Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 158

The Clinton administration continued to prepare over the weekend for this week’s long-awaited summit meeting in Moscow between Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. The preparations come despite some ten days of tumult that have left the itinerary for the two-day meeting in a shambles and have all but eliminated hopes of any meaningful diplomatic breakthroughs. U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers summed up the Clinton administration’s dilemma when he said over the weekend that the U.S. summit delegation still does not know with whom it will be meeting or what it can expect to hear in terms of Russian economic policy. “At this point, we don’t have a Russian economic team,” Summers told a news briefing. “We don’t have a Russian economic plan.” (Reuter, August 21)

That Washington’s focus in recent days has been almost entirely on the Russian economy says much about the disastrous lead-up to the summit meeting. Several weeks ago, Clinton administration officials were looking forward to the summit with at least some small hope that the talks in Moscow might narrow differences between Russia and the United States on a number of key security and foreign policy issues. The most important of these included the conflict in Kosovo, the latest standoff between Iraq and the UN, the nuclear arms race in South Asia, and Russian-U.S. tensions over Russia’s military and nuclear cooperation with Iran. Indeed, various nonproliferation issues–including especially the transfer of Russian missile technologies to Iran–were expected to top the American agenda during the talks. The two sides also hoped to move forward in winning Russian ratification of the START II treaty and in launching talks on a follow-up START III agreement.