Primakov denies Russia is planning to resurrect Soviet Union, Cold War New foreign minister reassures Christopher

February 11, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HELSINKI, Finland -- Yevgeni M. Primakov, the new Russian foreign minister, said yesterday that Russia continued to desire a close working relationship with the United States and had no intention of trying to resurrect the Soviet Union.

Mr. Primakov, who spoke after two days of meetings here with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, also said Russia would zTC not put into effect any new oil deal with Iraq until the United Nations lifted sanctions against it.

Mr. Primakov, 66, took over in January as foreign minister after Andrei V. Kozyrev, a pro-Western liberal, was fired. The meeting here was Mr. Primakov's first trip to the West since his appointment.

Senior U.S. officials said the discussions between two men who barely knew one another had been conducted in a conciliatory and friendly atmosphere, despite serious differences on issues like the planned eastward expansion of NATO and the Russian sale of nuclear reactors to Iran.

U.S. officials expressed relief at Mr. Primakov's skill and evident preparation. They said President Boris N. Yeltsin had no desire for instability in the U.S. relationship before Russian presidential elections in June. But the tone was a far cry from the warm talk of alliances, friendship and partnership that used to surround meetings with Mr. Kozyrev.

Mr. Christopher said he was "pleasantly surprised" by "the attitudes of openness he brought, and the willingness to recognize differences and manage them." Mr. Primakov "stressed that the Cold War is over" and that neither he nor any of his colleagues wanted it back, Mr. Christopher said.

For his part, Mr. Primakov said: "It was very fruitful. As you Americans like to say, it was a very businesslike meeting. The relationship between our two countries is of the first priority."

Mr. Primakov served in the Soviet Politburo and most recently ran Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, the international side of the old KGB.

He is regarded as a representative of the tough, more nationalistic tone in Russian foreign policy that Mr. Yeltsin began to articulate after ultranationalists proved popular in parliamentary elections in December 1993.

Mr. Primakov insisted yesterday on "equality" in the relationship, an old Cold War complaint about U.S. arrogance, saying, "We want to eliminate from our international life the uncomfortable consequences of the Cold War, which we can still feel from time to time."

The prime difference between the two countries is NATO expansion, which Mr. Christopher said would proceed in a "long-term process," emphasizing that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would not expand this year.

U.S. officials said Mr. Primakov echoed Mr. Yeltsin's long-standing opposition to that expansion, but did not threaten any steps like putting short-range nuclear missiles into Belarus, as some Russian Defense Ministry officials have suggested.

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