Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 119

During Yeltsin’s meeting with G-7 leaders yesterday in Germany, both sides made a conscious effort to put the Kosovo conflict behind them and to move on to the business of repairing relations. That sentiment was especially pronounced in Yeltsin’s separate, bilateral talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. President Bill Clinton. The German leader reportedly emphasized Russia’s importance to peace and stability in Europe while also reassuring Yeltsin of Russia’s status as one of the world’s leading democracies. “It’s not right to call it the G-7,” Schroeder told reporters. “The group is called the G-8 and Russia is a confident member of this group” (Reuters, June 20).

The rhetoric was apparently much the same during Clinton’s own one-hour meeting with Yeltsin in Cologne–the seventeenth time that the two leaders have met but their first since the latest Balkans crisis began. Aside from the rhetoric, however, the two men also took some practical steps aimed at improving relations after the long freeze over Kosovo. Of greatest importance, the United States reportedly won a pledge from Yeltsin that Moscow would consider changes to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. Few details were available, but U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said that the move was significant because “for the first time the Russians have agreed to discuss changes in the ABM treaty that may be necessitated by a national missile defense system.” In return, Clinton reportedly agreed to resume Russian-U.S. negotiations on a Start III treaty. The United States had previously insisted that Russia’s parliament must first ratify the START II treaty (AP, Reuters, June 20).

In another move aimed at restoring some momentum to Russian-U.S. relations, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin will reportedly meet with U.S. Vice President Al Gore. The meeting, which could occur in early August, would continue Gore’s tradition of meeting with Russian prime ministers under the aegis of a joint trade and economic cooperation commission (Russian and Western agencies, June 20). The so-called “Gore-Chernomyrdin commission” had evolved into an important forum for boosting bilateral ties during former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s time in office.

Clinton, finally, used an interview broadcast yesterday by Russia’s NTV–his first such interview with a Russian television network–to call for improved Russian-U.S. ties. The U.S. president called for the two countries to put their differences over Kosovo behind them. And he told Russian viewers that the United States “believes in a strong, prosperous, democratic Russia actively working with Western Europe, actively working with the United States to solve the world’s problems.” Clinton also expressed the hope that Russians would become more sympathetic of the West’s actions in Kosovo as they became more aware of the atrocities committed by Serb forces in the devastated province. Finally, he told them that no amount of foreign economic aid can help Russia unless the country makes some fundamental changes of its own to help it function better “in the global economy” (AP, Reuters, June 20).