The Council of Europe formally invited Russia to become its 39th member state yesterday; the invitation was extended after the Council’s committee of ministers approved Russia’s admission. The decision was a formality following a favorable January 25 vote by the organization’s Parliamentary Assembly. Russia must still accept the invitation, which is expected to occur in late February or March, following approval by the Russian parliament. (12)
Russia’s admission was a long-delayed and contentious process because of displeasure in Europe over Moscow’s military operations in Chechnya. Sentiment eventually swung in Russia’s favor out of a conviction that membership would afford the Council an important lever to influence democratic reform and the observance of human rights in Russia. But recent remarks by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov suggest that Russian delegates may not relegate themselves to the role of passive students of democracy. Zyuganov described Russia’s membership as an opportunity to lobby European leaders for rejection of NATO expansion. He also intimated that he saw the Council as a forum in which it would be possible to agitate for the rights of Russian speakers abroad. (13)
United States: "No Government Closer to Us Right Now Than Ukraine."