NATO enlargement and NATO-Russian cooperation appeared to be the major topics of talks in Bonn over the last two days. The talks — held between Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his German counterpart Volker Ruehe — were also aimed at boosting bilateral military cooperation between Russia and Germany. The two sides were said to have reached agreement on a 1998 cooperation program that includes 18 events, including the training of young Russian officers in Germany, and a series of joint exercises, seminars and discussions on military reform. A program under which Germany financed the training of some 30,000 retired Russian officers was discontinued. The two sides also discussed the joint creation of a new military transport plane based on the Russian-Ukrainian Antonov An-70. During his stay, Sergeev met not only with Ruehe, but also with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.
Sergeev’s was the first official visit by a Russian defense minister to Germany since 1994. The former rocket forces commander underscored Moscow’s desire to strengthen its military cooperation with NATO. However, Russia’s enduring opposition to NATO’s enlargement was a recurrent theme in Sergeev’s public remarks. The Russian defense chief restated Moscow’s proclamations of bewilderment over why NATO is expanding toward Russia’s borders. He reiterated also Moscow’s contention that NATO enlargement undermines rather than contributes to stability in Europe, and warned anew that Moscow sees the alliance’s plans as a threat to Russia’s security. He repeated previous Russian warnings that any attempt to include former Soviet states in NATO — and particularly the Baltic countries — would be viewed with great disfavor in Moscow. Sergeev stopped only just short of confirming directly that Moscow views military cooperation with Belarus as one means of countering NATO’s planned expansion. (Russian agencies, January 27-29. See also item below on Belarus.)
Nuclear Submarine Accident in Northern Fleet.