A summit meeting Wednesday between President Bill Clinton and
Russian President Boris Yeltsin ended with largely cosmetic
concessions from the Russians and palpable disappointment on the
Yeltsin agreed to drop a proposal by Russia to sell
uranium-enrichment equipment to Iran and to take part in
discussions about the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization into the nations of the former Soviet empire.
But these concessions were the minimum hopes of U.S. officials
entering the meeting.
Yeltsin spurned Clinton's pleas to halt the bloody repression
in Chechnya and to abandon a nuclear technology sale to Iran.
And Yeltsin made little effort to disguise the fact that
significant differences remained on several fundamental issues.
"Today we better understand the interests and concerns of each
other, and yet we still don't have answers to a number of
questions," he said at a news conference. "Our positions even
Clinton, too, offered a downbeat assessment of the meeting in a
break in the almost three hours of one-on-one discussions between
the two leaders.
"No one will ever solve all the problems," Clinton said.
If the Americans could trumpet any progress, it was on the
question of whether Russia would take part, even grudgingly, in the
process of admitting former Warsaw Pact states to NATO. Yeltsin
agreed to join the Partnership for Peace, the club of former Soviet
bloc nations applying for eventual NATO membership. But he still
expressed doubts about the pace of the alliance's expansion.
Clinton acknowledged that he and Yeltsin had not resolved
Russia's deep opposition to the admission into NATO of Poland,
Hungary and other Eastern European nations.
But he said the beginning of a dialogue between Russia and the
Western allies was the "success" of the meeting, following
Yeltsin's hostile rejection of the partnership arrangement six
months ago in Budapest, Hungary.
"There must be a special relationship between NATO and Russia,"
Nicholas Burns, a State Department spokesman, took pains to
portray Yeltsin's movement on NATO as a significant accomplishment
of this meeting. "Obviously, after Budapest, we had to make some
adjustments to restore momentum in the relationship. I'm not saying
this meeting was somehow a huge leap forward, but at least we've
made the progress we've wanted to see for the last six months."
The Iran Deal
On Russia's proposed $1 billion sale of nuclear technology to
Iran, Yeltsin announced that he would cancel the transfer of a gas
centrifuge, a move that had been signaled before Wednesday's
meeting by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev.
U.S. officials had objected to the deal because they believed
that the technology was destined for Iran's nuclear weapons
program; the centrifuge can be used to enrich uranium to
weapons-grade levels, experts say. …