Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 78

The state of negotiations between Russia and the NATO alliance on a proposed political agreement remains uncertain in the wake of Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s recent visit to Germany and his confident prediction, made following talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl on April 17, that he will indeed travel to Paris late next month to sign that still uncompleted document. Russia and NATO continue to be divided on several on issues, the most important of which is Moscow’s insistence that binding language be included in the agreement that would preclude NATO from deploying nuclear or conventional forces in the newly admitted member states. Yeltsin’s suggestion of an imminent breakthrough in the Russia-NATO talks led Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov to charge that the Russian president had in fact caved in to "an ultimatum" from Western leaders during the talks in Baden-Baden and that Yeltsin had "betrayed" Russia’s national security during his meeting with Kohl. (Interfax, April 18. See Monitor, April 18)

The charges by Zyuganov, echoed also in the observations of some Russia media, compelled presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky on April 19 to deny that Yeltsin had made any serious concessions to NATO during his visit to Germany or that the Russian president had in some way split with Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov on the issue of Russian policy toward NATO. According to Yastrzhembsky, Yeltsin’s positive reference to the proposed Paris meeting was merely a reflection of "Moscow’s serious interest to successfully complete the dialogue with NATO, an interest reiterated at the top level."

For all of that, Yeltsin’s optimism in Baden-Baden did contrast with the sharp rhetoric coming out of Moscow on the NATO issue in the days that preceded the visit, and did appear to be a departure from the more hard-line stand apparently taken by Primakov during a visit to Paris on April 8-9 and then in talks with NATO secretary general Javier Solana in Moscow on April 15. To date Primakov seems to have played the leading role in formulating and implementing Moscow’s generally hard-line policy toward NATO, and the speculation of a split between him and Yeltsin was fueled further by the announcement on April 18 that Primakov would be undergoing an operation for the removal of gallstones and was expected to be laid up for 10-15 days. One Russian daily opined that Primakov’s emergency might be something other than a medical one, and repeated rumors that the recently strengthened reform wing of Russia’s government might in fact be looking to replace the Foreign Minister with someone seen as less anti-Western. (Interfax, Kommersant-daily April 19)

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