CNN logo
WORLD navbar

Infoseek/Big Yellow

Pathfinder/Warner Bros

Barnes and Noble

World banner

Yeltsin pledges to redirect missiles aimed at NATO

yeltsin May 27, 1997
Web posted at: 11:31 a.m. EDT (1531 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin followed the historic signing of a security agreement between his country and NATO Tuesday with a stunning announcement -- Russia will turn all missiles currently aimed at NATO nations away from their targets.

"Everything that is aimed at countries present here," Yeltsin said in a statement translated for the heads of state attending the signing ceremony, "all of those weapons are going to have their warheads removed."

Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky later clarified the president's remarks, saying that Yeltsin meant "that the warheads will not be targeted at the states which have signed the (NATO-Russia) Founding Act."


The spokesman said Yeltsin's remarks had been intended as a goodwill gesture, and that "in future, the situation is possible when the warheads will be dismantled."

Yeltsin's apparently impromptu announcement came at the conclusion of the ceremony and caught Western officials off guard.

U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said the Russian leader's move was "obviously a much bigger step" than any other weapons agreement currently on the table.

"It was a unilateral statement by Yeltsin, the meaning of which we'll have to explore with the Russians," Berger said.


Russia and the United States signed an agreement in 1994 saying they would no longer target long-range nuclear missiles at one another, but Yeltsin's remarks appeared to extend that agreement to the 15 other NATO nations at the meeting.

In Moscow, a spokesman for Russia's Defense Ministry and the Strategic Rocket Command said he knew nothing of Yeltsin's announcement, and Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency reported that the president said missiles aimed at NATO nations would be taken "off duty."

Russia, NATO agreement significant on its own

The leaders of 17 nations sat at an arc-shaped table in the opulent Salle des Fetes of France's Elysee Palace, the same room used to sign the Bosnia peace accords, for the signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security.


Yeltsin called the agreement -- in which NATO says that for the time being it has no plans to amass troops or build up nuclear weapons in future member states -- "a victory for reason." But, he said, "Russia has a negative view of NATO's expansion plans."

NATO leaders said the agreement cleared the way for expansion into eastern Europe -- most likely beginning with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic at a NATO meeting this summer.

"This NATO will work with Russia, not against it," said U.S. President Bill Clinton. "The veil of hostility between East and West is lifted."

In his opening remarks, French President Jacques Chirac called the agreement a "fundamental act in the new organization of Europe's security."

Yeltsin faces opposition to the agreement at home, largely from nationalists who believe the pact contains empty promises. But NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, who negotiated the agreement, praised Yeltsin's vision.

"The vision and leadership of President Yeltsin have been truly instrumental to the success of this process," he said.

Russia has been granted a special consultative status with NATO, but Yeltsin failed to convince the Atlantic alliance to rule out future membership for former Soviet bloc countries.

Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty and Reuters contributed to this report.  

CNN Plus

Related stories:

Related sites:

Note: Page will open in a new browser window
Search for related CNN stories:
Tip: You can restrict your search to the title of a document. Infoseek grfk

Example: title:New Year's Resolutions

Message Boards

Sound off on our message boards

Tell us what you think!

You said it...

To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.