Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 171

Under fire for its management of relations with Russia, the Clinton administration yesterday took the offensive. In what was billed as a major foreign policy speech, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took aim at both the Russian government for its failure to root out corruption, and at congressional Republicans for their harsh criticism of the administration’s Russia policy.

On the first score, Albright warned the Russian government that it risked losing U.S. support for multilateral aid efforts–such as IMF loans–if it did not ensure that the funding would be properly used. She called on President Boris Yeltsin to make a top priority of the fight against corruption, and said that the United States had made it clear that it would not support “further multilateral assistance to Russia unless fully adequate safeguards are in place.” Albright also warned the Russian government against considering the postponement or cancellation of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. “Nothing could do more damage to Russia, at home or abroad, than a failure to observe the constitutional process.” Albright’s remarks came during an address delivered to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Albright was equally direct in defending the administration’s policies toward Russia against domestic critics, saying that those who say that Russia is “ours to lose are arrogant [and] the suggestion that Russia is lost is simply wrong.” She argued that Washington must not abandon the “Herculean” task of helping Russia reform itself and reduce its nuclear capabilities. She made clear that the Clinton administration remains committed to the pursuit of cooperative relations with Russia. In that context, she argued that U.S. bilateral assistance to Russia serves American national interests by supporting nonproliferation efforts and prodemocracy, nongovernmental groups in Russia. She criticized congressional proposals which would cut aid to Russia by 25-30 percent (Reuters, AFP, AP, September 16).

Albright’s remarks come amid a widening moneylaundering scandal which reportedly reaches into the Kremlin and in the face of scathing Republican attacks on the consequences of U.S. policy toward Russia. Earlier this week, several leading Republican lawmakers charged that uncritical support by the Clinton administration for the corrupt administration of Boris Yeltsin had undermined U.S. hopes of promoting democracy and a free market in Russia. House Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas said that Russia had instead become a “looted and bankrupt zone of nuclearized anarchy.” He described the Clinton administration’s policy in Russia as “the greatest U.S. foreign policy failure since Vietnam” and linked administration support for Yeltsin to what he suggested might be the massive misuse of U.S. assistance by corrupt Russian officials (Reuters, AP, September 14).