Russia cuts its losses and agrees Nato link

Boris Yeltsin yesterday emerged from the two-day Helsinki summit having extracted few gains from Bill Clinton in his long campaign against Nato's move to expand into Central and Eastern Europe.

After a day of tough negotiations, the United States and Russia issued a joint declaration which indicated that Moscow had won few concessions over Nato expansion although it is now ready to sign an agreement defining a special relationship with the alliance.

However, the summit did produce limited progress on arms control and - in what was clearly intended to reinforce it's claim to be a world player - Russia moved closer to fulfilling its long-held ambition to become a member of the G7 nations.

The statement said that, while continuing to disagree over Nato enlargement, the US and Russia would "work, together and with others, on a document to establish a co- operative relationship between Nato and Russia as an important part of a new European security system."

But, crucially, the statement said that the agreement would be "at the highest political" level, omitting the term "legally binding". This means that it will not, as the Russians previously demanded, have to be ratified by the parliaments of the 16 member states of Nato.

The presidents agreed that Javier Solana, the secretary-general of Nato, and Yevgeny Primakov, Russia's Foreign Minister, should finish drawing up the Nato-Russia document in coming weeks, in order for it to be completed before July, when the alliance plans to unveil its new members - almost certainly, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - at a summit in Madrid.

Yesterday, Mr Yeltsin said that he understood that the document would be signed by all 16 Nato heads of state before Madrid - which suggests that both sides are now committed to reaching a final deal by then, bringing an end to a dispute that has been a source of political bitterness and tension for months.

Asked whether little progress had been made, the Russian president replied robustly: "Not at all."

Earlier in the day, while the two presidents were still at the negotiating table in Mantyniemi, Finland's seaside presidential mansion, top Russian officials delivered a warning against any further advances by the alliance.

"A discussion about further expansion would have tragic consequences, not only in Russia but in all Europe," said Sergei Karaganov, of the presidential council.

"The Baltics would find themselves between two striking fists. Russia would lose trust, and the West would lose trust, and the Balts would lose a lot."

The Russian blast of rhetoric, which was clearly part of choreographed publicity plan, was less significant in its content, which were familiar, than in its timing.

It was intended to ensure that Mr Yeltsin was seen by Russians to be taking at a tough line. The loss of world status is a particularly sensitive wound domestically - and one into which the president's old adversary, Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist leader, was yesterday eagerly rubbing salt.

"Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] has not had any victories for a long time, except over his own people and country," he said. "I don't believe in his international successes. Everything he does is linked to destruction."

But the Kremlin's message was also a signal that - while the Boris and Bill show was warm-spirited enough - the Nato issue is far from closed.

The president's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, also weighed in, pointing out mid-talks that Mr Yeltsin's position on Nato had not changed, "not even in nuances". Such remarks were echoed by other Russia officials - including Boris Berezovsky, the powerful deputy head of the Security Council - who were invited to Helsinki by the Kremlin as part of a successful attempt to steal the limelight from their American counterparts.

In this, they have been helped by Mr Clinton, who seemed content to allow Mr Yeltsin to play the starring role, completing his comeback after months of illness.

The debacle over the US president's undignified arrival at Helsinki on Thursday - being offloaded from his aircraft by a hydraulic FinnAir catering lorry - was an outright gaffe. And he could do nothing about the wheelchair to which he has been consigned after his fall at the golfer Greg Norman's house.

However, Mr Clinton and Mr Yeltsin - meeting for the 12th time in four years - made slightly better headway on arms control, by agreeing guidelines for a Start III agreement which would reduce long-range missiles to 2,000- 2,500 warheads each by 2,007 - marking an 80 per cent reduction compared with the height of the Cold War.

And Russia extracted a promise that the June summit in Denver, Colorado, of the G7, which the Russians have long aspired to join, will be called "the summit of the eight".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine