This Date's Issues: 4338 •4339
Johnson's Russia List
1 June 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Putin Centralization Plan Approved.
2. Reuters: Main points of new laws on Russian regions.
3. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Public Note Conceals Private Pull.
4. Reuters: Clinton says Putin summit could yield progress.
5. US Department of State: Transcript: U.S. Official Sets Scene
for Clinton-Putin Summit. (Stephen Sestanovich, ambassador at large and special advisor to the Secretary of State for the New
Putin Centralization Plan Approved
May 31, 2000
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) - The lower house of parliament on Wednesday strongly approved
President Vladimir Putin's plan to strengthen central government and rein in
regional leaders - moves he says are necessary to help resuscitate the
More than 300 of the Duma's 450 deputies approved each of the plan's three
bills on first reading, giving them the necessary two-thirds to override
rejection in the upper chamber, which will consider the plan if it passes
three readings in the lower house.
One of the bills calls for changing the upper house, or the Federation
Council, from a chamber made up of governors and regional legislative leaders
to one of full-time, appointed lawmakers.
The second and third bills would allow Putin to dismiss governors found to
have broken federal law and give governors the power to dismiss lawbreaking
mayors in their regions.
Most of Russia's 89 regional governors have thrown their support behind the
plan. Analysts said some governors were trying to trade their support for
Kremlin concessions, while others were working behind the scenes to organize
Putin's plan has been welcomed by many as a sensible effort to end the chaos
and lawlessness that have hampered economic revival.
``We need a strong, effective state, and the presidential bills are aimed at
that,'' said Boris Gryzlov, head of the pro-government Unity group in the
But some liberal critics warned that giving the Kremlin the power to dismiss
elected governors could lead to authoritarian rule. Some legislators,
including former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, said the bills would
require constitutional amendments to be valid.
During Wednesday's debate, Duma deputies across the political spectrum spoke
in support of the bills. The Communist Party voiced some reservations, saying
Putin's plan would weaken the Federation Council.
Business tycoon Boris Berezovsky was the only Duma member who spoke strongly
against the plan, arguing that it would give the president too much power and
undermine the fledgling democracy.
``There is no doubt about the need to strengthen the government, but the
president's efforts would lead to a global catastrophe,'' Berezovsky said.
``The bills are setting the scene for Russia's ruin.''
Putin downplayed the criticism from Berezovsky, who was a powerful insider
during Boris Yeltsin's years as president. ``It is not bad that a point of
view is expressed,'' Putin said during a trip to Yaroslavl, just north of
Putin has already divided Russia into seven administrative zones, each to be
supervised by a presidential representative. The Putin administration said
the previous administrative arrangement - which put a Kremlin representative
in each of the 89 regions - was cumbersome and ineffective.
Five of the seven new representatives are generals with the army, police or
intelligence services - underlining Putin's promises to restore law and
order. The seven zones coincide with the command structure of the army and
FACTBOX-Main points of new laws on Russian regions
MOSCOW, May 31 (Reuters) - Russia's State Duma (lower house of parliament)
gave initial approval on Wednesday to three laws proposed by President
Vladimir Putin that would give him vast new powers to rein in the heads of
the country's 89 provinces.
The laws would give Putin the power to sack provincial governors. Governors
could also lose their seats in the upper house of parliament and the immunity
from prosecution that comes with those seats.
All three laws passed by more than 300 votes in the Duma on the preliminary
first reading, but are likely to face tougher battles on a second reading
when deputies can propose amendments. The second reading votes are due on
June 23 and 30.
The bills need only a simple majority of 226 votes to pass in the Duma, but a
two-thirds majority of 300 votes would be needed to avert a veto by the
regional bosses who now make up the Federation Council upper house.
Following are the main points of the bills.
On the Federation Council (upper house, or senate):
- The Council has been a part-time body made up of the regional executive
chief and the head of the regional parliament from each of Russia's 89
provinces. The bill asserts this composition made its work ineffective.
- Under the new bill, the executive chiefs and parliamentary heads from the
regions would each nominate a representative to serve as full-time senators
for a four-year term.
- Both senators must be approved by the regional parliament in a secret
(Some Duma deputies have suggested amending the bill to allow direct
elections for senators, but these changes are seen as unlikely to pass in a
house mainly loyal to Putin.)
On local autonomy:
- This bill would give provincial chiefs and parliaments the right to dismiss
local officials and councils if they violate laws. The president would
appoint new local officials until fresh elections could be held.
On legislative and executive organs:
- The bill would allow a provincial chief to dissolve its legislature if a
court determined the body violated the law, the constitution or the rights of
citizens, and no action was taken within three months of the court decision.
- Provincial legislatures could pass votes of no-confidence in provincial
chiefs if courts found them guilty of similar abuses.
- The president of Russia could warn the head of a region if he violated
federal laws or civil rights, and could sack the regional leader if he
repeated the violation. The bill spells out four different categories of acts
under which the regional chief could be sacked, not all of which require a
- The president would have the automatic right to name the replacement for a
sacked regional leader.
(Some deputies in the Duma say they oppose this.)
- A complaint leading to the sacking of a regional chief could be laid by the
federal parliament, regional parliaments, the federal cabinet or the state
June 1, 2000
EDITORIAL: Public Note Conceals Private Pull
There has been little serious debate on President Vladimir Putin's plans to
strengthen the "power vertical" by creating seven "super-regions," each
supervised by a special presidential representative.
But while tycoon and State Duma Deputy Boris Berezovsky's open letter raises
important points about the wisdom and desirability of Putin's legislative
proposals, it is unlikely to have much effect on them or on their chances of
getting through parliament. It is even less likely that it was meant to.
It seems more plausible that Berezovsky wanted to bolster the president's
sagging credibility as a strong, effective leader. Recent months had brought
a series of obvious political victories for the tycoon, each of them at
-Within days of Putin's March 26 election win, the new president withdrew his
endorsement of Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko's campaign to run
for election against St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Putin ordered
Matviyenko to cancel her campaign a day after Yakovlev had met with Kremlin
chief of staff Alexander Voloshin - a long-time Berezovsky associate. Putin
then held a strange, unscheduled meeting with Yakovlev when the presidential
jet was diverted by "bad weather" to St. Petersburg.
-The day after Putin's May 7 inauguration, Berezovsky turned up in Kursk as
the president took part in ceremonies leading up to the May 9 Victory Day
holiday. The tycoon was not an official part of the president's entourage. He
was described as an "honored guest."
-When everyone expected Putin to propose his ally Dmitry Kozak as prosecutor
general, he instead proposed acting Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov.
Numerous reports have credited Voloshin - and perhaps Berezovsky - with
personally intervening to twist the presidential arm in Ustinov's favor.
After a losing streak like that, it is hardly surprising that the tycoon
might want to restore the president's credibility. What better way to do so
than to have the highly unpopular Berezovsky publicly oppose Putin's
cherished plans to strengthen the power vertical?
When the bills pass - all three sailed through their first readings Wednesday
in the Duma with 300-plus votes - Putin's image as a strong leader will be
given a fresh polish.
Many had been disappointed by Putin's failure to distance himself from the
oligarchs as promised. At the stroke of his pen, Berezovsky has placed
himself at a distance - in public that is. After all, this is the tycoon who
told Vedomosti just before the presidential election that he calls Putin once
"He never refuses to talk," Berezovsky added.
Clinton says Putin summit could yield progress
By Deborah Charles
May 31, 2000
QUELEZ, Portugal (Reuters) - President Clinton said Wednesday he and Russian
President Vladimir Putin might surprise people with the progress they make in
their first summit this weekend.
U.S. officials have said they didn't expect a major summit breakthrough on
the dispute between the United States and Russia over U.S. plans for a
missile defense system.
``I would be surprised if we resolve all of our differences on the question
of missile defense, although we might make more headway than most people
would expect,'' Clinton told a news conference after a meeting with European
Union leaders at Portugal's former royal residence of Queluz near Lisbon.
Clinton is to meet Putin for two summit sessions Sunday which are expected to
be dominated by the controversial U.S. plans to set up a missile defense
system. It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Putin took office.
The United States wants to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty
in order to deploy an anti-missile defense shield to defend itself from the
threat of possible nuclear weapons from ``rogue states'' like Iran and North
The ABM treaty opened the way for the United States and the Soviet Union to
cut their nuclear arsenals by making sure neither deployed a defense shield
that would render the other side's stockpile ineffective.
Clinton is to decide on deploying the system later this year. Russia
adamantly opposes amending the treaty and deployment of the missile defense
Several European nations have also voiced their opposition to the missile
shield, saying it might undermine international arms agreements and provoke a
new arms race.
But Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, whose country holds the
rotating presidency of the European Union, played down opposition from
Europe, saying ``there is no division between the two sides of the
PROGRESS IN OTHER AREAS
Clinton predicted there would be progress in ``two or three other areas''
during the summit but gave no details.
Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger said last week Russia and
the United States could agree to each destroy 34 metric tons of
Berger said that amount of plutonium was enough to make tens of thousands of
nuclear weapons. The two countries have been working for nearly two years to
reach this agreement.
Clinton said even if all the differences were not resolved at the summit, it
was still important that it takes place.
``I think the trip is well worth it,'' Clinton said. ''Sometimes it's most
important to be talking when there are still unresolved differences.''
In Moscow, Interfax news agency quoted Putin Wednesday as saying Russia
expected ``good results'' from the summit.
It also reported him as saying both sides must strive to obtain ``mutually
acceptable decisions for the benefit of all humanity.''
Putin said the countries had worked well together during Clinton's two terms
in office, and there was no reason to expect a change for the worse after the
U.S. presidential election in November.
Clinton said he would be ``surprised'' if he and Putin bridge all of their
differences on the breakaway Russian province of Chechnya during their
The United States and EU leaders have called for an end to the war in
Chechnya and a start to peace talks.
In a statement to report the highlights of the meeting in Queluz, they
repeated that call and urged Russia to allow humanitarian organizations
access in Chechnya.
Last week Putin, the main architect of the eight-month military campaign,
told visiting EU leaders Russia would bring to justice all those found guilty
of human rights abuses, including Russian servicemen.
US Department of State
31 May 2000
Transcript: U.S. Official Sets Scene for Clinton-Putin Summit
(Sestanovich on WorldNet "Dialogue" program May 30) (6570)
The broad agenda for the upcoming Moscow summit between President
Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be "to take stock of
Russian-American relations and to see where there are problems that
have developed, how those can be addressed, [and] to have a realistic
discussion about where cooperation can be deepened," according to U.S.
State Department official Stephen Sestanovich.
"In many ways the presidents will be presenting arguments that are not
completely new, but which they need to make to each other to make sure
that they fully understand each other," he added.
Sestanovich, ambassador at large and special advisor to the Secretary
of State for the New Independent States, discussed the Clinton-Putin
summit during a State Department WorldNet "Dialogue" television
program May 30 that linked the studio in Washington with audiences in
Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg.
He said Clinton and Putin would review bilateral cooperation in four
- strategic nuclear arms control and other security issues,
"particularly dealing with the spread of weapons of mass destruction;"
- economic cooperation, "an area of real underdevelopment;"
- regional diplomacy; and
- cultural exchanges.
Security questions -- "which have proved very difficult of late" --
will be very high on the agenda of both presidents, Sestanovich said.
But he added that he did not want to downplay other issues. "If there
is one area where Russia can take a major leap forward toward
cooperation with other countries it is probably through closer
economic cooperation.... We want to see progress in that area as
On the subject of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, Sestanovich
said President Clinton will emphasize that the United States remains
committed to the treaty, "which we believe has contributed over
decades to stability."
But Clinton will also argue that "the problem that the ABM Treaty was
meant to solve -- that is, preventing conflict between Russia and the
United States -- has in many ways been solved. And there are new
threats that have to be dealt with. We propose to deal with those in a
way that protects the ABM Treaty while still offering an effective
counter to the appearance of new states with ballistic missile
capabilities and nuclear weapons."
The "single most important" argument Clinton will make on this issue,
Sestanovich continued, is that a limited national missile defense
system "does not represent a threat to Russia's nuclear deterrent."
On the subject of Chechnya, "I think President Clinton will be urging
that Russia take seriously the resolution that was overwhelmingly
passed by the UN commission urging a commission of inquiry ... in
addition I think he will also be very interested in hearing from
President Putin how Russia proposes to find the path out of this
Sestanovich also answered questions about freedom of the press and
U.S. support for Russia's independent media, the possible unification
of Russia and Belarus, terrorism, and NATO enlargement.
Following is a transcript of the Sestanovich WorldNet program:
WORLDNET TELEVISION "DIALOGUE"
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of Broadcast Services, Washington, D.C.
GUEST: Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, Ambassador at Large and Special
Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States
U.S. Department of State
TOPIC: U.S.-Russian Relations:
Scene-Setter for President Clinton's Visit to Russia
POSTS: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg
HOST: Rick Foucheux
DATE: May 30, 2000
TIME: 08:00 - 09:00 EDT
MR. FOUCHEUX: Hello, I'm Rick Foucheux, welcome to "Dialogue." U.S.
President Bill Clinton will visit Moscow June 3rd, 4th and 5th. While
there he will meet with President Vladimir Putin and with a broad
spectrum of Russian leaders. The president's visit is expected to
further demonstrate American interests in the success of Russia's
transition toward democracy, a free market, and productive engagement
with the world community.
Since this is the first meeting between the American and Russian
presidents since Mr. Putin's inauguration and the election of a new
parliament, it is hoped that the visit will help establish a
productive relationship with the new Russian leadership, and develop a
common set of priorities for the coming year.
Among the major areas for discussion will be reducing the nuclear
threat, progress on economic reform, and important global and regional
issues. And it is expected that President Clinton will call for
greater contacts and closer ties between Russian and American
On this edition of "Dialogue," we will discuss the current state of
U.S.-Russian relations with Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich,
ambassador-at-large and special advisor to the secretary of State for
the newly independent states. Ambassador Sestanovich, we welcome you
back to "Dialogue." It's a pleasure to have you once again.
AMBASSADOR SESTANOVICH: Thank you.
MR. FOUCHEUX: I'd like to give you the opportunity to say hello to our
viewers and guests who are standing by in Russia, and perhaps make an
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Thank you very much. This is indeed a meeting that
President Clinton is looking forward to very much, and not just
because there is a new Russian president. As you note, there is a new
Russian parliament as well. And President Clinton has not been to
Russia since September of '98, in a very different atmosphere, and he
is looking forward to, as you noted, meeting with a broad spectrum of
But of course the immediate interest of this visit, as it has been for
other leaders who have met with President Putin, is to establish some
degree of mutual understanding with the leader of a major country.
Just as with the advent of a new leader in Germany or Japan, for
example, there would be an interest in high level visits.
When President Clinton and President Putin exchanged letters at the
beginning of the year, they focused on a number of areas where they
thought it would be worth paying particular attention in trying to
achieve greater results than had been achieved in the past couple of
years. They have in mind a review of our cooperation in the area of
strategic nuclear arms control and other security issues, particularly
dealing with the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Here the
common interest of both countries is obvious and great, and there have
been many proposals on both sides for dealing with this problem.
In addition, the presidents agreed that there was a need to do more to
deepen economic cooperation between our countries. This is an area of
real underdevelopment. You may know that the foreign direct investment
figure for Russia per capita is just a tiny fraction of what it is in
some of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, whose economic
breakthrough has been greatly aided by the influx of foreign capital.
President Clinton is very eager to hear more about the new
government's economic program and to on that basis be able to convey
greater confidence to foreign investors.
A third area where the presidents agreed it was important to deepen
our cooperation and to explore common interests is in regional
diplomacy. Russia and the United States have traditionally had a
strong interest in, for example, the Middle East peace process, and
earlier this year a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia and the
United States and of the Middle East states was held in Moscow to
advance that process.
But we work together in other areas. I might note that we are
co-chairmen of the Minsk Group, which was established to try to
advance settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
And finally, the presidents agreed that there was still more work to
be done to deepen contacts between our societies. The United States
has tried to promote a sharply increased level of exchanges in the
past couple of years, but there are many other areas in which we can
bring our societies together. The Internet is one area where a
revolution is taking place in the way that societies interact with
each other, and this is an area for greater potential cooperation.
More broadly, the two presidents have an opportunity to take stock of
Russian-American relations and to see where there are problems that
have developed, how those can be addressed, to have a realistic
discussion about where cooperation can be deepened. And this will be
very positive we think for both countries. Thank you. I am looking
forward to your questions.
MR. FOUCHEUX: As are we, ambassador. Thank you very much for joining
us today. Our participants are standing by in Moscow, St. Petersburg
and Yekaterinburg. And I know they are anxious to begin the discussion
as well. So without further delay we now go to Moscow for the first
question or comment. Please go ahead in Moscow.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I am -- (inaudible) -- I am a
correspondent for the state Russian television. I first wanted to
thank Mr. Sestanovich for his participation on behalf of all the
journalists who have gathered here -- there are about 10 people here
representing the most famous Russian publications.
Mr. Sestanovich, my first question is: You just mentioned the topics
which will be discussed at the meeting of the presidents of Russia and
the United States. Tell me please what new arguments is the American
side prepared to advance in the dialogue with Russia on the topic of
the ABM Treaty. That's the first question. And, secondly, will there
be a discussion of Chechnya, and what new arguments is the American
side prepared to advance on the issue of Chechnya? Thank you.
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Well, I can see the Russian journalists, like
American journalists, always want to hear what's new. And the -- maybe
we will have some opportunities to announce some things that are new.
But in many ways the presidents will be presenting arguments that are
not completely new, but which they need to make to each other to make
sure that they fully understand each other.
On the subject of the ABM Treaty, the most important arguments that
President Clinton will make are the following: we are committed to the
ABM Treaty, which we believe has contributed over decades to
stability. But we also believe that times change, new threats appear,
and the problem that the ABM Treaty was meant to solve -- that is,
preventing conflict between Russia and the United States -- has in
many ways been solved. And there are new threats that have to be dealt
with. We propose to deal with those in a way that protects the ABM
Treaty while still offering an effective counter to the appearance of
new states with ballistic missile capabilities and nuclear weapons. As
we look over the next 10 years, we see new states emerging with those
capabilities, and it is -- we see that as a potential threat to us;
and, by the way, I think Russian leaders have made clear that they
consider it destabilizing as well.
But perhaps of all these arguments, the single most important one is
that the limited national missile defense system that President
Clinton is considering does not represent a threat to Russia's nuclear
deterrent. You know, over the last several months we have had
technical discussions, very sophisticated in-depth briefings for
senior Russian officials who have been visiting Washington to make
clear why the limited system that we are talking about is not a threat
to Russia. And I think that has been rather conclusively determined.
But I think it is very worthy of further discussion by journalists,
and I think to the extent that you can bring out that debate in your
own broadcasts, in your pages that your readers read, that's very
positive. I'd suggest to you that why not try to get that argument out
on the table rather than just have it be one that specialists look at.
The public ought to have a better understanding of that, and we are
confident that the more they understand what it is that we are
proposing to do the less anxiety there will be on the Russian side.
This is not a system directed against Russia; it is not a system that
indirectly threatens Russia. It is a response to a different kind of
threat, and need not be the source of tensions or a rupture between
Russia and the United States. We are strongly convinced of that, and I
believe the presidents can have a very productive discussion of this
issue in Moscow.
Now, about Chechnya, I think it's understandable that there would be a
discussion of an issue of this kind. Secretary Albright last week in
Florence discussed the agenda of the meeting with Foreign Minister
Ivanov. They agreed that Chechnya would naturally be discussed by the
presidents, as it has been in other international forums, such as most
recently in the United Nations Commission of Human Rights. I think
President Clinton will be urging that Russia take seriously the
resolution that was overwhelmingly passed by the UN commission urging
a commission of inquiry that would be established by the Russian side
with international participation. But in addition I think he will also
be very interested in hearing from President Putin how Russia proposes
to find the path out of this terrible conflict. It seems as though the
conflict is not over, and Russia's friends, many of whom as friends
have nevertheless criticized the conduct of this war, are interested
to understand how Russia intends to find a settlement of this war.
MR. FOUCHEUX: Okay, thank you in Moscow. And of course we will be
returning to you later in the program. Our participants are also
standing by in St. Petersburg. Please go ahead with your first
question or comment, and please remember to identify yourself. St.
Petersburg, go ahead.
Q: Hello, I am Olga Smirnov (ph). I am the chief editor of the radio
station -- (inaudible). I am very interested, Mr. Sestanovich, are you
going to continue to support the independent news media? Will this be
a topic for special discussion, or do you consider that they have
already gotten sufficient democratic inoculation and can handle their
own problems, the independent media? Thank you.
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Let me answer your question in this way: Over the
past 10 years the fact that Russia has established a democratic
foundation for its government, and adopted a democratic constitution
by democratic means has been a source of great mutual confidence
between Russia and its European and American friends. There is a
strong interest among all countries who wish Russia well in the
continued evolution of that democratic system. When there are signs
that we hear of from Russians that there may be challenges to that
positive evolution. Then of course we too are concerned and what to
understand the situation better, because freedom of speech, freedom of
the media -- these are now European norms that all European countries,
particularly as members of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe subscribe to and have committed themselves to
So for that reason when, as there has recently been in Russia, there
is a debate about whether press freedom is in fact being respected, we
too take an interest. And we are not alone. As I say, a major source
of this debate is among Russians themselves and other countries have
expressed their own interest in the subject. So I think you'll find
that President Clinton and his delegation in Russia have a very strong
interest in that. President Clinton will be speaking to the media, and
publicly. I think you'll find that subject is on his mind.
MR. FOUCHEUX: Thank you in St. Petersburg. And now let's take a
question from our participants in Yekaterinburg. Your question please,
Q: Hello, I am Viktor Bulimov (ph). I represent the newspaper --
(inaudible). The question is the following: I think we can't exclude
the fact that this will be the last visit of an American president to
our country within its present borders -- I mean the fact that Russia
and Belarus are actively striving to unite. Will this issue be
discussed at the summit in June? And what will be the relationship of
the U.S. to a new united state?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: I think it's likely to be President Clinton's last
visit to Russia, because his term has almost expired. But naturally
Americans have followed the discussions between Russia and Belarus
with some interest. Our position on this question has been that a
union of course would be recognized by other countries as long as it
represented a -- reflected true consent by both societies, did not
close off contacts with the outside world. The -- you probably know,
because many Russians share this concern themselves -- that the
government of Belarus has not established its democratic credentials
in the most convincing way to other European states. So the issue of
how legitimate this process can be with a government that has such a
quarrel with its own society, whose own institutions have been the
subject of so much controversy, that's a question for us. At this
point we watch this issue carefully, and try to understand it as best
MR. FOUCHEUX: And we thank you in Yekaterinburg. We'll return now to
Moscow for more questions. Go ahead please once again in Moscow.
Q: Please, Mr. Sestanovich, a question -- (inaudible) -- for Mr.
Gerasimov. In 1998, the U.S. hit Afghanistan, the bases where bin
Laden was supposed to be. In this rear [sic], what do you think of the
statements of Russia about the fact that they can also hit in a
preventive way the base of terrorists?
And the second question, with regard to the visit: Will there be an
examination of a compromise -- as we have had this in our press -- a
compromise on the ABM Treaty which presupposes that there will be a
version of that within the START III treaty -- there will be a
reduction to one and a half thousand warheads? Is it possible that
there will be a compromise version, and to what extent is the U.S.
prepared and ready to meet us on this issue?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: First your question about terrorism. You are right
that in 1998 the United States hit camps run by Osama bin Laden, after
we had ascertained that his organization had been responsible for the
bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. This
was an action which we felt was necessary in order to hit back at
terrorists that had hit at us. And we don't in any way challenge the
right of governments to counter terrorist threats to themselves or
At the same time, some of the statements that we heard by Russian
officials last week did alarm us, because they suggested the
possibility, which has already been real and worrying for some time,
that the war in Chechnya could begin to spread beyond Russia's
borders. And that is always a source of concern. To broaden this
conflict, which is already dangerous enough, would in our view not be
a positive development, and would be unlikely to achieve the purposes
that -- even the legitimate purposes that Russia might have in mind
through such strikes. So I think the general principal that needs to
govern in such cases is that spreading conflict beyond international
borders is something that has to be taken with great care, great
caution, great respect for the possible negative consequences. And I
believe that Russian officials who have looked at this issue carefully
agree that this would be unwise. When Secretary Albright met last week
with Foreign Minister Ivanov it was made clear to her that this is not
an action that Russian officials would seriously consider as a prudent
Now, you mentioned the question of lower numbers for strategic nuclear
warheads that would be agreed in a START III treaty. Three years ago
the United States and Russia agreed as a starting point for
negotiations in a next round of negotiations that they would look at a
range between 2,000 and 2,500 strategic warheads. That should be, we
believe, our position as we begin negotiations. But Russia is of
course free to propose a lower number.
Q: Dimitri Barvichi (ph) of Moscow News. Recently the presidents of
the Baltic states once again noted their interest to join NATO. Before
such a desire was expressed by Georgia as well. The American
representatives assured them that in principle this is possible. But
it's known that in these countries NATO might place its troops and
nuclear weapons. And at the same time in signing of the basic treaty
between NATO and Russia in 1998 there was a phrase that NATO will not
stage nuclear weapons on the former republics' territory. Will there
be a discussion of the question of when the new members of NATO will
be adopted -- that is, the new former members of the Soviet Union --
at the meeting with the president? And what are the possible results
of such a discussion?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: You are referring to the statement made in Vilnius
by representatives of nine Central and East European governments who
expressed their commitment to cooperating on problems of European
security, including by seeking membership in NATO. Their action was
discussed by the NATO foreign ministers last week, and the ministers'
general view was that whenever any countries express an interest in
such cooperation or membership it's a positive development. It doesn't
of course change NATO's membership criteria which were set out in
NATO's Madrid Summit in 1997 and the Washington Summit in 1999. NATO's
view is that no country should be disqualified by history or geography
from seeking membership, but at the same time countries must all meet
the high standards of membership, including democratic systems,
civilian control of the military; they must be able to contribute to
the security of the alliance; and their membership must be considered
by the alliance as a positive development with respect to European
stability and security. So this is a very careful process, and one
that will -- this issue will be taken up in 2002 at the next NATO
I think this has for many years been a subject of very appropriate and
serious discussion between Russian and American presidents, and it's
on that basis that, as you mention, the Founding Act between Russia
and NATO was negotiated in 1997. I would suspect that this subject
will again be discussed, and President Clinton will review this
process for President Putin, and I think there is a basis in that
discussion for agreement that nothing happening here represents a
threat to Russia. There have been many -- there was a great deal of
mutual understanding between Russia and NATO developed in the
negotiation of the Founding Act. We were very glad last week that
Russia's foreign minister returned to a NATO meeting for the Permanent
Joint Council as it is called, which brings together the foreign
ministers of NATO and Russia. And we are very glad that the Russian
defense minister will be participating with his NATO counterparts next
month in Brussels. So I think this is a relationship that has taken a
new step forward.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Itar Tass. Mr. Sestanovich, in principle the basic
topics of the Russia-American summit has been decided that is
bilateral relations, disarmament, regional security, other topics. In
your opinion, which of these topics will have the priority? Which is
the most important one? And can we expect specific agreements in the
form of documents on that issue?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: I think we can. I would hate to single out one topic
above all others, because part of the success of Russian-American
relations over the past decade has been that we have been able to
develop cooperation in many different areas. However, I think it's
also fair to say that some of the security questions which have proved
very difficult of late will be very high on the agenda of both
presidents. And they will be looking for mutual understanding in that
area. But I wouldn't want to downplay any of the other agreements. If
there is one area where Russia can take a major leap forward toward
cooperation with other countries it is probably through closer
economic cooperation, which as I noted earlier has been
underdeveloped. And we want to see progress in that area as well. But
across these issues I think we should be looking for the presidents to
at least develop some mutual understanding and maybe have substantive
agreements that they can announce.
MR. FOUCHEUX: Thank you, Moscow. Let's move on once more now to St.
Petersburg. Please go ahead once again in St. Petersburg.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Michael Kratchik (ph). Mr. Sestanovich, as was noted
in our conversation this year, President Clinton will be leaving
office, and one can already sum up the work of his administration to
some extent. What do you think are the main achievements with regard
to relations with Russia and the main failures in this regard.
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Let me start with the achievements, since I think
it's a longer list. In the area of security cooperation the United
States and Russia, despite many disagreements, have been able to work
together on peacekeeping in the Balkans, which has been the most
troubled area, the most dangerous area of Europe in the past decade.
Our peacekeeping forces are serving side by side in Bosnia and in
Kosovo. I don't mean to suggest that there has been pure agreement in
this area, but the fact that there has been disagreement makes our
ability to cooperate here all the more noteworthy. That seems to me to
be a major success.
More broadly, we have been able to work together in creating new
institutions for the Europe of the post-Cold War period. I mentioned
the NATO-Russia Founding Act. Both Russia and the United States have
in addition done much to develop the OSCE, the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has become one of the
pillars of cooperation among European states. We have advanced common
interests in a number of other areas, but I would focus on those two
in Europe. And I think that is a -- those are real achievements.
More broadly, I think Russia and the United States have seen in the
post-Cold War period that there is no serious alternative to
cooperation and to where we have this agreement to working them out
and trying to establish common ground. That has been perhaps the
guiding thought of President Clinton's policy toward Russia.
There are plenty of areas where we haven't been able to move forward
as rapidly as both you and we would probably have liked. The fact that
the START II treaty was not ratified for more than seven years after
it was signed halted our negotiations in this area. The fact that
there was -- it has been so hard to develop cooperation in preventing
the flow of advanced military technologies from some of the institutes
of Russia's military industrial establishment -- that has created new
difficulties between us, and we have had to work on that very hard. We
haven't succeeded well enough, to be honest, and that is going to need
continuing attention, because countries around the world that want to
get dangerous advanced military technologies can look to Russia as a
source of -- in effect as an area of the cheap availability of those
technologies. We need to do more work on that area.
I would say those are probably some of the principal successes and
principal setbacks in diplomatic terms. But I would add more broadly
the thought that the main success has been that our countries in the
post-Cold War period have on a democratic foundation seen a great deal
of mutual interests. Thank you.
Q: The newspaper -- (inaudible) -- I wanted to ask a question about
the visit to the U.S. and the presentation in Congress of Igor
Malashenko from the most media [Media-Most] where he complained about
the actions of the government. What resonance in the U.S.
administration did this have? And will this be raised in the visit to
Moscow by the president?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Press freedom is from our point of view a core
democratic principle. And a government that is not committed to that
principle is going to find that other countries are questioning its
democratic credentials. President Putin has been very clear about this
very same point, and has strongly emphasized his commitment to freedom
of the press.
Now, Mr. Malashenko, as you know, testified in a congressional hearing
to congressmen who were very interested in where press freedom is
heading in Russia. I think his views were taken seriously. They are
not the only views that Americans rely on, but they are understood as
a serious, very serious viewpoint.
The issue will, because we hear so much of it from Russians who
understand that this has a central significance in the evolution of
your own democratic institutions, I think it will obviously be under
discussion in the future.
MR. FOUCHEUX: Okay, thank you in St. Petersburg. Let's move on once
more to Yekaterinburg. Please go ahead once again in Yekaterinburg.
Q: Good day. I am -- (inaudible) -- from the newspaper -- (inaudible).
I have a question to Mr. Sestanovich. During the visit by the
president, will there be mentioned cultural ties between our
countries? And on the part of the U.S. will they continue to finance
educational programs in Russia, including regional ones?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Both of these issues are ones that President Clinton
has a very strong interest in. And we have tried to develop our
support for educational institutions of various kinds. We are for
example just now finalizing the plans for support for a public policy
graduate school, an institution in which people are trained in matters
of public policy. This will be a cooperative venture between a
distinguished American university and one of your universities. This
kind of cooperation has become very widespread in the past several
years. I believe there are several hundred American universities that
have programs of cooperation with Russian institutions. And the United
States government extends its support to such programs wherever we
As you know, the area of cultural cooperation is one of the great
areas where there is true popular interest, because both of our
societies are very much interested in each other's culture. We don't
even have to do very much to expand cultural cooperation, because
there is such a natural cooperation between our two cultures, and a
great interest in knowing more about the other. But here too we have
programs which our -- some of our government agencies have been trying
to offer modest support for. Thank you.
Q: I am Viktor Smirnov (ph). I am a -- (inaudible) -- correspondent of
the -- (inaudible) -- newspaper. I have the following question: In
Russia we are talking about the coming of the era of Vladimir Putin.
The inauguration of the new president of Russia was touted as a
transfer of power from Yeltsin to Putin. From this point of view, can
the visit of the U.S. president be looked upon as an effort to
transfer those things that have been developed between Bill Clinton
and President Yeltsin to the new Russian administration?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Well, of course what was positive in
Russian-American relations in the past several years we will want to
continue, even under a new leadership, and soon new leadership in the
United States as well as in Russia. This is the changing of the
democratic seasons, and it's a normal process. But even with changes
of government there are enduring underlying interests that both
countries have that we need to try to express and build into our
President Clinton will be reflecting both the specific areas of
cooperation that were developed in the past. He will be trying to look
at areas of enduring interests where we can establish new cooperation.
And he will also be recognizing that with a new leadership there are
always some new nuances, some new themes that attract the attention of
new leaders; some new problems that they begin to approach in a
different way. So it is an appropriate moment for our governments to
deepen consultation and to understand what your agenda is, what
problems the new Russian government is going to be focusing on and
giving priority to, and how that fits, if it does, with our approach
to international relations.
Q: (Inaudible) -- state radio company. It's obvious that priorities
change in foreign policies, including the foreign policies of the U.S.
vis-a-vis Russia. Some time ago the U.S. gave special attention to
human rights in the Soviet Union. Now it seems the U.S. is worried by
regional problems and nuclear safety. Could Mr. Sestanovich name the
basic priorities that the U.S. administration will be guided by in
determining the political course with regard to Russia in the near
future -- the next 10-15 years that is? Thank you.
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Secretary of State Albright gave a speech recently
in which she identified two main issues which I think she considered
of equal importance in our approach toward Russia. The first one
involves security; that is, our own security, that of our friends and
allies and of the international system as a whole. Under this rubric
we have been able to work with Russia in areas of common interest. We
have been able to work on areas where there are some disagreements.
Broadly speaking, we have found a lot of common interests.
The second priority that she focused on involved Russia's
transformation from a totalitarian state into a normal democratic one
with modern institutions of a European kind. For the long-term, our
ability to cooperate will depend to a very large extent on how solidly
the foundation for those institutions is built. That's a long-term
process. It's one which we hope that Russia will be able to create a
solid foundation for those institutions and make them work effectively
for the benefit of its people, because our judgment is that a strong,
prosperous, democratic Russia is the best kind of partner for us and
for European states.
So those two priorities taken together -- described very generally I
understand -- those two priorities are perhaps the ones that have
guided our policy over the past decade, and I would assume will
continue to guide it over the next decade. There will be changes of
focus as time passes on specific issues, but those two central
principles I think will remain.
MR. FOUCHEUX: Thank you. Now let's go back to Moscow once again.
Please go ahead again in Moscow.
Q: Yevgeny Antonov (ph), the newspaper -- (inaudible). Mr. Sestanovich
-- (inaudible) -- assistant to NSC Chief Berger, said there will be no
progress on START III. What documents would be signed during the visit
on START III?
AMB. SESTANOVICH: I don't think we can say yet that there will be any
documents signed related to START III. This will depend on discussions
that are continuing. The presidents will be reviewing these issues and
looking at how best to continue the process of discussion in the
future, linking both START III, which focuses on offensive strategic
nuclear weapons, and a parallel set of issues having to do with
defense against ballistic missiles. We have had an agreement to
discuss these issues in parallel, and the presidents will be looking
at both halves of that equation when they meet in Moscow.
MR. FOUCHEUX: We'll go for another question, but I'll ask you to be
brief, and ambassador, if you don't mind being brief with your answer
as well. Please go ahead again in Moscow.
Q: Thank you. This is again -- (inaudible) -- State Russian
Television. I wanted to ask, first, it was planned that during the
visit of President Clinton there would be a meeting in the Federation
Council, the upper chamber, a meeting with the governors. Tell me what
was he planning to tell the leaders of the region, and why did he
decide finally not to do this and to meet with the deputies of the
lower house instead? Thank you.
AMB. SESTANOVICH: I am not sure you are correctly informed about the
president's plans. Over the past several weeks we have been reviewing
a number of possible sites for a presidential speech, looking at what
would be the most appropriate audience, the most appropriate site. And
my understanding is right now that President Clinton will be speaking
to members of the Duma, but with some members of the Federation
Council present, given their important place in Russian politics. And
because they have -- there may be seats available. President Clinton
has made clear his interest in speaking to a broad spectrum of Russian
leaders in both houses of parliament, and his speech will of course be
directed not just at them but at the Russian people more generally.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Alexander, St. Petersburg Radio. Mr. Sestanovich,
tell me please do you have the feeling that after all Russia is not
accepted by America as a strategic partner but just as a player with
regard to whom we have to act or act against specifically the latest
recommendation of Mr. Kissinger in his article, advice to the
president, said that we should not get involved in the problem of the
Russian economy and reform and so on -- you have to accept it as it
AMB. SESTANOVICH: That's the kind of fatalism that is not our starting
point as we think about Russian-American relations, because we have
seen Russia's political system and its economy change very much over
the past decade. If 20 years ago one had said one simply has to accept
the Soviet system as it is, one would have been missing an historic
process that was underway, one with great consequences and
implications for your country and for ours.
Similarly, if today one says one just has to accept things as they are
without looking at their direction, one misses many important
possibilities, great historical processes with great meaning for our
country and yours.
I think a policy that does not reflect major changes of this kind is
not truly realistic. And we aim to be realistic. We want to understand
where your country is headed, because that will determine the kind and
degree of partnership that we can develop between us -- and not only
between us and Russia, but between Russia and other countries as well.
MR. FOUCHEUX: And with that I am afraid our discussion has to come to
an end. Our thanks to Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich for joining us
today. Ambassador, we hope to have you back again on "Dialogue" some
AMB. SESTANOVICH: Thanks.
MR. FOUCHEUX: And we have thanks as well to our all of our
participants in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg. From
Washington, I'm Rick Foucheux for "Dialogue." Thanks for being with
us, and good night.
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