Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 18

Madeleine Albright, recently confirmed as U.S. secretary of state and viewed in the Kremlin as one of Washington’s foremost hawks on NATO enlargement, appeared to move on January 24 to ease some of Moscow’s fears on that score. In her first press conference since being confirmed, Albright reiterated U.S. support for enlargement. But she also emphasized Washington’s desire to overcome differences with Moscow on the issue. "I think it is very important as we look at our agenda over the next years to understand that… a good relationship with the Russian Federation is paramount to our interests," she said. Albright also said that good relations between Moscow and Washington are important for the international community. (Reuter, Xinhua, January 24)

But, in what may signal a slight but significant change of tactics in U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, Albright suggested during a TV interview on January 26 that relations between the two countries are not dependent on Russia’s ailing president. "So while we really wish Boris Yeltsin well and we have a very good relationship with him," Albright said, "it’s important that people understand that our relationships with Russia are based on where they’re going, other people in the government, and the possibility that we will be able to work better and better together." Albright also said that a summit meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents, tentatively scheduled for March, is still expected to take place, although neither a date nor a venue has yet been arranged.

Although the Clinton Administration has in the past claimed that its relationship with Moscow is not centered excessively on Yeltsin, Albright’s remarks were the clearest indication yet that Washington may be seriously looking to other political forces in Russia. In referring positively to a February meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, moreover, Albright intimated that the Russian prime minister is viewed in Washington as a potential successor to Yeltsin or, at the least, as an independent political force with whom Washington is willing to do business. (Reuter, UPI, January 26)

Foreign Ministry Officials Discuss CFE Treaty.