Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 128

Russian president Boris Yeltsin has decided to send Deputy Prime Minister Valery Serov and Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevsky as Moscow’s official representatives to NATO’s July 8-9 summit in Madrid, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky announced yesterday. Although Serov’s and Afanasevsky’s names were mentioned in a June 26 report, Yeltsin’s decision nevertheless comes as something of a surprise. Serov, who will head the Russian delegation, oversees Moscow’s relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and is said to be a strong champion of the Russia-Belarus Union — hardly the logical qualifications for attendance at the NATO event. He is not an expert on Russia-NATO relations.

That expertise will apparently be provided by Afanasevsky, who was ambassador to Brussels between 1990 and 1994 and who is said to know many current NATO leaders. Afanasevsky also took part in the negotiations between Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and NATO secretary general Javier Solana that led to the signing of the Russia-NATO Founding Act on May 27. (Russian agencies, June 26, 30) The Kremlin’s choices seem designed, on the one hand, to demonstrate relative indifference toward an event at which new members will be invited to join NATO — over Moscow’s vigorous objections — while simultaneously ensuring that Russia’s interests are protected by a diplomat familiar with the issues at hand.

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