|AGREEING TO DISAGREE|
March 21, 1997
President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin ended their two-day summit today by announcing the fact that the parties still disagreed over the proposed expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO]. However, the two leaders did agree on several nuclear and chemical weapons issues. Following a background report, Charles Krause discusses the results from Yeltsin and Clinton's 11th meeting.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Now two perspectives: Sergei Gregoriev was spokesman for Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He's now a senior research associate at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. And Coit Blacker, who served the past two years as senior director for Russian, Ukranian, and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council; he's currently a senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
Gentlemen, welcome. Mr. Blacker, first to you. Tell me from what you heard today and what you know, what is likely to be in this agreement between Russia and NATO?
COIT (CHIP) BLACKER, Former National Security Council Staff: Well, I think first and foremost it will signify or it will confirm the fact that NATO and Russia can do business; they can do business over the longer-term. So in that sense it regularizes and normalizes, institutionalizes, if you will, arguably the most important post Cold War relationship in Europe. I think a lot of the details have yet to be finalized, and I expect an awful lot of hard work over the next two, two and a half months until we have a signed and sealed agreement.
CHARLES KRAUSE: There was though--there were some hints, in fact, today about an agreement that NATO would not put any nuclear weapons, for example, in the former Warsaw Pact countries, things like that. I wonder if you could expand on that just a bit.
COIT (CHIP) BLACKER: Sure. The agreement that I think will emerge from this is essentially a ratification of current NATO policy; that is, NATO has no plans, no intention, and no need to change its deployment policy with respect to nuclear weapons as long as current conditions prevail. So that is a longstanding NATO policy, and I think it's important that it conform, in essence, with the purpose of the agreement that's entirely consistent with current NATO policy.
CHARLES KRAUSE: From what you could tell, did President Clinton have to make any concessions with the Russians in order to get them to go along with this?
COIT (CHIP) BLACKER: No, I don't think so. The word “concession” I think is inappropriate in this context. After all, what the President is trying to do, what the administration is trying to do is build for the long-term, is put in place a durable, flexible, important set of relations between NATO and Russia. And in that context I think it's very important to think very hard and very clearly about what it is that needs to go into that kind of an agreement from both sides. I don't think of that as conceding anything. I tend to think of that as working positively for the longer-term but a very important role.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. Gregoriev, I wonder if I might ask you, President Yeltsin came to the summit saying that he wasn't going to agree to anything that would allow NATO to expand, or at least he would never go along with it. In effect, is that what's happened today?
SERGEI GREGORIEV, Former Gorbachev Spokesman: Well, I think that what was most important--and it already sounded in your coverage of the summit--is that both presidents announced that they agree to disagree. And, nevertheless, I think what was most important that Mr. Yeltsin was not making any special fuss about this disagreement, but some constructive way out of this potentially very tense situation was found, and I think from that point of view, this was a very successful summit. I think that Mr. Yeltsin will certainly have to respond to domestic pressures and upon his return back to Russia will have to make a few strong and even maybe militant statements about his disagreement with plans for NATO enlargement. But, nevertheless, I think basically working solution has been found. It's been proclaimed today. And I think this is the significance of the conclusion of today's summit.
CHARLES KRAUSE: What would have to be in this agreement to allay Russian fears of the NATO expansion?
SERGEI GREGORIEV: Well, first of all, this agreement will be signed by all NATO countries. Second, what is also important is an agreement by the United States and I assume by other NATO member countries not to deploy nuclear weapons and not to use to their benefits the remaining Soviet military infrastructure in the former Warsaw Pact countries. But I think what is even more important here is the spirit of agreement about certain issues. And I think that if this agreement is binding, it's binding in terms of security not only for NATO members. It's also binding for Russia because I assume Russia will also have certain lines in the treaty which will make it think twice before thinking about violation of this agreement.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Thank you. Mr. Blacker, I wonder, there were a number of announcements around the arms control treaty, and I wonder if you might, very briefly, just explain what was most significant about the announcements regarding START II and then how was it possible to get beyond that to START III?
COIT (CHIP) BLACKER: Certainly, Charles. The START II Treaty has been languishing in the state duma in Moscow for sometime now. It's a complicated treaty. It's a complicated arrangement. It's got a certain lack of political energy, if you will, on the Russian side in securing ratification. This treaty is very much in the interest of both the United States and the Russian federation, and the two leaderships over the last two days I think have come up with a good strategy for inching the duma toward ratification. And that is to outline or to preview the essential features of a START III agreement, or a follow-on to the START II Treaty, the effects of which will be to reduce further U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals. This is good news, of course, for both sides, but, in particular, it's good news for the Russian side because they were looking at a rather expensive modernization program if we had stayed flat at START II. Moving toward START III levels, which are significantly lower, means we get more security at reduced cost for both sides. So I think this should--should help spur this process along.
CHARLES KRAUSE: What was the significance of the announcement regarding the ABM Treaty, Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty?
COIT (CHIP) BLACKER: The ABM Treaty of 1972 severely limits research, development, and deployment of strategic defensive system. And both sides understand and are of the view that the preservation of that treaty is terribly important. At the same time both sides are very, very interested in developing capabilities to combat shorter range missile systems from so-called end country threats. What the agreement today appears to allow--and this is very good news--is preservation of the ABM Treaty but increased freedom to research, develop, and deploy so-called feeder missile defensive systems. This has been a sticking point in the U.S.-Russian relationship for the last three years. And the fact that they're able to make progress--and I think it's real progress--is a good, powerful boost to the strategic relationship between the two sides.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. Gregoriev, I wonder if you agree with Mr. Blacker's assessment that these announcements will help get START II through the duma in Moscow.
COIT (CHIP) BLACKER: Yes. I certainly agree with a lot of positive assessment which I just heard in this presentation. There is one thing, though, I would like to stress; that in the Russian duma the ratification of the START Treaty--START II Treaty in many ways was hostage to the whole militant rhetorics against NATO enlargement. And I think that if Russia now positively resolves at least the whole matter of attitude towards the whole thing, it will also make psychologically life very easy for those people who are now actively advocating the idea of ratification of START II Treaty. Besides, as it was already said, the entering of START III Treaty also makes it easy for Russia in terms of reduction of costs to consider some of the issues connected with redeployment or cutting down of some of its nuclear arsenals.
CHARLES KRAUSE: One of the other--well, in fact, President Yeltsin said that he would also send the agreement with NATO to the duma for their ratification as well. I wonder if you might respond. There was one of the Russian reporters today suggested that maybe President Yeltsin traded NATO and traded some of these other things for the economic help that President Clinton promised. Is that how this may be perceived in Moscow?
SERGEI GREGORIEV: Well, those who would like to perceive it so in Moscow would still say so whether it was the case or not, and Mr. Yeltsin--and I will repeat it again--is under strong domestic pressure, especially this NATO issue, and we have to give credit to his boldness and his frankness today at the press conference. At the same time I do not believe that it was too neatly tied together, and I think that it will not due to good PR effort made by both presidents, it will certainly not look like a cynical deal. It will certainly look like another landmark along the right track of development of cooperation between the two countries. And I think that both presidents today spent enough time explaining the benefits of their cooperation in military and in strategic spheres and geopolitical things and in terms of fostering a stronger alliance between the two countries. The economic package came later, and as Yeltsin jokingly said at the press conference, he wishes it were true because he says he still wants more aid and more investment to come from the United States.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Well, gentlemen, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you both very much.