BUDAPEST, Dec. 5 -- Driven by concerns about NATO unity and future conflicts that threatened it like Bosnia, President Clinton on Monday implored members of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to take a shared role with NATO in heading off similar strife on the continent. Making a quick appearance before the 53-nation member group -- traveling 9,104 miles for the several hours of talks -- Clinton brought his call for a greater role for the CSCE to handle such regional conflicts before they flare out of control. But underpinning Clinton's message was the need to reaffirm NATO as the linchpin of security arrangements in Europe. 'NATO remains the bedrock of security of Europe,' he declared. But Clinton's message brought a quick and pointed rebuke from Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who warned that 'Europe, not yet having freed itself from the heritage of the Cold War, is in danger of plunging into a cold peace.' In his own speech following Clinton's, Yeltsin, seated across a large rectangular table, took apparent aim at the United States for its effort to micromanage security affairs in Europe. 'History demonstrates that it is a dangerous delusion to suppose that the destinies of continents and of the world community in general can somehow be managed from one single capital,' the Russian leader said in repeatedly calling for a 'full-fledged European-wide organization' like the CSCE to take control. The clash came quickly after Clinton addressed the plenary session of the summit, over which the crisis in Bosnia threw a distinct pall as speaker after speaker addressed the conflict.
Though fissures in NATO had been somewhat papered over in advance of the meeting by the efforts of Secretary of State Warren Christopher, stresses clearly remained as the allies, seeking to incorporate Russia's assistance, struggled to contain the 3-year-old war. Clinton, for his part, again called on the Bosnian Serbs to 'end the aggression, agree to the cease-fire and renewed negotiations....Settle your differencees at the negotiating table, not the battle field,' he urged. Clinton also vowed that the frustrations caused by the Bosnian strife would not halt U.S. efforts to resolve it. 'We must act on its lessons, ' he said. 'We must work to prevent future Bosnias....As NATO continues its mission, other institutions can and should share the security burden and take on special responsibilities. A strong and vibrant CSCE is vital.' The American president also made clear that Russia would also not be allowed to thwart efforts to expand NATO. 'NATO will not automatically exclude any nation from joining. At the same time, no country outside will be allowed to veto expansion,' he said. Though his message seemed to be overshadowed by Yeltsin's, Clinton also came to the summit to take part in the formal ceremony heralding the implementation of the START 1 nuclear arms reduction treaty after more than 12 years of negotiations under four U.S. administrations. Though signed by President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, the pact has survived the break up of the Soviet Union. Joined later by Yeltsin and leaders of the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, Clinton witnessed the exchange of 'instruments of ratification' that formally put the treaty into effect. The upbeat ceremony was made possible by Ukraine's recent decision to accede to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and with the implementation, Clinton and Yeltsin have spoken of making progress on a new set of agreements conditioned on START 1. Senior U.S. officials later expressed 'perplexity' about Yeltsin's comments to the CSCE. Officials on board Air Force One stressed that there were 'obvious domestic forces at work here.' The officials said that despite Yeltsin's comments, there was some progress reached between the United States and Russia, including an agreement to deploy a multinational force to Nagorno-Karabakh, the troubled ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan. 'It's very important because this war has gone on for six years and is bloody as Bosnia,' said one official. Nagorno-Karabakh's predominantly Armenian population has been waging a war of independence from Azerbaijan with open support from the neighboring republic of Armenia. The officials said the details of the agremeent would be worked out over the next couple of months, and will likely be discussed during an upcoming visit by Vice President Al Gore to Moscow. Russia has been pressing hard foran agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh, and wanted special responsibility for any peacekeeping force, claiming the region on its southern border is in its sphere of influence. The United States has balked at a dominant Russian role, saying its participation should be limited to at most 50 percent of the force. Clinton's whirlwind trip was an effort by the American president to make his case forcefully, in person. Seeming tired and speaking somewhat flat, he spent just a few hours in the Hungarian capital before heading back to Washington where he was to host a Christmas ball for U.S. lawmakers, more than 400 of whom were scheduled to attend. The U.S. administration, under increasing pressure on the question of Bosnia as it shifts its policy to meet European complaints and demands, has proposed enhanced peace-keeping and conflict resolution capabilities for the largely powerless CSCE but stresses the key security structure in Europe must remain NATO. The stance clashes with that of Russia, which is wary of NATO expansion and has proposed the CSCE supplant the alliance as the chief security organization. With tensions running high with Russia, in light of the Russian veto of a United Nations resolution on the Balkan war Friday night and no doubt firmed up by Yeltsin's comments, Clinton did not sit down personally with Yeltsin during his six-plus hours of talks in Budapest.