Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 159

President Bill Clinton arrived in Moscow this morning for two days of summit talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The crippling domestic political problems faced by both presidents–together with Russia’s recent economic and political meltdown–have ensured that expectations for this week’s talks are exceedingly low. The situation has been further complicated by the Russian parliament’s overwhelming rejection yesterday of the Kremlin’s nomination of Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister. Chernomyrdin’s defeat means that Russia is likely to be formally without a government during Clinton’s stay in Moscow. Although the two presidents have met on the margins of various international events over the past year, this week’s talks are the first formal summit between the two world leaders since their March 1997 meeting in Helsinki, Finland. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who arrived in Moscow last night, was expected to confer with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov on the turbulent political events that have preceded the summit meeting.

The U.S. president was expected to arrive at the Kremlin late this morning for a three-hour working meeting with Yeltsin. Clinton was scheduled to follow that meeting with a major foreign policy address at the Moscow College of International Relations. A formal dinner for the two presidents is scheduled for this evening. They are scheduled to meet for a second working session tomorrow morning, at which a package of Russian-U.S. documents are expected to be signed. A joint news conference is to follow the meeting. Later in the day, Clinton is expected to proceed to the U.S. ambassador’s residence, where he will meet with some Russian parliamentary and regional leaders, including Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov. President Clinton is to depart on Thursday morning for Ireland. (Itar-Tass, August 31)

In remarks delivered yesterday prior to his departure for Moscow, Clinton called once again for Russia to maintain its reform course, suggesting in so many words that if it were to do so, U.S. and Western aid would be forthcoming. “If they [the Russians] will stay on the path of reform to stabilize their society and to strengthen their economy and to get growth back, then I believe America and the rest of the Western nations with strong economies should help them,” Clinton told elementary school teachers and parents in Herndon, Virginia. The U.S. president praised the Russian people for their refusal thus far to revert to the old Communist system. (Reuter, AP, August 31)

Clinton also offered two reasons for continued U.S. support of Russia. First, he said that Russia’s status as the world’s second largest nuclear power makes it incumbent on Moscow and Washington to show they are committed to nuclear disarmament. This is especially true, he said, in view of the recent nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan. Second, Clinton pointed to the increased threat that an economically and politically weakened Russia could pose in the area of nuclear proliferation. A Russia facing problems of that magnitude, he said, “would put enormous pressure on people who have those [nuclear] technologies and understandings to sell them.” (AP, August 31)