U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen met briefly with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, on February 13. The two sides reportedly limited their discussion to U.S.-Russian cooperation in nuclear disarmament and issues specifically related to that. The talks were described as amicable. Cohen suggested afterwards that they demonstrated how broader Russian-U.S. relations could now transcend differences between the two countries on any one issue. (AP, NTV, February 13) A day earlier, Sergeev had sharply criticized U.S. policy vis-a-vis Iraq prior to a first round of talks with Cohen. (See Monitor, February 13)
Despite the more positive turn in the Cohen-Sergeev talks, Moscow and Washington continued to joust on the subject of Iraq. U.S. President Clinton on February 13 said that the Washington understands Russia’s concerns over Iraq and is exhausting all diplomatic possibilities to resolve the crisis. But he said that a Russian "’nyet’ is not ‘no’ for the United States under these circumstances." (Reuter, AP, February 13) Clinton seemed clearly to be responding to Sergeev’s criticism of the United States a day earlier and to a series of remarks by Russian President Boris Yeltsin that suggested Russia would stop any U.S. plans to launch air strikes on Iraq.
Also on February 13, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov repeated to reporters Moscow’s view that existing UN Security Council resolutions do not give the United States a mandate to launch air strikes against Iraq. (Russian agencies, February 13) Although the United States would prefer to act with the clear support of the UN Security Council, Clinton administration officials have made clear that, if necessary, Washington will act unilaterally in taking military action against Iraq. Those officials say that the United States would cite a congressional resolution passed on the eve of the 1991 Persian Gulf war that permits unilateral action by the United States to enforce compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. They suggest that Washington could also base its actions on a succession of Security Council resolutions and statements, and on the UN Charter itself, but they have provided no details of that second line of thinking. (The New York Times, February 4-5)
Tatarstan Postpones Vote on Citizenship Bill.