When they meet in Madrid in July next year, the leaders of the 16 NATO countries will invite "one or more countries" to start accession negotiations with the Alliance, with the goal of welcoming the new member(s) by the time of NATO’s 50th anniversary in 1999. Such was the decision of the NATO foreign ministers when they met yesterday in Brussels as the North Atlantic Council. The ministers tried to balance this announcement — sure to be ill-received in Moscow — with steps more amenable to Russia: they pledged to build "a strong security partnership with Russia" and avowed that they had no intention, plan, or reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of any new members. By next summer’s summit they hope also to have negotiated an agreement with Russia, one that "could take the form of a Charter," which would formalize this new relationship and would ensure that the two parties had "a strong, flexible means to consult and cooperate as part of [an] evolving relationship." The Russians have yet to agree to these talks.
Russia was not the only component of the former Soviet Union to get special mention. The ministers also spoke of building a "distinctiveÉand enhanced relationship with Ukraine." After the meeting, NATO secretary-general Javier Solana announced that a NATO information office would be established in Kiev. (NATO Communique, press release, December 10)
The NATO leaders also endorsed a call yesterday by the U.S. to demand that Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic open a dialogue with opposition leaders and recognize last month’s municipal elections. A NATO statement "strongly deplored" the Serbian government’s nullification of those results and called on Milosevic to reverse the decision. Moscow has been a steadfast defender of Milosevic and of Serbian interests throughout the former Yugoslavia, and the prospect loomed that Russia would find itself isolated on this issue along with that of NATO enlargement, as had been the case at the OSCE Summit in Lisbon on December 2-3. (Western agencies, December 10)
In Moscow, meanwhile, there was little evidence of any bend in Russia’s position on NATO. Presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky strongly denied Western speculation that Russian opposition to NATO enlargement had softened, and declared that Moscow continues to believe that enlargement would "isolate Russia and create potential threats to Russia’s national interests…including military threats." (Interfax, December 10) Beginning especially with then Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed’s visit to Brussels in early October, there had been signs that Moscow was resigning itself to NATO’s plans. In the lead-up to the OSCE meeting, however, the Russian Foreign Ministry appeared finally to have quieted such dissenting views, and Russia’s political elites have spoke in one voice against enlargement since that time.
Chernomyrdin Promises to Pay Wage and Pension Arrears by Year’s End.