Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 38

For western leaders, foreign policy toward Russia has of late descended into a torturous process of formulating statements of support for Boris Yeltsin that suggest neither interference in Russia’s internal affairs nor an over-reliance on faith in the incumbent. Failure on the first count, it is understood, could undermine Yeltsin’s already shaky bid for re-election. Failure on the second leaves the western leader vulnerable at home to charges of having focused policy too exclusively on one individual. In this regard, during a forty-minute telephone conversation with Yeltsin yesterday, U.S. president Bill Clinton opted to position himself just outside of French prime minister Alain Juppe and German chancellor Helmut Kohl, each of whom has virtually endorsed Yeltsin’s candidacy during recent visits to Moscow. Kohl has faced sharp criticism in Germany as a result.

More than the other two western leaders, Clinton chose to emphasize process. According to a Russian presidential spokesman, Clinton broached the subject of the upcoming presidential election with "the hope that the reform course started under Yeltsin’s leadership will be continued." According to White House spokesman Mike McCurry, Clinton had told Yeltsin that the "free, fair, and open elections which are about to occur in Russia are the true hallmark of progress towards democracy." The conversation, which also reportedly covered the war in Chechnya and NATO expansion, was the first between the two leaders since Yeltsin’s official announcement that he would run for re-election. During the last telephone talk between the two, on January 26, Yeltsin had promised to work for ratification of the START II Treaty, ratified earlier that day by the U.S. Senate, and Clinton had accepted Yeltsin’s explanation that the sacking of reformers in the Russian government did not represent a "strategic" shift away from the course of reform.

Primakov Wants More Activist Policy in Middle East.