Russia and the United States wound up two days of high-level talks in Washington yesterday with two announcements. First, a trio of new commercial deals. Second, yet another pledge from Moscow that it will stop transfers of Russian missile technology to Iran. (Reuter, AP, March 11) The talks in Washington fell under the auspices of the "Gore-Chernomyrdin commission" — a body founded in 1993 with the goal of boosting economic relations between the two countries. Co-chaired by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the commission has been credited with a number of successes in that area. It has also served as a forum for high-level discussions between Moscow and Washington on a variety of other important issues.
One issue in this latest round of talks was what Washington charges is Moscow’s continuing participation in efforts by Iran to develop ballistic missiles. On March 9, U.S. officials let it be known that the United States was prepared to expand the number of foreign satellite launches permitted Russia in exchange for a real crackdown in this area by Russian authorities. (See Monitor, March 10) The space deal would have been a lucrative one for Moscow, but it was unclear yesterday whether the two sides had taken any concrete steps toward realizing it.
It was also unclear whether U.S. officials were encouraged or discouraged by Chernomyrdin’s pledge (only the latest in a long series of such statements by Russia leaders) to stop technology leaks to Iran. The Clinton administration has suggested to the press in recent weeks that its strategy of pressuring the Kremlin on this issue was beginning to pay dividends. Russian officials, it was said, were coming to accept that dealings of this sort with Iran were not in Russia’s best interests. Yesterday’s reports, though, yielded no indications of any breakthrough for Washington on this issue.
Three commercial agreements were signed, however. One involved a multibillion dollar agreement between Conoco, Inc., and Russia’s LUKoil to develop oil and natural gas fields in Russia’s Timan-Pechora region. Another entailed a five-year deal calling for American aircraft maker Boeing to buy $175-$200 million in milled titanium products from Russia’s Verkhnyaya Salda Metallurgical Production Association. A third deal, worth $62.5 million, calls for AGCO Corporation to deliver and assemble agricultural equipment for Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast. (Reuter, March 11)
Other Evidence of Dissonance.