The Russians Are Back: Yeltsin's Agenda At the U.S.Russia Summit

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The Russians Are Back: Yeltsin's Agenda At the U.S.Russia Summit

September 23, 1994 16 min read Download Report
Adam Thierer
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy

(Archived document, may contain errors)

1001 Russian President Boris Yeltsin will visit Washington September 27-29 for a sum mit meeting with President Bill Clinton. Yeltsins position at home is now more secure than it was at the time of the last U.S.-Russia summit at Moscow in January 19

94. The Russian economy, though still quite weak, is relatively stable. Inflation is about 5 per cent a month, less than half of what it was at the beginning of the year. The transition to ward a market economy continues, and the rule of law is gradually taking hold.

Domestic politics are increasingly stable, too. Though little was accomplished during the elected legislatures first session, relations are much better now between the execu tive and legislative branches of government, the government and oppos ition political policies, and-most important-the federal authorities in Moscow and regional govern ments throughout the Russian Federation. Ultranationalist and neo-communist forces seem to have lost the broad popular support demonstrated during the Decem ber 1993 parliamentary elections. These forces rarely offer effective opposition to the mainstream parties and the government.

In foreign policy, Yeltsin has shown himself to be equally adept at managing compet 1 ing and often contradictory forces. Despite often xenophobic opposition at home, he has joined NATOs Partnership for Peace and completed a timely withdrawal of Russian troops from Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Baltic states. Yeltsin has also taken a leadership role in the so-called C ontact Group of Russia and four NATO allies in searching for a comprehensive solution to the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. In do ing so, he has applied pressure on traditional Serbian allies in both Yugoslavia and Bos nia, thus demonstrating his desire to establish a new system of collective security in Europe and to enhance Russias international image.

Keeping Russia as a key player in international politics will be Yeltsins main goal at September 23,1994 THE-RUSSIANS ARE BACK YELISINS AGENDA AT THE U. S.=RUSSIA SUMMIT INTRODUCTION A MA role in world affairs, asking for special consideration of Russian interests. As Russia gradually stabilizes, it is slowly reasserting itself in international politics. This newfound confidence and strength will be exhib i ted on the Russian side of the conference table. At the Washington summit, Yeltsin can be expected to d Ask for American recognition of a Russian sphere of influence in the Com d Offer his cooperation with the U.S. on countering the proliferation of pluto monwealth of Independent States nium and nuclear-related materials d Seek American endorsement for his concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states d Persuade Clinton not to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia and to remove eco nomic s a nctions against Serbia d Request that NATO membership for Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe be delayed d Deliver the message that Russia is making substantial progress toward reforms d Solicit continued American support for Russian e conomic and political re forms d Call for a formal annulment of the 1973 Jackson-Van& Amendment, which links trade with emigration d Ask for Most-Favored-Nation trade status for Russia d Invite American private sector investment in and technical assistanc e to the d Obtain pledges of additional U.S. funding for strategic weapons dismantling Russian economy and destruction d Press for revisions in conventional forces treaty restrictions on the size of the Russian army d Insist on a more active role for Russi a in the Middle East peace process d Refute American demands for a cessation of Russian intelligence operations in the U.S URING U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONSHIP Russian-American relations have undergone a transition since the Vancouver summit in April 19

93. Rom antic notions of partnership based on the euphoria at the end of the Cold War have given way to the reality that the two nations have interests which, while sometimes complementary, are nonetheless based on very different geopolitical, strate gic, histori c al, economic, and cultural considerations. Moreover, Russias disappointed 2 hopes for a vast flow of American economic aid that never came have cooled the U.S Russian relationship. There is now a belief in Russia that there is very little the United State s can do to help with the Russian transition to democratic capitalism.

The cooling of U.S.-Russia relations has raised tensions somewhat. Even some moder ate politicians, including Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, have taken to bullying the U.S. on foreign policy. It appears that the U.S.-Russian relationship is no longer a top priority for Russian foreign policy makers. They have concluded that, rather than trying to achieve active U.S. support for its own foreign policy, Russia should instead strive for a certain benign neglect by which Russia will gain a freer hand in international politics and economics.

Regardless of what is said or done at the summit, it will not have the historic signifi cance of US.-Soviet summits during the Cold War. It instead ref lects a desire by both sides to establish regular contacts between the heads of state of the two most powerful and influential nations on earth. Yeltsin understands that the relationship is growing stronger and deeper and knows that this will be accompani ed by areas of both coopera tion and confrontation.

Nonetheless, for Yeltsins political fortunes; it is important that he not be seen as a puppet in the hands of American imperialism as is often charged by his ultra-national ist and neo-communist opponents . With the pending 1996 Russian elections, a success ful visit to the U.S. will help cement Yeltsins position as a crafty statesman with a seri ous international reputation and close personal relationship with other world leaders YELTSINS OBJECTIVES AT TH E WASHINGTON SUMMIT Clinton will meet an increasingly confident Boris Yeltsin when he welcomes him to Washington on September

27. The spirit of cooperation and the close personal relation ship between the two men was best demonstrated during the closing j oint press confer ence after the summit of the worlds leading economic powers in Naples last July. Dur ing the conference, Yeltsin reacted angrily to Clintons interpretation of Russias agree ment to withdraw its military from Estonia. Despite the appearan ce of disagreement con cerning the withdrawal timetable, neither leader gave ground. The Russian withdrawal was completed in August without incident.

Similar signs of independence should be expected in Washington. Yeltsin will have a variety of foreign pol icy and economic objectives; he knows some will be challenged by Clinton, while others will contribute to cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. At the summit, Yeltsin can be expected to Ask for American recognition of a Russian sphere of influence in t h e Common wealth of Independent States. From Yeltsins perspective, Russia has vital national security interests in maintaining stability on its borders. Moscow views the political economic, and social processes in the adjacent newly independent states (NIS ) of the near abroad as having a direct affect on Russias own stability and security. Politi cally stronger and with a better economy than the majority of its new neighbors, Rus sia nonetheless lacks, Yeltsin believes, adequate political and economic lever a ge to in fluence the situation there. Much of Russias interference in the near abroad is in tended to increase this leverage 3 Yeltsin is not interested in the internationalization of the conflicts in Tajikistan Moldova, Chechnya, Abkhazia, and elsewhere t hrough an active involvement of the U.N. or the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE to say noth ing of NATO. For their part, these organizations have shown little desire to involve themselves in many of these dangerous and faraway confl i cts. By contrast, Russia wants to conduct peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations in several regions at once. Often, these operations are based on a formal mandate from the Common wealth of Independent States, the loose organization of twelve republ ics of the former Soviet Union. In reality, though, these are typically unilateral Russian activities.

Yeltsin believes that the U.S. is open to the idea of Russian peacekeeping in the near abroad. The Clinton Administration has sometimes taken a hard line ; U.S. Am bassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright visited a number of the NIS in September 1994 and called for a withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova. How ever, other developments suggest to Moscow that the U.S. government is revising its a t titude toward the Russian peacekeeping in the NIS. A joint U.S.-Russian peacekeep ing exercise in early September at the Totsk military training facility was interpreted by many security experts in Moscow as tacit American support for Russias involve ment in peacekeeping. Moreover, comments made by Albright at the end of her trip were reported in the Russian media as a new endorsement of Russias right to send troops to the former satellite states for peacekeeping missions. Said Albright: So long as Russia abides by the international peacekeeping principles, their mandates are creative and they follow through on them, it is an appropriate thing for them to do.

She declared that The United States is very comfortable with this national and regional stability. He will urge the U.S. not to oppose Russian presence and operations along the borders of Russia. Yeltsin will want Clinton to give de facto recognition to Russian security interests in the near abroad, and he will seek a spe cial mandate for peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations in those countries.

He will probably refer to American activity in Haiti as a similar example of a great power protecting its vital national interests in its own neighborhood Offer his cooperation with the U.S. on counterin g the proliferation of plutonium and nuclear-related materials. President Yeltsin knows that there is great concern in the U.S. about the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Russia and other NIS countries. He will be prepared for extensive discus s ion on this issue and is expected to describe for Clinton the Russian security measures designed to stop any proliferation of nuclear materials and weapons abroad. Yeltsin would welcome further cooperation with U.S. regulatory and security agencies regard ing nuclear non-proliferation.

Nonetheless, Yeltsin is sure to refute allegations of the corruption and poor security at nuclear weapons sites and reactor installations. Citing the recent German apprehen sions of Colombians, Spaniards, and Zairians in possession of radioactive material , he may assert that no fm evidence exists as to the reported cases of missing or exported In Washington, Yeltsin will declare that Russian peacekeeping missions create inter 1 2 Ibid.

An interview with Albright appeared in The Moscow Times, September 7,19 94 4 nuclear substances and will challenge what he sees as the dubious facts reported by the media Russians in the Baltic states. The civil rights of ethnic Russians living in Estonia and Latvia is a sensitive political issue for Yeltsin both internationa l ly and domesti cally. Moscow sees the citizenship restrictions imposed by the respective govern ments on Russian minorities as little more than outright social and political discrimina tion against non-natives. Many of these Russians are post-World War II immigrants who have been deprived of any right to obtain local citizenship.

Yeltsins opponents from both the left and right frequently criticize him for failing to take adequate steps to protect the civil rights of the Russian minority in the Baltics.

In response, Yeltsin signed a series of agreements in July and August 1994 with the heads of the Baltic states regarding the rights of retired servicemen. This paved the way for the Russian military pull-out at the end of August. There is much doubt in Mosc o w, though, that the agreements will be ratified and adhered to by the Baltic gov ernments In Washington Yeltsin will urge Clinton to pressure the Baltic countries on Russian civil rights. He will remind his American counterpart that Russia has met Latvia a nd Estonia halfway by withdrawing its troops and expects its neighbors to reciprocate by honoring the agreements it has signed economic sanctions against Serbia. Yeltsin feels confident that he has been a faith ful partner with the U.S France, Great Brita i n, and Germany in the so-called Contact Group, formed in the spring to resolve the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. He has pressured Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to influence the Bosnian Serbs into ac cepting the Contact Group peace proposal, which w as made in July.

Nonetheless, Yeltsin opposes a U.S. plan to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian Serbs. In this, of course, he is joined by Contact Group partners in London and Paris who, with troops on the ground in Bosnia, do not wish to see an escalati on in the bloodshed. Yeltsin is under pressure from domestic opposition groups who are an gered by Yeltsins leaning on Serbia. He would not welcome direct military action against the Bosnian Serbs that might be seen as a rebuff of Russia in the Contact Gr o up justified. From Yeltsins perspective, Milosevic did what he had been asked to do by pressuring Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to accept the Contact Group pro posal. That Karadzic did not revealed the growing rift between the two Serb leaders Requ e st that NATO membership for Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe be delayed. Yeltsin agreed to participate in NATOs outreach pro gram to the former Warsaw Pact, known as the Partnership for Peace (PFP). He did so hoping to arrest a rap i d expansion of the alliance to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic as full members. Russia also fears the more remote prospect of other European countries, including the Baltic republics and possibly Ukraine and Belarus joining NATO. Defense M i nister General Pave1 Grachev, speaking on September 8 at Seek American endorsement for his concerns about the treatment of ethnic Persuade Clinton not to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia and to remove At the same time, Moscow thinks a relaxation of economi c sanctions on Belgrade is 5 a security conference in Copenhagen, acknowledged that Russias response to the NATO extension will be painful.

Yeltsins decision to join the PFP elicited often virulent anti-NATO debate in Rus sia. The Russian public is still s keptical about NATO, having little knowledge of its objectives and functions and still affected by Cold War stereotypes of American for eign policy. Bearing the popular sentiment in mind, Yeltsin will probably tell Clinton that NATO expansion is unnecessa ry until the PFP itself has proven to be workable and productive Deliver the message that Russia is making substantial progress toward reforms.

Politicians in Moscow are careful observers of the debate in the U.S. regarding the progress of reform in Russia . Great play is given to accusations from both the Ameri can left and the right about the failure or the backlash effects of the reforms. These charges are seen as a thinly veiled attack on Yeltsin himself in favor of other Russian politicians or actors.

Yeltsin must thus convince Clinton that the economic and political reforms are hav ing an impact. He is expected to tout his governments successful efforts to cut infla tion by more than half, increase industrial production by aggressively privatizing ine f ficient state-owned businesses, and reduce crime and corruption Solicit continued American support for Russian economic and political reforms.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous objective. Yeltsin recognizes the great moral authority of the U.S. around the world. He has used with some effect previous expressions of U.S. support for his government to burnish his own image at home.

Moreover, explicit assurances of support for Russian reforms by the U.S. facilitate Moscows dealings with such crucial i nternational economic institutions as the Inter national Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the G-7, and the General Agreement onTar iffs and Trade, or GAlT Call for a formal annulment of the 1973 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which links trade with emigration. Mo s t of this legislations provisions were suspended by for mer President George Bush several years ago. Nevertheless, its very existence contin ues to be seen by policy makers in Moscow as a Cold War anachronism that signals U.S. mistrust of Russia. Russian o fficials raise this issue at every opportunity with American government leaders. Speaking to a delegation of American Senators headed by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on September 6, Foreign Minister Kozyrev insisted that Rus sia does not need direct economic aid f rom the U.S. It wants instead an equal eco nomic partnership. This was an implicit reference to the continued existence of such discriminatory legislation as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Yeltsin and other Rus sian leaders view it as a matter of national p r ide to get the Jackson-Vanik Amendment annulled, and it can be expected to come up in private talks between the two presi dents. benefit more from trading with the U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world than from any amount of foreign aid. But trad e is hampered by high tariffs that would be greatly reduced if Russia were granted Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status. Denial of MFN to Russia is a holdover from the Cold War. Yet, President Clinton in June ex tended MFN privileges to the Peoples Republic of China. Yeltsin will challenge Clin Ask for Most-Favored-Nation trade status for Russia. Yeltsin knows that he will 6 ton to offer Moscow, where an elected government rules, the same trading status en joyed by Beijing Russian economy. Yeltsin is unlikely t o ask for any government-to-government eco nomic aid, but he will likely request Clintons help in encouraging private investment in the Russian economy. The Russian president will claim credit for having improved the investment climate in Russia, albeit by means of presidential decree more than by legislative achievement. He will point specifically to his program for privatization which has turned more than 80 percent of the economy over to the private sector At the same time, Yeltsin is sure to praise the U.S. technical assistance in providing training, consulting, and commercial expertise for Russian executives. Kozyrev high lighted this assistance as a key element in the success of the privatization process when he spoke to U.S. Senators on September

6. Yeltsin would eagerly accept any of fer Clinton might make regarding further technical training and assistance.

Obtain pledges of additional U.S. funding for strategic weapons dismantling and destruction. While eschewing direct economic assistance, Yeltsi n may well ask for additional help in the costly process of dismantling huge stocks of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons. Yeltsins domestic opponents are quick to turn the issue of dismantling Russian weapons against Yeltsin in order to disparage his foreign policy and impede the arms control agreements. Citing his own domestic opposition, which claims the U.S. is offering too little in this area, Yeltsin is likely to ask for an expan sion of the so-called Nunn-Lugar program of safety, security, a n d dismantlement sup port. Nunn-Lugar funds of $400 million each year will be portrayed as much-appreci ated but insufficient for the job that must be done. He may also cite such additional as sistance as critical to Russian implementation of the START 11 n uclear weapons re duction agreements, which the parliament has yet even to ratify forces treaty restrictions on the size of the Russian army. Russian Defense Minis ter General Grachev recently stated that he would like to increase the amount of con ventio n al weaponry, including tanks and artillery pieces, in certain military districts of Russia. He is prevented from doing so because of limits imposed on Russia in the mul tilateral Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which was signed by NAT O and the former Warsaw Pact countries in November 19

90. Grachev argues that Russia faces a new geopolitical and strategic situation that is quite unlike that of the former Soviet Union, which negotiated the treaty. Since the limits for the Fed forces in the northern and southern reaches of the Russian Federation were negotiated by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, many Russian security officials no longer wish to be bound by the treatys restrictions. In particular, the CFE Treaty lim its the n umber of weapons Russia can use to deal with border skirmishes in both the Leningrad and North Caucasus Military Districts.

Treaty. Russia has lodged a formal request for such changes before the treatys gov erning body in Vienna Invite American private sector investment in and technical assistance to the Press for U.S support for Russias proposals on the revision of convention a l Yeltsin can be expected to ask for U.S. support for modifications of the CFE 7 Insist on a more active role for Russia in the Middle East peace process. Yeltsin has dispatched a special envoy, Ambassador Victor Posuvalyuk, to Middle East capi tals to le a rn what role Moscow can play in the peace process. The mission is consis tent with Yeltsins desire to be seen as a great power making constructive contribu tions to peace in such world hot spots as the Balkans and the Middle East. It is also likely that h e would like to outdo the role played by the U.S. in staging the famous Is raeli-Palestinian handshake. He could do so by exerting influence on Syrian Presi dent Hafez al-Assad, which might lead to Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations.

When in Washington, Yel tsin is likely to outline a proposal for more active Russian involvement in this volatile region. He may refer to the work of the NATO-Russia Contact Group in the Balkans as a model that could presage closer US.-Russian coop eration in the Middle East Ref u te American demands for a cessation of Russian intelligence operations in the U.S. The espionage case against former CIA employee Aldrich Ames has pro voked demands from Washington that Moscow certify the cessation of Russian intelli gence activity in the U.S. These demands have been accompanied by expectations that Russia identify current and former intelligence agents. It seems probable that this is sue could emerge during the summit in Washington.

If so, Yeltsin will surely reject such demands by referr ing to continued U.S. intelli gence activities in Russia. He will also point to joint efforts regarding terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, and nuclear non-proliferation activities, all of which vali date a strong Russian intelligence-gathering c apability. Nonetheless, Yeltsin might agree to some measure of cooperation on espionage cases that have already been ex posed, such as the Ames case. He might also consider assisting in those cases that Clinton identifies as posing grave danger to the U.S . government itself. In any event he will certainly welcome the continued interaction between the American and Rus sian security agencies on a wide range of issues CONCLUSION Boris Yeltsin comes to Washington much stronger than in past summits. The eco nom i c and political crises that bedeviled him in the past are subsiding, and the Russian president is feeling more confident that ever before. This new-found confidence will as sert itself in his meetings with Bill Clinton. Yeltsin will ask Clinton to recogni ze Rus sias national interests in ways that may make the American president uncomfortable.

As he does so, Yeltsin will be pressing the outer limits of the US.-Russian relationship.

How far Clinton is willing to go to assuage Yeltsin will help decide not only the political fortunes of Yeltsin back home, but the basic character of the US.-Russian relationship for the remainder of Clintons presidency.

Evgueni Volk The Heritage Foundation Moscow Office 8


Adam Thierer

F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy