Sources at NATO headquarters in Brussels indicated yesterday that, although major differences remain unresolved, Russia and the Western alliance have moved closer to a deal that could ease the way toward NATO’s eastward expansion. The NATO sources, speaking one day after talks between Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and NATO secretary general Javier Solana, pointed to creation of a NATO-Russia consultative council as one area in which the two sides had reached some common ground. The new council would be a body distinct from NATO, the sources said, with its own secretariat. Each side would enjoy equal status on the council. However, NATO reportedly continues to insist that the new body would confer upon Moscow a voice but "no veto" in alliance affairs. The Russians, in turn, are said still to be insisting that any related political agreement be a legally binding document subject to ratification; NATO seeks a more flexible commitment. (Reuter, Xinhua, February 24)
Russian officials yesterday were less openly optimistic about the weekend’s negotiations, but Primakov admitted to reporters that "some progress has been made," and that Solana would be expected in Moscow for the next round of talks in early March. (Itar-Tass, February 24) Meanwhile, the Russian president’s foreign policy aide, Dmitry Ryurikov, appeared to underline that negotiations on the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty would also be a key to successful negotiations with Moscow. He observed that enlargement in itself would not present a threat to Russia, but that the extension of NATO’s "war machine" to Russia’s borders would. (Interfax, February 23)
Council of Europe Threatens Russia with Sanctions.