Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 52

Russian leaders continued to talk tough on the issue of NATO enlargement yesterday, but also signaled their readiness to bargain with the Western alliance during and after Boris Yeltsin’s March 19-20 summit meeting with U.S. president Bill Clinton. Russian presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told radio listeners that the summit talks would be "as concrete as possible, firm, and even tough, because we are talking about protecting Russia’s national interests." In opening remarks to a Russian Defense Council meeting, also yesterday, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin appeared to mirror those sentiments. He spoke of Russia’s willingness "to discuss constructive initiatives from NATO," but also Moscow’s intention to proceed "from the interests of the Russian state" in its negotiations with the West. (Reuter, Interfax, March 13)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday described the possible eastward extension of NATO’s military infrastructure as Moscow’s key concern in its negotiations with the West, and suggested that it would be at the top of Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s agenda during his pre-summit talks next week in Washington. (Interfax, March 13) Those remarks appear to continue a pattern, noticeable in recent days, in which Russian leaders appear to have muted their earlier insistence that any political agreement concluded with NATO must be "legally binding." This suggests that the two sides may be close to agreement on that issue, and that Moscow is now focusing its attention on keeping NATO troops, weaponry, and basing facilities out of the prospective new member states.

Shake-Up Beginning in the Russian Military Leadership?