Clinton and Yeltsin face up to Nato challenge

Security, arms and economy to dominate agenda in Helsinki. Tony Barber reports

For all their public differences, there is a good chance that the Helsinki summit between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin starting today will bring real progress, even on the potentially explosive issue of Nato enlargement. Not every outstanding problem is likely to be solved, however, and on some points the two presidents may have to fall back on the time- honoured diplomatic formula of "agreement to disagree".

Three subjects are expected to dominate the summit: European security, arms control and efforts to improve the Russian economy.

But it is Nato's determination to expand into central and eastern Europe that is likely to provoke the most emotional exchanges, leaving neither leader fully convinced that the other genuinely understands his position.

For some months, Mr Yeltsin has recognised the inevitability of Nato expansion and has concentrated on securing guarantees that the process will not endanger or isolate Russia.

His latest demand, made last week, is an assurance that Nato will not take in former Soviet republics - specifically, the Baltic states and Ukraine.

Publicly, it will prove difficult for Mr Clinton to accept this demand, since the Balts and Ukrainians would be outraged at any suggestion that the United States was implicitly consigning them to a Russian sphere of influence. Privately, however, Mr Clinton should be able to give Mr Yeltsin some words of comfort.

First, Nato has no immediate plans to incorporate the Baltic states and will have its hands full for years with the business of absorbing the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - the three leading candidates for membership in 1999. Indeed, the US believes that the best scenario for the Baltic States would be inclusion in the first wave of European Union enlargement - although some EU countries beg to differ on that point.

Second, Nato's strategy for Ukraine is not to make it a full member but to establish a special relationship of the kind the alliance is trying to forge with Russia. There is, as Mr Yeltsin knows, no question of Nato basing nuclear weapons or alliance troops on the territory of new member states, let alone the Baltic republics or Ukraine.

However, Mr Yeltsin may object that Russia believes it won a pledge from the US and Germany that, in return for German unification in 1990, Nato would not expand at all into Eastern Europe.

For that reason, Russia this time wants a legally binding treaty restricting the terms of Nato enlargement.

Although the US rules out such a commitment, the summit may produce a compromise. The treaty defining Nato's relationship with Russia would be approved by all the member states' parliaments and would be as "politically binding" as was the 1975 Helsinki Final Act on European security and co- operation.

Even a deal along these lines may not be enough to banish the Russian suspicion that Nato is taking advantage of Russia's temporary weakness to absorb a part of Europe from which Russia has been invaded many times in the past.

However, Mr Clinton is likely to stress that Nato sees Russia as a long- term partner and that, in any case, Russia's main security challenges in the coming century will not come from the West but from its southern Islamic neighbours and China.

To convince Mr Yeltsin of his good faith, Mr Clinton is expected to announce support for Russian entry into important clubs such as the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD). He may also hold out the prospect of upgraded status for Russia at annual meetings of the G-7 group of leading industrial countries.

In return, however, Mr Yeltsin will have to promise a renewed commitment to economic reform, including the elimination of cor- ruption, the stabilisation of the government budget, and the creation of proper legal (not to mention physical) conditions for foreign investors and businessmen.

The appointment of Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov to mastermind the latest phase of reform may have reassured Mr Clinton that Russia is back on course after a year of drift. The prospects for progress on nuclear arms control at the summit are uncertain. Mr Yeltsin could promise a new effort to persuade the Russian parliament to ratify the 1993 Start-2 Treaty, which cuts the US and Russian nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds.

But the parliament, dominated by Communists and Nationalists, is in no mood to approve Start-2 as long as Nato insists on expansion. Since the US says that negotiations on a Start-3 Treaty cannot begin until the parliament ratifies Start-2, it is unclear whether much progress can be made in Helsinki.

However, neither leader has an interest in seeing the summit fail. There will be hard bargaining in Helsinki, especially over Nato enlargement, but on balance the summit is likely to warm up US-Russian relations rather than cast them into deep freeze.

footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Paul McCartney backs the
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone