Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 224

Following nearly two months during which Moscow emitted mixed signals on the issue of NATO enlargement, Russia’s political elite moved collectively in the lead-up to the OSCE Summit in Lisbon to re-emphasize Russia’s opposition to the eastward expansion of the Western alliance. President Boris Yeltsin punctuated Moscow’s new-found solidarity when he took a hard line on the issue during talks on November 29 with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Yeltsin emphasized that Moscow’s attitude toward enlargement remains unchanged and negative. NATO expansion, Yeltsin reportedly said, "will lead to the appearance of new demarcation lines in Europe." In a restatement of Moscow’s long-held position on the issue, Yeltsin also reportedly urged the participants of the Lisbon Summit — which opens today — to pursue the construction of a new European security system in which the central role is played by the OSCE (rather than NATO). (Interfax, November 29)

Chernomyrdin and Primakov are to represent Russia in Lisbon, and they–or their subordinates — have been at pains in recent days to make the same points. During an official visit last week to France, Chernomyrdin warned, among other things, that a system of European security cannot be built without Russia’s participation. He also said that "NATO expansion at any cost" would violate Russia’s security interests and would complicate "the military and geopolitical situation in Europe." (Itar-Tass, November 27)

Harsher words still came from Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, who was quoted in a Russian daily on November 27 as saying that NATO enlargement could recreate Cold War tensions between East and West. According to Rodionov, the alliance’s expansion could eventually allow NATO’s air forces to reach central Russia, while the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe (something NATO has said it has no plans to do) would represent a strategic nuclear threat to Russia. In addition, the acquisition by NATO of strategic naval bases in the Baltic states would limit the activities of Russia’s own Baltic Fleet, Rodionov said. He warned that Russia might consider a series of military countermeasures, including the creation of its own military alliance, disavowal of nuclear and conventional arms control agreements, and, conceivably, the retargeting of some of its nuclear missiles at Eastern European capitals. But, in a tip-off that Moscow still seeks a compromise, Rodionov also said that many of Russia’s concerns would be eased by the conclusion of an agreement with NATO that set out acceptable conditions under which enlargement is to proceed. (Interfax, November 28)

Chechnya Withdrawal Begins.