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
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
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.