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Russia/US: Helsinki Summit Declared A Success

Helsinki, 24 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton ended their Helsinki summit Friday declaring it was a success.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said "President Clinton made history in Helsinki," making major progress on arms control, the shape of new European institutions and cooperation on a host of other issues all at once.

At a joint press conference Friday night, the two presidents announced a new stage in U.S.-Russian relations despite a failure to come to agreement on NATO expansion. Clinton called it a true partnership.

Yeltsin repeated that he thinks enlargement will be a serious mistake. But he said each side represented its national interests and clarified positions on European security. "Both sides defended national interests and did not abandon them," he said.

Both sides said the disagreement would not derail their cooperation.

Yeltsin said the United States and Russia have a common interest in international stability and will work together to promote this aim in five major areas on which they signed formal statements -- formalizing closer Russian ties with NATO, continuing nuclear disarmament, renewing a pledge on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (ABM), and launching a series of economic initiatives to ultimately make Russia an equal partner in the global economy.

In spite of their disagreement on NATO expansion, they made some progress, giving each side a little of what it wants.

NATO Expansion

Having registered its disagreement, Russia has in principle dropped objections to the first round of NATO expansion planned to begin at a NATO summit in Madrid in July.

There was no explicit reference in the summit document to a Russian demand that the countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union be excluded forever from NATO.

But, Albright told reporters after the formal press conference that the question did come up in the Yeltsin-Clinton discussion and that there was a reference to the status of the Baltic countries.

She said that the joint statement on European security, signed by the two leaders, includes an agreement to respect "the sovereignty and integrity of all states, as well as their right to choose the means to ensure their security." Albright said she presumed this applied also to the Baltic states

Albright also said that Russia was no longer asking for restrictions on equipment on the new NATO territories. "There will be no limits on equipment," she said.

In the joint statement on NATO, Clinton reaffirmed a NATO pledge made in December that the alliance has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons or troops on the territory of the new member-states.

This assurance will also be made in a special document formalizing relations between NATO and Russia.

NATO-Russia Relations

Russia agreed to formalize closer ties with NATO and to accelerate negotiations with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, the principal negotiator.

At the Helsinki summit, the two sides found a formula to overcome Russia's demand for a formal treaty and a U.S. preference for a non-binding charter.

Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that an agreement on NATO-Russia relations would be signed by leaders of all 16 NATO member states but it would not have the force of a treaty requiring ratification by the parliaments of NATO states.

The signing ceremony of the agreement is to take place before the Madrid summit.

Nuclear Disarmament

Each side got most of what it wanted. They resolved a long-standing dispute over the ABM treaty with Russia accepting the new ranges for target missile tests that America wanted and the United States agreeing to stay within the treaty and abide by its provisions. Thus they agreed to preserve the ABM treaty.

The United States got what it wanted on the further reduction of long-range nuclear weapons. Yeltsin said the 1993 START TWO treaty that has not been implemented will now be ratified by the Russian Duma on his advice.

In return, the United States has agreed to extend by one year, until 2004, the deadline for destroying nuclear warheads to be eliminated under the START TWO treaty.

As soon as the Duma ratifies START TWO, Russia and the U.S. will begin negotiating a START THREE follow-on treaty to further reduce their nuclear arsenals.

Clinton and Yeltsin said they will establish by the year 2007 a ceiling on nuclear weapons that will leave them with less than a third of the strategic nuclear weapons they have now.

Economic Initiatives

The United States will launch a regional investment initiative to help attract foreign investment to Russia and will support Russia's membership in the Group of Seven most advanced western democracies. Russia's addition, making it a "Group of Eight" is to take place at the next meeting of the group in Denver in the U.S. state of Colorado in June.

U.S. officials said it will be a summit of the eight to increase Russia's participation, but they said some core financial issues will be discussed only by the group of seven.

The United States will also support Russia's integration into other international economic institutions, including the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, and the World Trade Organization.