Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 236

On a day of intense diplomatic activity in Brussels, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright yesterday continued to push the Clinton Administration’s proposals for a rethinking of NATO’s mission and urged world leaders to be "united and firm" in enforcing UN sanctions on Iraq. Albright’s remarks came on the second of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in the Belgian capital. Yesterday’s busy agenda featured talks between Albright and Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, at which a number of key international issues were discussed; a second meeting of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council (PJC) at the level of foreign minister; and a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The EAPC now includes 44 countries in the Euro-Atlantic area, including Russia, Ukraine, and a majority of the other former Soviet republics.

On December 16, the first day of talks in Brussels, Albright had urged NATO leaders to recognize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and Persian Gulf as the "overriding security interest of our time" and as a "unifying threat" that could bind the U.S. and Europe. Her call for a firm hand in Iraq came in that context. The day’s proceedings were also devoted to discussion of a follow-on force to the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, whose mandate expires in June. (The Washington Post, December 17)

In her talks with Primakov, and during a speech to the ministers afterward, Albright yesterday urged Russia to use its influence in Baghdad to pressure Iraqi authorities into ensuring full access for UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. Tensions between the UN and Iraq have reignited in recent days over the unwillingness of Iraqi leaders to allow the inspectors into some 40 palaces and other official buildings. But Primakov, who last month engineered a settlement that momentarily defused tensions between Baghdad and the UN, disagreed sharply with the U.S. prescription that force be retained as an option in compelling Iraq to comply with UN resolutions. Although Primakov called for Iraq to work with the UN inspectors, he also restated Moscow’s opposition to any application of military power against Iraq. He alluded, moreover, to the Kremlin’s confidence that its position is generally supported by the international community.

During her talks with Primakov, Albright also reiterated Washington’s concern over transfers of Russian ballistic missile technology to Iran. In addition, she called on the Russian parliament to ratify START II, and appealed for the release of Richard Bliss, the American being held on espionage charges in Russia. (See yesterday’s Monitor)

Primakov, for his part, used yesterday’s proceedings to reiterate Moscow’s opposition to NATO enlargement. Russia and the UN also disagreed over the extent to which meetings of the PJC will discuss NATO’s military plans in newly admitted member states. Prior to and during yesterdays’ meetings, Russian officials indicated that they attach great importance to NATO plans aimed at developing the military infrastructures of newly admitted states, and they said that the Russian side wants discussion of such issues on the agenda of future PJC meetings. NATO leaders, who have said in the past that such issues are not a proper concern of the PJC, apparently restated that position yesterday and told the Russians only that they would make "full transparency" in this area a hallmark of their relations with newly admitted Eastern and Central European states.

Despite the dissonance on this issue, the two sides did approve a PJC Work Program for 1998 aimed at boosting Russia-NATO cooperation and at enhancing security in Europe. The program includes a number of priority issues to be the subject of discussions and informational exchanges, including the defense policies and military doctrines of NATO and Russia, defense budgets, disarmament and arms control, and peacekeeping. The program also calls for ongoing cooperation under the Partnership for Peace program and in a host of other areas. (Reuter, AP, M2 Communications, Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, December 17)

Some Optimism Over Start II Ratification.