Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia, Turning Westward, Signs NATO Partnership

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia, Turning Westward, Signs NATO Partnership

Article excerpt

AFTER months of appeasing Russia's rising nationalist political forces, the Russian government is now tilting its foreign policy to the West.

Ignoring hard-line pressure at home, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev yesterday took a key step toward easing security relations with the West by signing NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) agreement at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels.

Moscow's Western-oriented shift is reflected in a series of other maneuvers by Moscow to increase cooperation with its former cold-war foes.

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin flew to Washington on Tuesday for a four-day visit to sign deals on joint space efforts, and oil and gas development. Today, President Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to fly to the Greek island of Corfu to sign a cooperation agreement with the European Union at a two-day summit. And on July 8-10, the Russian president for the first time will formally attend political consultations at a Group of Seven (G-7) summit in Naples, Italy.

"Let me state with full certainty ... there are no insurmountable obstacles on the way to shaping a working relationship between Russia and its Western partners," Mr. Kozyrev said yesterday in Brussels.

The signing of the PFP agreement, a scheme for closer military cooperation between NATO and former Warsaw Pact members, came only after months of negotiations that highlighted deeply ingrained disagreements between the 16-member body and Russia. In particular, Moscow had complained that the West had ignored its superpower role by not consulting it on key issues such as allied airstrikes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, arms control, and the North Korean nuclear controversy.

Moscow agreed to sign the NATO plan only after Russian Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev traveled to Brussels earlier this month and negotiated a joint protocol, setting out broader principles of cooperation. The protocol, which was signed separately yesterday and could be used to impress Russian hard-liners that the West takes it seriously, stipulates that NATO will recognize Russia's special status and pledges that Moscow be consulted on all European security issues.

Earlier Wednesday, Russia's State Duma, or lower house of parliament, rejected a proposal by Communist lawmakers to declare PFP "null and void." The plan is "US expansionism aimed against Russia," Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov told lawmakers, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The protocol also mandates that NATO and Russia will share information on political and security issues, and cooperate in fields such as peacekeeping. But NATO pointedly did not give Moscow any veto over its decisions, nor did it accept the Russian proposal to subordinate NATO to the broader but looser Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

NATO officials have fought to reassure former East European satellites of the Soviet Union that Moscow's special status would not allow it to bar them from eventual full membership, and the protocol promises that NATO's relationship with Russia will not be kept secret from other countries or go against their interests. …

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