On the second of a two-day visit to Moscow, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and with the country’s acting foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov. He also addressed the Russian Duma. The UN leader, who in February brokered an agreement with authorities in Baghdad that averted U.S. air strikes on Iraq, arrived in Moscow as part of a plan to visit the capitals of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members. Annan’s goal, in Moscow and elsewhere, is twofold. First, to review the terms of the February memorandum he signed in Baghdad. Second, to try to ensure that some degree of unanimity is maintained among the permanent Security Council members as UN weapons inspections continue in Iraq. While in Moscow, Annan also intended to discuss a host of other international issues, including the broader Middle East peace process, Kosovo, and UN reform. From Moscow, Annan was to continue on to Beijing last night.
Russian leaders used Annan’s visit to highlight issues of particular interest to Moscow. President Boris Yeltsin applauded Annan’s February mission to Baghdad–depicting the agreement reached at that time with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a joint victory for Russia and the UN. Yeltsin also called for a more general strengthening of the UN’s role as an international arbiter, a move he said would promote development of a "multipolar" world. The Kremlin sees a stronger role for the UN as one means of countering Washington’s influence on the world stage. Its references to "multipolarity" refer, in a similar fashion, to the formation of international subgroups whose influence would balance Washington’s. Moscow sees itself as one "pole," or a leading center, in an emerging multipolar world order. (Russian agencies, March 29-30)
Russian sources suggested prior to yesterday’s talks that Moscow hoped to use Annan’s visit also to discuss UN support for Russian "peacekeeping" activities in hot spots around the former Soviet Union — including particularly in Georgia and Tajikistan. Russian Duma leader Gennady Seleznev and at least one Russian television interviewer also raised the issue of alleged human rights abuses against Russian speakers in Latvia and Estonia. (NTV, March 29; Russian agencies, March 30)
Russia to Get Greater Presence on UNSCOM?