Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 49

Although yesterday’s press conference with Chernomyrdin and Gore was a friendly one, during which the two sides applauded five years of cooperation, there were suggestions of other points of friction. No mention was made, for example, of Iraq or of NATO enlargement — two issues on which Moscow and Washington continue to clash. Each side also apparently failed to set a date for the next summit meeting between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton. Chernomyrdin said that a meeting would take place this year, possibly as early as May. But U.S. officials have said that there will be no summit until Russia’s parliament ratifies the START II treaty — an action that seems unlikely to take place any time soon. (AP, March 11)

Neither was there any evidence that the two sides had reached any sort of accommodation on Washington’s repeated objections to a nuclear power plant being constructed by Russia in Iran. Indeed, three top-ranking Russian government officials yesterday reiterated Moscow’s determination to press ahead with the project. In recent weeks, moreover, Russian officials have reported preliminary agreements under which Russia’s role in construction of the controversial Bushehr plant will likely be expanded. They have also indicated Moscow’s readiness to step in for Ukraine, which under pressure from Washington recently announced that it would not supply turbines for the project. (See Monitor, March 9)

Finally, the U.S. State Department reported on March 10 that Moscow had blocked U.S. efforts to determine whether American-made supercomputers were illegally diverted last year to Russia’s nuclear weapons program. The Commerce Department and the Customs Service, under Justice Department supervision, began an investigation into the computer case last fall. (AP, March 11; see also, Monitor, October 28, 1997) The diversion of the supercomputers had probably been orchestrated by then Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov. Earlier this month, the prickly Mikhailov was fired from his post. Although U.S. officials said their investigative efforts would continue, Mikhailov’s departure has not apparently had any immediate salutary impact on relations between the two countries in this area.