Washington, 20 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The United States expects negotiations on a special charter between Russia and NATO to begin on schedule in Moscow next month.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher says he is confident the discussions will take place regardless of recent negative statements on NATO expansion made by Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and other Moscow officials.
Christopher said it is clear the Russians are not enthusiastic about NATO enlargement and will not applaud the process.
But he said he was given to understand in talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov in Brussels earlier this month that "the Russian government is prepared to pursue negotiations for some kind of an arrangement...between NATO and Russia."
The U.S. has suggested that peaceful relations between NATO and Russia be anchored in a special charter to soothe Russian fears of a NATO threat.
Christopher said he has "every confidence" negotiations on the charter, or some kind of arrangement will begin shortly after the first of the year.
He made the comment Thursday to reporters in a broad review of U.S. foreign policy accomplishments during his four years as Secretary of State.
It was Christopher's last major press conference this year, and possibly the last of his tenure. He plans to resign in January and will leave office as soon as the U.S. Senate has approved his designated successor -- Madeleine Albright, current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Christopher said a NATO summit in Madrid next July that will launch the enlargement negotiations will bring America closer than ever before to its goal of an undivided and democratic Europe.
Sharing the political philosophy that helped him make difficult decisions, Christopher said the fundamental test of American foreign policy has always been the answer to three questions:
- Does it make the American people more secure?
Does it make us more prosperous?
Does it advance our democratic ideals that we share with people around the world?
Christopher said that looking back on the last four years, he is confident that test has been met and he is satisfied with the results.
He recited a familiar litany of U.S.-led progress in bringing peace to the Balkans, removing the nuclear weapons from the Soviet successor states, reinvigorating America's trade and political ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, improving relations with China and standing firm on terrorism.
In a rare negative admission, Christopher said he is concerned about the recent drift in the Middle East peace process and is sending an envoy there to assess the situation.
He described America's role in the Middle East in words that might also apply to U.S. peacemaking in Bosnia.
"The role of the United States is not just to help the parties reach agreement but to stand by them in tough times," Christopher said.
He said the U.S. role remains indispensable in helping countries in the region overcome their long history of distrust.
He said U.S. leadership is also needed to meet global challenges posed by spreading international crime, drug-smuggling, environmental pollution, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism.
Christopher said that "overcoming these threats will become a central aspect of American foreign policy in the next century."