Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 177

A week-long stay in the United States by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov–which included talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the UN and with U.S. President Bill Clinton and other administration officials in Washington–appears to have done little to improve troubled ties between the two countries. Despite Ivanov’s hints to the contrary following his talks with Clinton, it appeared that differences between Washington and Moscow remain unresolved on key arms control issues as well as on the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.

Ivanov did applaud what he suggested was the Clinton administration’s determination to maintain friendly ties with Russia, and trumpeted what he said would be increased Russian-U.S. cooperation in the battle against terrorism. But those modest accomplishments could not obscure the fact that, in the face of the Russian money laundering scandal, the U.S. administration has toughened its stance with regard to future lending to Moscow. And while proclaiming its sympathy for Russian victims of the terrorist bombings in Russia, Washington nevertheless warned Moscow to act with restraint in the Caucasus, and to curb its military operations and pursue dialogue there (Reuters, September 25).

With regard to arms control, Ivanov told reporters following his meeting in Washington with Clinton and U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger that the two countries had managed a “serious advance” on issues of strategic stability. But Ivanov provided no details, and his repeated assertions while in the United States that Moscow continues to view the 1972 ABM Treaty as the “cornerstone of strategic stability” raised some question as to what advances might have occurred. Ivanov did say that the two countries remain committed to negotiating a START III treaty, and that the Kremlin will continue to work for ratification of START II. But without an agreement on the ABM accord, progress in those other areas seems unlikely. Russian and U.S. arms control experts have met several times over the past month, but have indicated after those meetings that negotiations remained deadlocked because of Russian objections to U.S. calls for changes to the ABM accord.

While in the United States Ivanov also repeated another Russian proposal, one which Moscow would apparently like to see enacted in lieu of U.S. plans to develop a limited national missile defense. This involves the development of a “collective global system for control of ballistic missiles” (International and Russian agencies, September 22-26; Izvestia, September 25). Russian President Boris Yeltsin made the proposal during the summit of G-7 leaders and Russia in Cologne this past June at the same meeting during which Russia and the West first tried to put the Kosovo conflict behind them. It was also the occasion on which Yeltsin agreed for the first time that Russia would consider–but no more than consider–proposed U.S. changes to the ABM treaty.