Russia a part of the proposed peacekeeping contingent.

The two sides also said that they had committed themselves to a three-pronged approach to the Kosovo crisis. According to Cook, Russia and Britain will work together to ensure: first, that the two sides show up for the peace talks scheduled to resume in France on March 15; second, that the two sides abide by the cease-fire; and, third, that there is international support for any agreement that is secured during the talks in France (Russian agencies, March 4). As formulated by Cook and Ivanov, the three points sidestep ongoing differences between Moscow and London over how best to deal with the Kosovo crisis.

On the subject of the Iraqi crisis, Ivanov said during the press conference which followed his March 4 talks with Cook that Moscow opposes “any actions that might impede work in the Security Council” related to Iraq. The remark appeared to reflect Russia’s ongoing dissatisfaction with continued U.S. and British airstrikes on Iraqi targets in the no-fly zones. Cook defended maintenance of the no-fly zones during the same press conference (Russian agencies, March 4).

On March 5 Cook traveled on to Sochi for talks with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Their discussions reportedly centered on Russia’s economic crisis and on Moscow’s efforts to win Western financial support. Following the talks Cook offered only the standard, general statement of Western support for Russia’s economic reform efforts, however, an approach which suggested Moscow had won no new pledges of additional assistance from Britain (Russian agencies, March 5). Following his return to London, Cook met on September 6 with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to brief her on his talks in Russia.

Cook’s visit to Russia, which had been postponed several times previously, was intended in part to mend relations which had cooled considerably since the U.S.-British airstrikes on Iraq last December. It was unclear how much was accomplished in that regard. The two sides did agree that Ivanov will pay a return visit to Britain in May. But the British side appeared to make no commitment on a date for Prime Minister Tony Blair to visit Russia.