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Russia: U.S. Sees New Promise For Economic Ties

U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans cited new promise and hope for economic relations with Russia at the opening of a Harvard University investment conference in the U.S. The upbeat remarks followed reports of progress on arms-control issues in Washington and positive reactions toward the U.S. in Russian polls.

Boston, 2 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans hailed the development of new ties between the United States and Moscow at the start of a Harvard University investment conference yesterday.

Evans said that never before has the relationship between the United States and Russia held -- in his words -- "such promise, such hope, such importance."

Evans said the U.S. and Russia are forging partnerships that will lead to progress and prosperity for both nations. In the process, he said, the people of both nations are developing bonds tying them together at the most fundamental level -- in what Evans called "our value of democratic society."

The remarks echoed an upbeat assessment of trade and economic relations delivered by Evans in Moscow recently at a meeting of the World Economic Forum. He pointed in particular to the recent opening of the Caspian Consortium Pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossiisk, a project backed by the governments of both the United States and Russia.

Evans called the pipeline project a "historic partnership" that represents the largest-ever U.S. government investment in Russia. But he said it also represents a growing, common commitment to economic security and stability around the world. More trade, he said, means more trust.

The U.S. commerce secretary also cited a recent decision by the U.S.-based ExxonMobil Corporation to proceed with up to $12 billion in investments in the resources of Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East. Evans called it the largest foreign private investment in Russia to date.

The remarks at the start of the three-day annual Harvard conference followed hopeful statements on arms-control issues by U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Washington. Her statements followed talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Rice said the U.S. and Russia "understand each other better" and are "making progress: "We believe that we're understanding each other better, that we're making progress. But I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time. We have a series of meetings that we've been having with the Russian president --- [in] Ljubljana, Genoa, the recent meeting in Shanghai. And as you know, [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin will be here shortly. So I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time, but we do believe that we and the Russians are making progress on redefining our new relationship."

AP quotes a senior U.S. official as saying the U.S. and Russia are discussing a possible two-thirds reduction in nuclear arsenals. Such a move could help Russia redirect more of its resources toward economic growth.

The fifth-annual Harvard conference comes at a time of rising optimism over closer U.S.-Russia relations following the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Interfax cites a poll released yesterday in Moscow by the Public Opinion Foundation that finds 69 percent of the Russian public having positive views about long-term cooperation with the United States.

The Harvard meetings have long served as a venue for encouraging bilateral relations during good times and bad. Participants at last year's conference forecast a trend toward rising investment and steady growth in Russia since the ruble crisis of August 1998. Those forecasts have proven accurate in the past year.

Several top Russian officials and business leaders are scheduled to address the meeting, including Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and the deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russia, Tatiana Paramonova.