Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 143

Vice President Al Gore wound up a brief visit to Moscow on July 24 with some positive words about both Russia’s handling of its current financial crisis and Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko’s performance to date as head of government. The talks on July 23-24 were the first for Gore and Kirienko. The two men co-chair a Russian-U.S. technology and economic cooperation commission that has long played a key role in relations between the two countries. Gore also had a telephone conversation with vacationing Russian President Boris Yeltsin on July 24. Among the topics that they discussed was a summit meeting between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton scheduled for late August or early September.

In addition to Russia’s economy and the upcoming summit, Kirienko and Gore discussed a host of other issues and signed two agreements aimed at aiding Russian-U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts. One of the agreements involves U.S. funding for a new plant to reprocess plutonium from Russian nuclear weapons for use in civilian power plants. The other would channel U.S. aid to Russia’s “closed cities”–Cold War era centers of nuclear weapons research development now fallen on hard times–in an effort to provide civilian jobs for Russian nuclear specialists. Gore also used his trip to Moscow to restate Washington’s call for Russian lawmakers to ratify the START II strategic arms reduction treaty. (Western and Russian agencies, July 24)

Gore and Kirienko also discussed American concerns over Russian cooperation with Iran in the areas of nuclear power and missile development. Sources in the Russian government reportedly said that Gore had asked Moscow to limit its nuclear cooperation with Iran to the Bushehr nuclear station in southern Iran. (Russian agencies, July 24) The United States has long opposed that project on the grounds that it could further Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, but Moscow has insisted that it will complete the plant as agreed. There have been reports that Moscow and Tehran are also discussing the construction of a separate research reactor.

Finally, Gore expressed concern over Iran’s testing a medium-range ballistic missile last week. He did praise Moscow, however, for what he said were increased Russian efforts to stop the leakage of Russian missile technology to Iran. Gore pointed to an announcement by authorities in Moscow on July 15 that they were investigating nine Russian organizations suspected of improperly transferring missile technology abroad. (Reuter, July 24) The Clinton administration has applauded the Russian action and interpreted it as a vindication of Washington’s own efforts to get Moscow to stop the flow of missile technology to Iran.