Talks begun last evening between Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and NATO secretary-general Javier Solana were unexpectedly carried over into a second day and resumed this morning behind closed doors. The two sides apparently remain deadlocked over Moscow’s insistence that NATO provide assurances it will not deploy nuclear and conventional military forces in newly admitted NATO member states. Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency did, however, cite "informed sources" this morning as saying that the talks are likely to be wrapped up today with the publication of a joint document. Solana and Primakov are meeting for the sixth time in an effort to hammer out a NATO-Russia political agreement that will formalize relations between Moscow and the alliance as well as facilitate NATO’s planned expansion. (Itar-Tass, May 14)
Rhetoric out of Moscow took on a hard edge yesterday in the lead-up to last night’s meeting. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told reporters that Boris Yeltsin had reconfirmed Primakov’s authority to negotiate the deal with NATO and that he had ordered Primakov to pursue a "firm line" with regard to the military issues still separating the two sides. Primakov has recently been under fire in the Russian media — in part for his hard line in the NATO negotiations — and there have been rumors of disenchantment between the foreign minister and the president. Yeltsin also launched a personal diplomatic effort yesterday on the NATO issue. He conducted telephone conversations with French president Jacques Chirac, German chancellor Helmut Kohl, and British prime minister Tony Blair. (Reuter, Interfax, May 13)
Meanwhile, an independent Russian foreign policy council with ties to Yeltsin published a declaration yesterday urging the Russian president against haste in signing an agreement with NATO. The Advisory Council on Foreign and Defense Policy recommended that Russia sign the NATO-Russia agreement as tentatively planned on May 27 only if the document reflects Russia’s national interests. Otherwise, the declaration said, Moscow should be willing to let the negotiations continue even after the alliance’s July summit in Madrid. (Reuter, May 13)
Rodionov and Cohen Discuss Nuclear Weapons.