Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 223

In another indication of Moscow’s continuing defiance of the West, a top Russian general said yesterday that Russia will not participate in several upcoming meetings involving talks between Russian military and diplomatic officials with their Western counterparts. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, a notorious hardliner and head of the Defense Ministry’s department for cooperation with foreign militaries, told reporters yesterday that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin will forego meetings with NATO defense chiefs in Brussels scheduled for today and tomorrow. The announcement apparently means that Russia will not be represented at a session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. A meeting of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council–the key consultative mechanism for Russia and the Western alliance–will apparently not take place as scheduled. In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will not take part in another upcoming session of the Permanent Joint Council–one to be held at the level of foreign minister–scheduled in Brussels for mid-December (Itar-Tass, November 30; AFP, Russian agencies, December 1).

Despite efforts by the West to mend fences, Russia has kept its relations with NATO “frozen” since it broke off contacts after the start of the alliance’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in March. Since the end of the air campaign Moscow has pointedly limited its cooperation with the Western alliance only to the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. With that policy in mind, Kvashnin declined an invitation to the meeting of NATO chiefs of defense staffs in Brussels last month.

Moscow’s decision to skip this week’s NATO meetings, however, may also be related to the fact that the war in Chechnya is expected to be on the discussion agenda. Moscow objected sharply to a resolution which the NATO Parliamentary Assembly endorsed on November 16, which urged Russia to declare a cease-fire and to begin peace talks with Chechnya. A Russian envoy to NATO had earlier characterized the resolution as interference in Russia’s internal affairs, saying that the conflict in Chechnya is not a proper matter for Russia to discuss with NATO (Reuters, November 13; Itar-Tass, November 15-16; M2 Communications, November 16).