Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov was quoted in a French newspaper yesterday as saying that Moscow remains "absolutely opposed" to NATO’s eastward expansion so long as there is the possibility that it could bring NATO military structures near to Russia’s borders. "What is unacceptable is the installation of new military infrastructure along our borders," Primakov said. "Can you guarantee that the enlargement of NATO will not lead to the installation of military infrastructure? If you can answer yes then I too will answer in a positive manner." Particularly since a NATO meeting in early June (see Monitor, June 4, 5), Primakov has at various times reformulated Russia’s standard objections to enlargement in a fashion suggesting a possible easing of Moscow’s opposition to NATO’s plans. That hopeful view of developments was further boosted when Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed was quoted on July 25 as saying that he had no objections to NATO enlargement. (See Monitor, July 26)
But sentiments more closely consonant with those expressed by Primakov yesterday have been more the rule since Boris Yeltsin’s reelection. To name just two examples, on July 17 a senior Russian General Staff officer denounced NATO’s plans for expansion, charging that they would result in a "new geopolitical partition of Europe… and the ouster of Russia to the periphery of European processes." (See Monitor, July 18) More recently, Russian first deputy defense minister Andrei Kokoshin warned belligerently that, despite Russia’s current problems, opposition to enlargement is in Russia’s long-term national interests and that Moscow would find the necessary resources to fashion a credible military response to it. The foregoing developments suggest that while some in Moscow — with Primakov possibly among them — may be inclined toward some kind of compromise on the enlargement issue, the consensus in Russia remains strongly opposed to any substantive concessions. That, in turn, means that the room for maneuver available to those with more moderate views is likely to be extremely limited.
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