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U.S./Russia: Moscow To Be Highlight Of Clinton's Europe Trip

  • Lisa McAdams

U.S. President Bill Clinton leaves Washington today on a European trip that takes him to Portugal, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine. The highlight will be summit-level talks in Moscow with Russian president Vladimir Putin. RFE/RL correspondent Lisa McAdams reports U.S. officials are playing down hopes of any major breakthroughs.

Washington, 29 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton travels first to Lisbon, Portugal, for a summit with leaders of the European Union (30 May--1 June).

White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger says he expects the president's discussions in Portugal to focus on European security issues, particularly in southeastern Europe.

On 2 June, Clinton travels to the German city of Aachen, to receive the "Charlemagne Prize" given to leaders who have contributed to European unity and world peace. Previous winners include Czech President Vaclav Havel, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Clinton will be only the third American to be awarded this honor.

Clinton also travels to the German capital, Berlin, to attend a conference on promoting good governance.

On 3 June, Clinton leaves for Moscow and the highlight of his trip: summit-level talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The summit begins with a formal dinner Saturday. Two discussion sessions are planned for Sunday (4 June): Berger says several key themes will be raised:

"The president will urge Russia to seize the opportunity that has been afforded by its current economic recovery to press ahead with reforms that will make the recovery last. He will urge respect for democratic freedoms, especially press freedom, and affirm publicly and privately our continuing concerns about Chechnya."

Anatole Lieven, a senior associate at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the American message on Chechnya won't be anything the Russians haven't heard before.

Levin says many Russians are convinced that American rhetoric about Chechnya is "hypocritical" and that the Clinton administration is not interested in this matter. Levin says the Russians will be ready and waiting for the Chechnya debate: "They expect to hear rhetorical calls for restraint in Chechnya from Clinton and they expect to hear calls for negotiations. In the discussions themselves, they expect to more or less be able to trump that by asking for details about what the American side is proposing. And since the American side doesn't know, that will be a very good way of bringing the conversation to an end."

During the talks, Clinton will have the chance to make America's pitch for a national missile defense system, which Russia strongly opposes. A month ago, there was hope of a breakthrough, but officials at both the White House and State Department now say that arms control is only one focus of the summit and that they don't expect any major announcements.

U.S.officials have argued that a national missile defense program would be aimed only at rogue nations that sponsor terrorism and would not threaten the Russians. But Moscow has said any unilateral moves by the U.S. would undermine the entire architecture of arms control.

Clinton and Putin are also expected to discuss ways to prevent the transfer of Russian military technology to third countries, such as Iran. Berger says the Russians have made progress in this area but more gains could be made.

On Monday (5 June), Clinton will address Russian parliamentarians in the State Duma (lower house) -- the first such address ever by a U.S. president. Later that day, Clinton concludes his European journey in Ukraine, with a meeting with President Leonid Kuchma.

John Tedstrom, the director of Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, says Clinton's visit to Kyiv comes at a time of renewed optimism. Addressing a recent Washington policy briefing, Tedstrom said Clinton wants to show support for Kuchma's reform agenda. Tedstrom said of Clinton's agenda in Kyiv:

"The main points of it focus on advancing democratic and economic reforms that enhance Ukraine's stability, its security and help ensure its independence. And I hope that you would agree that the United States devoting considerable resources to that goal is firmly in our national interest."

Tedstrom said Clinton will raise the subject of refinements to U.S. technical assistance programs. The U.S. also wants to continue working closely with the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the European Union to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant.

Ukraine will be prodded to take steps to combat organized crime and corruption. Tedstrom said it is a message that can and does extend to other CIS nations.

Clinton returns to the United States on June 6.