Moscow’s tortuous three-year quest to win membership in the Council of Europe came to a successful close yesterday as Russia became the 39th member, and the 15th former Communist state, to join Europe’s oldest transnational political organization. Russia had first formally applied for membership in May 1992, but reservations among member states regarding Moscow’s human rights record and its legal system delayed consideration. The commencement by Moscow of its brutal military operations in Chechnya led the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly to suspend Russia’s membership application in February 1995. That suspension was lifted in September 1995, opening the doors to heated debates — stoked even higher by renewed military operations in Chechnya — early this year over the desirability of Russian membership. In the end, and under considerable pressure from western leaders, the Parliamentary Assembly voted January 25 in favor of admission. The decision was based on a belief that Russian democracy would be better served by membership in the Council than by Moscow’s isolation.
Russian human rights champion Sergei Kovalyov summed up the feelings of those still uneasy about Russia’s membership, warning that "if the Council carefully and rigorously treats its new member to both support and pressure, then this is a serious and promising step. But if the Council turns a blind eye to Russia, for example, by acting passively on Chechnya, then nothing good will come of it." The Council has created bodies to monitor Russian actions in Chechnya and its adherence to the Council’s human rights requirements. Moscow also signed agreements permitting Russian citizens to challenge the government on human rights violations in the European Court of Human Rights, the Council’s powerful judicial arm. (5)
…Denies Linkage to NATO Enlargement.