During a press briefing June 14 and a TV interview two days later, the chief architect of the Clinton administration’s Russia policy said that Washington would do whatever "is necessary to defend" American interests if Russia turns away from the democratic path following presidential elections there. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott laid out a broad series of key issues, or "red lines," which he said Washington will use to gauge Moscow’s post-election behavior. According to Talbott, they include a re-targeting of Russian nuclear missiles on the U.S., a failure to observe nuclear arms agreements, attempts to reconstitute the former Soviet Union, the renationalization of former state-run industries, and the drastic expansion of social benefits or increases in the money supply. The U.S. will reportedly also be looking at human rights, including any curtailment of press freedoms or crackdowns on dissent. While declining to detail the full range of possible U.S. responses, Talbott did say that the emergence of a totalitarian Russia would force the U.S. to reconsider its plans for economic assistance and its future engagement with Moscow. (Reuter, UPI, June 14; Reuter, June 16)
Russian and U.S. presidential politics intersected June 15 when presumptive Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole blasted the Clinton administration’s policy toward Russia. Dole accused Clinton of neglecting American interests by excusing "troubling Russian behavior toward other independent states of the former Soviet Union" and for delaying "real action on enlarging NATO." He nevertheless characterized Russia’s election as a "historic step" and said he hoped that democratic forces would prevail there. (Reuter, June 15)
…But Defense Chiefs Remain Hopeful.