Among the announcements made by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore on March 12 was one setting out the creation of a new joint commission of experts to discuss and monitor the export of sensitive nuclear and missile technologies. The commission would seem to give some substance to the Clinton administration’s claims that it has made progress in convincing Moscow to take concrete steps to stop the leakage of Russian military technologies to Iran. (See yesterday’s Monitor) In remarks to the press that were generally praiseworthy of Russia’s efforts in this area, Gore nevertheless cautioned that implementation of new controls to ban the export of dual-purpose goods — items that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction — is the key to their success. In his meetings with Gore, Chernomyrdin also reportedly reaffirmed an earlier pledge by Russia to have no nuclear cooperation with Iran beyond the controversial Bushehr plant currently under construction by Moscow.
Chernomyrdin also pledged that the Kremlin would work to win ratification by the Russian parliament of the START II strategic arms reduction treaty. (The New York Times, The Washington Post, AP, Russian agencies, March 12) The same pledge has been made by Russian leaders, including by President Boris Yeltsin, but quick ratification remains unlikely. Russian lawmakers have cited NATO enlargement as one reason for their hostility to the treaty. They have also, at various times, tied the treaty’s ratification to concerns over U.S. observance of the ABM treaty and, more recently, to their opposition to threatened U.S. military actions in the Persian Gulf. Washington, in turn, has tied the next Russian-U.S. summit to Russia’s ratification of START II (the U.S. Senate approved the treaty in January 1996). Chernomyrdin expressed the hope that U.S. President Bill Clinton would travel to Russia for a summit meeting by the middle of this year.
In addition to three major commercial deals (see yesterday’s Monitor), roughly a dozen documents were signed during the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission’s two days of talks. Two of those accords involved the cleanup of environmental problems in Russia, while another encouraged U.S. exports to small businesses in Russia. Chernomyrdin departed with Gore yesterday for a tour of California’s Silicon Valley.
The State of Russian Public Opinion.