Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 96

Nearly four months of direct negotiations came to an apparently successful close on May 14, as Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and NATO secretary general Javier Solana announced that they had reached agreement on a document — called the NATO-Russia Founding Act — spelling out relations between Moscow and the Western alliance. No details of the agreement were made public, but Solana told reporters that the two men had "hammered out an accord that is suitable for all parties." He also said at a joint news conference that the agreement could be ready for signing in Paris on May 27 after Boris Yeltsin and the leaders of the 16 NATO member states approve it. Primakov hailed the agreement as a "great victory of wisdom, a victory for the international community, a victory for Russia and other countries that want peace." Yesterday’s announcement came after the talks between the two men had ended inconclusively on the evening of May 13 but then were continued throughout the night.

At the press conference yesterday, Solana called Primakov a tough and intelligent negotiator. But the agreement, not unexpectedly, drew sharp and swift criticism from Russia’s political opposition. Solana, meanwhile, returned to Brussels yesterday and immediately briefed NATO’s 16 ambassadors on the details of the agreement. They were expected to communicate with their national capitals and officials said that formal approval of the document is likely to come this week. The agreement, which does not require approval by the U.S. Congress or the legislatures of the other NATO member states, is a political commitment but not a legally binding agreement — a condition upon which Moscow had earlier insisted.

The sticking point in the negotiations between Russia and NATO had involved Moscow’s demand for formal guarantees prohibiting the deployment of NATO nuclear and conventional forces in new member states. Until details of the agreement are made public, it is impossible to judge how the two negotiators overcame that impasse, or whether they agreed simply to paper over their differences. But unnamed Clinton Administration officials suggested yesterday that Russia had given way on the main points of contention, and one was quoted as saying that yesterday’s deal "preserves NATO’s institutions and in no way limits alliance prerogatives." (AP, Reuter, May 14)

Battle Lines Take Shape in Nizhny Novgorod.