Opening Salvos on NATO
Relations between Russia and the Western World will reach a critical stage over the next six months. This period will see intense negotiations over the future of the NATO alliance, which is set to announce new candidates for membership at a summit meeting in July. NATO members have adamantly denied Russia any say over the rights of NATO to add new members or indeed the rights of aspiring countries, such as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic, to join. This is a question of sovereignty and the right of sovereign governments to make decisions. But that does not mean that the Russians might not still be able cause mischief, delay or even failure. All the more the reason for Western leaders to steel themselves at this time. As Mrs. Thatcher memorably told George Bush before the Gulf War, "this is no time to go wobbly."
The task will not be made any easier by the precarious state of health of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who after undergoing heart surgery came down with pneumonia. This week, Mr. Yeltsin's communist enemies in the Russian parliament, the Duma, attempted to force a vote to oust him, only to find that Mr. Yeltsin had apparently risen from his sick bed to travel to the Kremlin for a meeting with Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin. There were no cameras present, however, and exactly what went on, if anything, is now a matter of much speculation. Meanwhile two of Mr. Yeltsin's foremost rivals, retired Gens. Alexander Lebed and Alexander Rutskoi, turned up here in the United States, looking to establish connections and support for the leadership struggle ahead.
The most important meeting of the week, however, was the first formal meeting between NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov at a guest house on the outskirts of Moscow. The subject of their discussion was a "charter" NATO has agreed to negotiate with Russia defining NATO-Russia relations in connection with the proposed expansion of the organization. …