Washington, 12 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton leaves for a trip to Europe today (Tuesday) that his top aides say is a part of his vision to create a peaceful, democratic united Europe for the first time in history.
Clinton is flying to Germany for talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and to help celebrate Thursday the 50th anniversary of the Berlin airlift, when America led its allies in flying over a Soviet blockade of the city then isolated in the midst of East Germany.
Clinton will also visit a former East German town -- Eisenach -- on Thursday to speak to workers at a new Open/General Motors automotive plant built there. He will also speak to local citizens in the town square about the future development of areas so recently under a central socialist system.
Clinton flies on to Birmingham, England for the summit of major industrial nations plus Russia in what the U.S. now calls a G-7 summit -- for when the leaders of the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy, France and Canada talk alone -- and G-8 when Russia joins the group. The G-7 group is only planning one meeting and that is on Friday afternoon before the formal opening of the G-8 summit in the evening.
That lone G-7 summit will focus on proposals to redesign the architecture of the international financial system.
The U.S. had long held out against formally calling the summit group the G-8, but after Great Britain decided to go ahead with the designation, the Clinton administration reluctantly agreed to the G-8 moniker on the formal meetings that include Russia. It insisted, however, that when the more economically powerful and advanced seven met to discuss certain economic issues, it would remain the G-7.
Then the American president heads to London for the semi-annual summit of the U.S. and the European Union (EU) on Monday. Since Britain holds the current EU council presidency, the talks will include Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and European Commission President Jacques Santer.
White House National Security Advisor Sandy Berger says this trip fits in as a part of the expansion of NATO and the EU and growth of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) process. Berger says Clinton will "discuss the next steps we must take to complete that journey."
In all of his discussions in Germany and Birmingham, Berger says, Clinton will cover the normal range of current international issues -- Bosnia, Kosovo, providing support for Ukraine, Turkey's future, and Iraq and Iran and cooperation on limiting weapons of mass destruction.
He said the President sees this summit as a lead-up to next year's NATO summit in the U.S., when the first central European nations -- Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary -- will for the first time begin participating in NATO councils.
Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin will have a one-on-one meeting after the Birmingham summit concludes sometime Sunday afternoon.
Berger says the new government Yeltsin appointed recently is "the most reformist" in seven years of Russian democracy and Clinton wants to tell the Russian president that Washington finds the new government "very encouraging."
"Obviously, there are a lot of problems the Russians face in terms of getting their economy growing, attracting investment and getting taxes collected," Berger told reporters at the White House Monday. "But in many ways the events of the last month suggest that President Yeltsin made a gamble and won."
Berger says Clinton will want to hear from Yeltsin about his expectations, plans and priorities for the new government and will reiterated U.S. support for continued economic reform and Russia's further integration into international institutions such as the G-8.
Berger says one of the "great challenges of our generation is to build a new world of democracy and peace out of the rubble of the cold war." He says Clinton's visits to Germany -- once straddling the wall but now united -- to a summit that now includes Russia -- to a summit with a Europe that is undergoing profound change and expanding eastward -- are steps along that path.