Yeltsin Muddies The Waters on NATO Agreement

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MOSCOW: Practicing his classic style of defensive politics, Boris Yeltsin said Russia’s agreement with NATO may undergo a makeover once he passes the document to the Duma for approval. The Russian parliament, dominated by communists and nationalists, already planned to add a clause declaring the agreement void if former Soviet republics decide to join the alliance. TIME’s Bruce Nelan reports that the Duma games, along with Yeltsin's highly-publicized campaign to present the agreement to Russian voters as a binding treaty that gives Moscow a veto over NATO expansion, may mean NATO leaders will call the Russian President on the carpet at the signing ceremony in Paris on May 27. Despite NATO’s hot denials, Yeltsin continues to insist that NATO has agreed it will never deploy nuclear or conventional forces on the territory of new East European members. "He's upsetting not only NATO members, but prospective members, because he's making it sound as if Eastern European countries would be second-class members, as if Russia has veto power over the conditions of their participation," says Nelan. Get used to it: Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky says that Russia's "struggle" with NATO over the agreement's proper interpretation has just begun.