Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 87

U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright held talks in Moscow yesterday with Russian counterpart Yevgeny Primakov, but , despite a telephone intervention by President Boris Yeltsin, the two diplomats made clear afterwards that they had achieved little in their effort to boost negotiations on a proposed NATO-Russia political agreement. As was the case prior to yesterday’s meeting, the two sides continued to stumble on military issues related to NATO’s planned enlargement.

Albright and Primakov disclosed few details to reporters, but U.S. officials said that one of the key obstacles yesterday was the ongoing failure of the 30-nation talks in Vienna to agree on a means of updating the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty to meet post-Cold War realities. Another unresolved problem, they said, was Russia’s restatement of its demand for binding assurances that NATO will move neither nuclear nor conventional forces into newly admitted member states. Yeltsin reportedly pressed Albright to clarify an "understanding" on precisely what NATO’s policies in that latter area entail. (Western & Russian news agencies, May 1) Following preparatory talks with U.S. deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott a day earlier, Primakov had said that the Russian side continues to proceed from Boris Yeltsin’s orders that a political agreement between Moscow and NATO be drafted by May 27. (Itar-Tass, April 30) Both sides have expressed hope that a signing ceremony might be scheduled for that date in Paris.

Quoting U.S. officials and Western diplomats, the Washington Post on April 30 suggested that a March 23 visit to Moscow by Gen. Klaus Naumann, the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, may have inadvertently encouraged the Kremlin to seek more concessions from the West. According to the account, during a meeting with a group of Russian generals on that date Naumann provided a series of informal assurances about NATO’s nuclear planning in an expanded alliance that went significantly beyond anything that NATO is prepared to put in writing. A NATO official denied the newspaper’s account, but conceded that the Russians might have seized on Naumann’s remarks as a pretext for further demands. Regardless of the impact of Naumann’s visit, and with time running short in the effort to finalize an agreement by May 27, NATO now says it has no sweeteners left to mollify Moscow. (The Washington Post, Reuter, April 30) Prior to Albright’s departure the U.S. had made clear that no more concessions would be forthcoming, and Albright reiterated that point on her flight from Washington to Moscow. (AP, May 1) Primakov and NATO secretary general Javier Solana are scheduled to meet for a fifth round of negotiations on May 6.

Russians Take Part in May Day Demonstrations.