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Clinton Committed To U.S.-Russia Summit

Expectations are low because of the turmoil

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 28) -- President Bill Clinton said Friday he will go to Russia next week as planned to prove to the Russian people that the U.S. will "stick with them" during their current political and financial crisis.

Berger
National Security Adviser
Sandy Berger

"I should go to Russia," Clinton said during a speech on Martha's Vineyard marking the 35th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington. "And we should tell them that if they'll be strong and do the disciplined, hard things they have to do to reform their country, their economy, and get through this dark night that we'll stick with them."

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said security concerns necessitate the administration's commitment to remain engaged with Russia during the current crisis.

"No one wants a weak Russia beset by crisis. America has a strong interest in preventing Russia from backsliding," Berger said at a White House briefing. "We can best do that not by backing away, but by trying to help Russians find Russian solutions ... consistent with their choice of democracy."

Officials in both Washington and Moscow are moving ahead with plans for next week's U.S.-Russia summit in the Russian capital.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin Friday in Moscow for about 15 minutes, and plans are moving forward for next week's meeting between the Russian leader and the president.

Yeltsin
Russian President Boris Yeltsin was
interviewed on Russian TV Friday

Administration officials said Clinton was briefed on the Yeltsin-Talbott meeting and the broader Russian economic and political situation Friday morning in a conference call with his national security and foreign policy team. Talbott participated from Moscow, the officials tell CNN.

Two sources familiar with Talbott's report back to the White House said he described Yeltsin as appearing tired and distracted, but said the Russian president said he was looking forward to next week's meeting with Clinton.

In an interview later in the day, Yeltsin said he will not resign and intends to complete his term of office.

Clinton is scheduled to meet with Yeltsin Tuesday and Wednesday, but Yeltsin faces political pressure to step down.

The economic and political turmoil in Russia has dramatically lowered U.S. expectations for the summit, and administration officials are discouraged by early indications the recent turnover in the government will slow what the United States already viewed as the inadequate pace of economic reforms.

And officials believe the deepening economic crisis and political turmoil will make it difficult to make substantial progress on other summit agenda items, including further nuclear arms reductions and U.S. efforts to curb what it views as unacceptable sales and transfers of Russian military technology to Iran and India.

One official, however, said Berger remained confident the summit would yield significant progress in curbing exports of technology to Iran.

Already, aides were reworking the draft of a speech Clinton will deliver that is aimed more at the Russian people than their leaders, stressing the need for U.S.-Russia cooperation regardless of who leads either nation's government. The speech also stresses the importance of Western-style political and economic reforms, aides said.

CNN's John King contributed to this report.
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