Russian president Boris Yeltsin yesterday met in the Kremlin with a group of lawmakers in an effort to win parliament’s approval of the NATO-Russia political agreement finalized in negotiations on May 14. Yeltsin told the group, which included the chairmen of both houses of parliament as well the leaders of parliament factions and committees, that the agreement was not a compromise but a "balanced document which meets both our interests and the interests of NATO." Yeltsin also pledged that he would submit the document to the legislature for approval, and assured the lawmakers that NATO had agreed in the document not to deploy nuclear forces, expand its forces, or build bases on the territory of new member states. He said, finally, that "if NATO starts adopting decisions without taking Russia’s point of view into account, Russia will review its relations with NATO." (Interfax, AP, May 19)
Although the speaker of Russia’s upper house, Yegor Stroyev, described the NATO-Russia agreement after the meeting as a positive development (Itar-Tass, May 19), Yeltsin’s assurances appear unlikely to win over hard-liners in the Russian legislature. More importantly, perhaps, they seem sure to raise hackles once again in the West. Yeltsin’s references to the non-deployment of NATO nuclear and conventional forces in newly admitted member states reprised statements he made last week that were roundly criticized in Western capitals as a misinterpretation of the principles set out in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. (See Monitor, May 16)
In fact, NATO continues to insist that the agreement merely restates the alliance’s well-established position that it has "no intention, no reason, and no plan" to deploy nuclear weapons — and "no need to deploy substantial combat forces" — in newly admitted member states. Yeltsin’s threat that Russia could review its relations with NATO appears likewise to violate the spirit of the agreement’s provisions on a joint Russia-NATO consultative council, while his pledge to submit the agreement to the parliament for approval seems to contravene NATO’s efforts to craft a document not requiring parliamentary approval.
Meanwhile, during a White House meeting yesterday with NATO secretary general Javier Solana, U.S. president Bill Clinton denied that the Russia-NATO agreement is unnecessarily fueling tensions with Moscow and described it instead as an "extraordinary achievement" that should help create a peaceful, unified Europe. Clinton will attend the ceremony in which NATO and Russia sign the agreement, scheduled for May 27 in Paris. (AP, UPI, May 19)
Chechnya to Sign Friendship Treaties with Tatarstan and Ingushetia.