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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence