Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 28

There were indications in Moscow yesterday that a much anticipated visit there by NATO Secretary General George Robertson, which had been tentatively scheduled for next week, may fall through. Russian news agency reports yesterday quoted Russian “military and diplomatic sources” as saying that Moscow is likely to scuttle the February 16 visit because they believe that Robertson will not be bringing enough to the table when he arrives. “The Russian side is linking the issue of a ‘thaw’ in relations with the alliance to NATO’s readiness to see Moscow as a serious partner and not as an observer in issues of European security,” the unnamed sources were quoted as saying. They complained that the proposals Robertson would be bringing to Moscow “are not constructive” (Reuters, Russian agencies, February 8).

If Moscow is indeed having second thoughts about the Robertson visit, Brussels doesn’t seem aware of it. Itar-Tass yesterday quoted a NATO source as saying that while an exact date has not yet been set, Robertson is continuing to actively prepare for the talks in Moscow. The source also reiterated Robertson’s hope, expressed on a number of occasions since he became secretary general last year, that Russia and NATO can soon resume full, cooperative relations (Itar-Tass, February 8).

Moscow’s equivocations yesterday may be related to an unexpected visit to the Russian capital which NATO Deputy Secretary General Klaus-Peter Klaiber made last week. Talks between Klaiber and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, among others, marked the first high-level consultations between Russia and NATO since Moscow froze relations with the Western alliance last March over NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia. There was little information made available afterward of the substance of Klaiber’s talks, but a top Russian Defense Ministry officer suggested that Moscow may have asked a great deal of the alliance. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, a notorious Russian hardliner, told reporters that a reconciliation between NATO and Russia would depend on “what George Robertson brings to Moscow and what agreements are reached.” One report suggested that among the conditions being sought by the Russia side was issuing a joint statement at the close of Robertson’s visit. It was reportedly to include a reference to the role of the UN Security Council–presumably in connection with earlier NATO military actions against Yugoslavia–which was likely to be unpalatable to NATO leaders (Reuters, February 4).