Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev yesterday unexpectedly skipped a scheduled meeting with U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. Russian General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin, who did meet with Clark, told the visiting NATO delegation that Sergeev was tied up at the Russian Federation Council, where lawmakers were said to be considering several military-related laws. Clark’s talks with Kvashnin–held behind closed doors–were said to have gone well enough. But there was apparently little indication of progress in several areas of possible cooperation that the NATO group had raised at the meeting. Moscow and NATO have signed a broad cooperation agreement–the NATO-Russia Founding Act–and Russia has also signed up for NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Russia’s participation in the program has remained anemic, though, despite NATO efforts to energize relations. (Reuter, April 22)
Kvashnin said that the two sides had not discussed possible membership in NATO for former Soviet states, including the Baltic countries. He did tell reporters after yesterday’s talks, however, that any decision on changes in NATO should take account of Russia’s position. “The question of admitting Baltic countries into NATO,” he said, “should not be viewed without regard for Russia’s interests.” (Itar-Tass, April 22) Moscow remains unreconciled even to the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO. It has repeatedly made clear that it would reconsider its cooperation with NATO in the event that any former Soviet state–and particularly the three Baltic countries–is considered for membership.
LEBED FACING MAKE-OR-BREAK ELECTION IN KRASNOYARSK.