Russian political leaders spoke in generally positive terms yesterday of U.S. president Bill Clinton’s reelection, but their preference for dealing with a known quantity was balanced by a recognition that the two countries face a host of potentially divisive issues. One unnamed senior diplomat described Clinton and Russian president Boris Yeltsin as "seasoned politicians" whose "warm personal ties" offered hope that "problems will be solved in a spirit of partnership." (Reuter, November 6) But Aleksandr Shokhin, deputy Duma speaker and a member of the government’s "Russia is Our Home" faction, suggested that the November 5 election results could propel Washington to adopt a harsher position toward Russia. Shokhin pointed in part to the fact that Republicans had retained control of the U.S. Congress in arguing that "the imperial ambitions of the US could rise to a new level," and that Clinton’s second term might be marked by a redoubled U.S. effort to dominate the world. (Interfax, November 6)
Moscow is undoubtedly watching with some interest to see who will be tipped to fill top foreign policy and security posts in what is expected to be a major reshuffling of the Clinton cabinet. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Defense Secretary William Perry — each of whom devoted considerable energy to cultivating friendly relations with Moscow — have reportedly decided to leave their posts. (AP, November 6) Some U.S. observers believe that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, the primary architect of the Clinton Administration’s Russia policy to date, could emerge in a more influential position in the administration’s second term. Talbott has long been accused by critics of being overly sympathetic toward Moscow. But during a recent speech in New York he expressed doubts about the ultimate success of democratization in Russia and accused Moscow’s "foreign policy elite" of clinging to old stereotypes and deliberately misinterpreting U.S. policy as an effort to weaken and divide Russia. Talbott also cautioned Russians against "defining their security at the expense of everyone else’s and misdefining security itself as the expensive and wasteful capacity to destroy and intimidate." (USIA, October 29) Talbott’s remarks, coming as Washington and Moscow move to resolve their differences over NATO enlargement and a number of other contentious issues, were a reminder that the reelections this year of Yeltsin and Clinton provide no guarantee that currently rocky relations will improve.
Moscow Marks Two Very Different Anniversaries.