Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 195

Unnamed officials in Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s administration were quoted on October 17 as saying that recent statements by Yeltsin critical of the U.S. were "not accidental" and reflect a reorientation of Russian foreign policy away from the U.S. and toward Europe. They claimed that Moscow now considers the countries of Western Europe — rather than the U.S. — to be Russia’s main partners in political and economic matters. The Kremlin’s alleged dissatisfaction with Washington stems from what the officials described as a discrepancy between Washington’s words and deeds, particularly on economic matters. More specifically, they pointed to Washington’s continuing failure either to grant Russia most favored nation status or to recognize it as a country with a market economy as policies that have caused Russia economic and "moral" damage. They also claimed that the Clinton Administration did little to aid Russia’s entry into the Paris and the London Clubs, and complained particularly about what they said were Washington’s clandestine efforts to block Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization. (Itar-Tass, October 17)

The officials’ mention of "anti-American" undertones in Yeltsin’s recent remarks presumably refers to statements made by the Russian president in the runup to the Council of Europe summit earlier this month in Strasbourg, when Yeltsin on several occasions called for Russia’s inclusion in a "greater Europe." He also demanded an end to Washington’s "interference" in European affairs and a reduced U.S. presence on the continent. Implicit in his remarks was the accusation that NATO serves an unwelcome vehicle for the exercise of U.S. influence in Europe, and a restatement of Moscow’s long-standing opposition to NATO enlargement as a policy that will introduce new "dividing lines" on the continent. (See Monitor, September 19, October 6)

Such remarks have seemed to reflect an effort by the Kremlin to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies. That effort was punctuated late last month when it was announced that Russia’s Gazprom would take part in a $2 billion French-Iranian deal to develop a major Iranian gas field. (See Monitor, October 2) The announcement allowed Russia to stand with the Europeans in a long-standing trade dispute of their own with the U.S., and seems sure to sharpen already considerable tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s pursuit of friendly relations with Iran at a time when the U.S. is trying to isolate Tehran diplomatically.

It remains unclear whether Moscow’s new "anti-Americanism" represents a real shift in Russian policy or just a flash of diplomatic opportunism. Equally unclear is the source of this new initiative. Russian media have speculated recently that the country’s Foreign Ministry has lost some influence over the making of foreign policy, and Sergei Prikhodko, Yeltsin’s own aide on international affairs, was compelled to deny those rumors on October 17. (Russian agencies, October 17) But it may be the case that the impetus for Yeltsin’s recent criticism of the U.S. comes from within his own administration, and that it reflects some tension between foreign policy officials in that apparatus and the country’s Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Military Sales Lead to Follow-On Contracts.