In a major speech delivered in Germany on September 6, U.S. secretary of state Warren Christopher reaffirmed America’s commitment to a strong role in Europe’s security, called for the convening next year of a NATO summit at which new members would begin the actual accession process, and proposed formalizing Russia’s relationship to NATO through the signing of a charter agreement. Several of the ideas contained in the speech, which was intended to outline the Clinton Administration’s vision of a "new Atlantic Community," were also set out by the U.S. president during a campaign appearance that day in Florida. In addition to restating Washington’s conviction that the enlargement process will begin next year, Christopher urged patience on those Eastern European and former Soviet states not accepted into the alliance initially, and assured them that NATO’s doors would remain open to them. He also declared that the U.S. continues to see an enlarged NATO as the guarantor of Western security and "the central pillar of our security engagement." (Western news agencies, September 6)
Russian leaders have continued to object publicly and in the strongest terms to NATO’s enlargement, and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov also recently restated Moscow’s long-standing desire to make the OSCE, rather than NATO, the centerpiece of any future European security system (see Monitor, September 5). However U.S. officials indicate that since Russia’s June presidential elections, the Kremlin has been engaged with the Western alliance in intensive negotiations aimed at hammering out a long-term relationship between Moscow and NATO. Christopher’s proposal for a NATO-Russian charter, which would set out the "rules of the road" for cooperation in Europe, was clearly offered with that task in mind. "This charter should create standing arrangements for consultation and joint action between Russia and the alliance," Christopher said. Those actions would include joint military exercises and the involvement of Russian troops in peacekeeping operations. (Reuter, AP, September 6)
The issue of NATO enlargement also reportedly topped the agenda during talks in Moscow on September 7 between Russian president Boris Yeltsin and German chancellor Helmut Kohl. While few details were available, Yeltsin indicated afterward that the two had agreed to "continue this intensive dialogue [on NATO] at various levels," and that Moscow hoped some resolution of the problem might be reached before the OSCE summit planned for December in Lisbon. Russian sources also suggested that Kohl had assured the Russian leader that no decisions on enlargement would be taken this year. Prior to his departure for Moscow, Kohl had reportedly assured Christopher by telephone that Russia would not be permitted to slow down NATO’s expansion plans. (Reuter, September 6-7; Itar-Tass, Interfax, September 7)
But there was at least one new voice raised against enlargement on the eve of Kohl’s arrival in Moscow. On September 6 Russian security council secretary Aleksandr Lebed described NATO’s enlargement plans as a manifestation of "Cold War thinking" and an indication that the West "mistrusts democratic Russia." He also suggested obliquely that Moscow might have to consider military counter-measures if NATO proceeds to "upset the balance" of forces in Europe. (Itar-Tass, September 6) Lebed’s remarks were noteworthy insofar as the retired general has to date pointedly displayed indifference to NATO’s plans, and has belittled calls heard in Moscow for the fashioning of a Russian-led military bloc to oppose NATO.
Russian Troops Begin to Withdraw from Chechnya.