NATO, Russia at Odds in Istanbul

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- NATO and Russia made little headway on Friday in sorting out their future ties despite an offer from the Western alliance to give Russia "special treatment" befitting a nuclear power. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev reiterated his country's intention to sign a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO that 18 of Moscow's ex-Cold War allies have already signed. But he was vague about details except to say Russia wants to sign a detailed cooperation program. But NATO wants Russia to sign a basic framework accord first and fill in the precise areas of cooperation later. "I don't want to mislead anyone. There are differences," U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said at a joint press conference with Kozyrev. At the heart of these is Russia's insistence to still be seen by the West as a nuclear superpower, and not just as an equal to the other emerging East European democracies. Christopher and Kozyrev met for more than two hours on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and their colleagues from across East Europe. The East-West session came a day after the NATO ministers offered Moscow a "special relationship" but stopped short of granting its former foe a say in policy making. In his address to the foreign ministers, Kozyrev restated the Russian view that NATO should become an appendage of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Cold War legacy of some 50 nations best known for its Helsinki human rights accords. NATO rejected this two weeks ago when Defense Minister Pavel Grachev made that same point when he visited the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The alliance sees itself as the key provider of security in Europe after the Cold War. Christopher said Friday that "we look forward to an early adherence to Partnership for Peace" by Russia, but gave no indication his meeting with Kozyrev had broken any new ground. In Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Russia would join the Partnership for Peace program. He cited conditions but also said Russia was ready to sign a partnership without conditions, if necessary. "Certainly, we will sign it," he said. The partnership agreements provide for political and military cooperation, including joint maneuvers, and hold out the possibility of eventual NATO membership for some East European nations. On Thursday, the NATO allies pledged to develop cooperative links with Russia beyond a basic partnership but that Moscow must first sign such an accord. Then, NATO would broaden cooperation into areas such as nuclear arms and safety and European security questions. Signing a basic partnership deal is problematic for Russia. As a nuclear power it objects to NATO's argument that its relations with East European nations must be on an "equal footing."