Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 130

The White House announced on July 6 that President Bill Clinton will travel to Moscow sometime in September for a long-awaited summit meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. An exact date for the meeting has apparently not yet been set, but U.S. Vice President Al Gore is to discuss preparations for the summit during a trip to Moscow on July 23-24. Gore is to meet with Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. (Reuter, AP, July 6) Clinton last held a full summit meeting with Yeltsin in March of 1997.

Clinton’s decision to travel comes despite the fact that the Russian Duma is highly unlikely to have ratified the START II strategic arms treaty by September. Washington had earlier signaled its preference for holding the summit only after such ratification. This sequence would have allowed the two presidents to begin discussion, at the summit, of a follow-up treaty to START II that would entail additional arms reductions. The Duma has shown little inclination to ratify START II, however, and has put consideration of the treaty off once again until the autumn. Some Russian lawmakers have also expressed resentment over Washington’s decision to link ratification to the scheduling of the summit. The Kremlin had earlier acquiesced to this thinking, but Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov suggested in May that it was perhaps time to decouple the two issues. (The Washington Post, May 24)

White House officials said that additional strategic arms control measures would nevertheless be on the fall summit agenda. They said that the talks will also touch on a variety of other issues, including both the crisis in Kosovo and Russia’s troubled economy. It was this backlog of other issues that apparently convinced Clinton administration officials to go forward with the summit despite the Kremlin’s lack of progress on START II ratification. “We clearly favored a meeting following START II ratification by the Duma,” White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said on July 6. “However, the range of important issues that we have with Russia are such that we believe there’s plenty for the two presidents to discuss.” The White House has acknowledged that it holds no hope that ratification will take place by the time of Clinton’s September visit.

The White House’s pessimism on START II ratification was born out yesterday by Russian Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev. Speaking to reporters during a visit to Copenhagen, Seleznev reiterated that Russian lawmakers have no intention of speeding up the ratification process now that the Russian-American summit has been announced. Seleznev also said that he had warned American lawmakers that the Russian Duma would draw out the ratification process so long as Washington tried to pressure Moscow on the issue. (Itar-Tass, July 7)