In Moscow today NATO secretary-general Javier Solana launched what are sure to be prolonged and difficult talks with Russian leaders. The negotiations are aimed at winning the Kremlin’s acquiescence to NATO enlargement prior to the alliance’s July 8-9 Summit in Madrid, Spain, at which new member countries are to be named and their process of entry into NATO begun. The ultimate outcome of the talks will go a long way toward defining Russia’s future relations not only with NATO and the West, but also with the former Warsaw Pact states of Eastern Europe and, in all likelihood, with a number of the former Soviet republics that lie on Russia’s borders. In addition, the relationship that develops between Russia and NATO will be a driving force in the negotiation of revisions to the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, and could have a significant impact on Russian-U.S. strategic arms control talks.
The Kremlin has made clear over the past year its vehement opposition to NATO’s enlargement plans, yet the strength of that message was dulled somewhat by the appearance of a few voices in Moscow suggesting a willingness to reach an accommodation with NATO. That dissonance has been squelched in recent months, however, probably by Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov, a determined opponent of enlargement and the man scheduled today to meet for five hours with Solana at a government guest house near Moscow.
In the West, meanwhile, an intense effort has been underway in recent weeks to hammer out negotiating positions on which the key allied leaders agree. U.S. deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott visited London, Brussels, Paris, and Bonn last week with that goal in mind, and reports suggest that the NATO leaders have agreed on a package of inducements to lessen Russia’s hostility toward enlargement. Those inducements reportedly include more flexibility on arms control issues, greater economic assistance to Russia, and the granting to Moscow of a special consultative status with NATO. European leaders are also reportedly pressuring the Clinton Administration to consider leap-frogging the Russian parliament’s reluctance to ratify the START II Treaty by negotiating a START III agreement with Moscow. Such an accord would cut strategic arms further in an effort to ease Moscow’s fear of falling behind the U.S. in that area. (The Washington Post, Reuter, January 16; AP, January 18)
With such reports in mind, a Russian TV commentary on January 19 suggested that Russian membership in the G-7 might be in the offing as well. But the commentator also arrived at a broader and more obvious conclusion, namely, that NATO is in a hurry to reach an agreement while Moscow is not, and that the Kremlin therefore has every reason to drive a very hard bargain in the coming months of negotiation. (NTV, January 19)
Lebed Leaves Germany for Washington.