Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 39

Closed-door Russian-consultations earlier this week in Moscow appear to have done little either to warm chilled relations between the United States and Russia or to narrow differences between the two countries on a number of key issues. Led by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, the U.S. delegation traveled to Moscow in part to further preparations for a scheduled March meeting in Washington between U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. But the U.S. delegation reportedly also sought to reassure Moscow that American plans to develop a missile defense system and to seek revision of the 1972 ABM treaty do not constitute a threat to Russia. While in Moscow, Talbott met with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and, on February 23, held consultations under the auspices of a strategic planning group cochaired by Talbott and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov participated in those discussions.

Russian and U.S. reports of the talks suggested that the Russian side reiterated its strong opposition to any changes to the ABM treaty and its conviction that the treaty remains the cornerstone of strategic stability. Russian officials reportedly also repeated earlier accusations that the United States has exaggerated the missile threat posed by rogue states in order to justify its pursuit of a missile defense system. The Russian delegation was said to have reiterated its intention to seek ratification of the START II strategic arms treaty by recalcitrant Russian lawmakers (Reuters, Russian agencies, February 23).

The U.S. and Russian delegations reportedly discussed a host of other issues as well, including Moscow’s continuing economic woes and the conflicts in Kosovo and Iraq. With regard to the latter complex of issues, Primakov was said to have restated Moscow’s contention that it is impermissible to use force without UN authorization to resolve international conflicts (Itar-Tass, February 23). Moscow has spearheaded international opposition to the use of force by the United States and Britain in Iraq, and to NATO threats to launch military strikes against Yugoslavia.