French prime minister Alain Juppe arrived in Moscow yesterday for three days of talks with Russian leaders that will focus on increasing bilateral trade. French sources report that Juppe will announce a $300 million credit line for Russia and will make available to Russian oil companies an additional $500 million for the purchase of French oil production equipment. The French prime minister will not meet with Boris Yeltsin, who is away from the capital. Juppe and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will also set up the bilateral commission for strengthening economic ties between the two countries — modeled on the U.S.-Russian Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission — that was agreed to by the Russian and French presidents during Boris Yeltsin’s visit to Paris January 11. Trade turnover between Russia and France declined between 1990 and 1993, but stabilized in 1994 and increased to $2.4 billion in 1995. (5)
Previewing the visit, Russian commentators have noted Juppe’s sharp criticism of Russian actions in Chechnya and his advocacy of NATO expansion. However, they have also noted the fact that both he and German chancellor Helmut Kohl have warned against isolating Russia. (6) Indeed, one reporter remarked that Juppe’s visit to Bonn for consultations with Kohl on the eve of his arrival in Moscow was not coincidental, and that their discussions were likely devoted to harmonizing policy on support for Russian reform and NATO expansion. Another placed Juppe’s visit to Moscow in the context of France’s intention to forge a "privileged partnership" with Russia and to ensure Russia’s inclusion in the construction of a new European order. (7)
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