Millennium 2000: White House Delivers Message to PutinAired January 3, 2000 - 5:14 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Resolving the battle in Chechnya is just one piece of advice U.S. officials are offering to Vladimir Putin, Russia's new acting president.
CNN's Kelly Wallace has more reaction from some U.S. leaders who are closely monitoring Russia's transfer of power.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A message from the White House to Russia's acting president about the continued military campaign against rebels in Chechnya. U.S. officials warn the crisis could end up destroying Vladimir Putin's hopes for the Russian presidency.
SAMUEL BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: If this war is still continuing -- if it is -- the casualties to Russia intensify, as has been the case in the past several days, this could become an albatross for Mr. Putin.
WALLACE: Days after Putin assumed the reins of power, following Boris Yeltsin's resignation, the Clinton administration laid out what it sees as the challenges for Russia's new acting president. In an unusual move, President Clinton wrote an essay in "Time" magazine, honoring Boris Yeltsin as the father of Russian democracy, and advising Yeltsin's successor that he must fight crime and corruption, and continue the economic reforms.
The president wrote: "Unless that battle is joined and, over time, won, the democratic norms and the market economy that have been Yeltsin's prime focus can be undone."
White House officials are encouraged by the fact that Putin rose to prominence in a city viewed as being on the forefront of economic reform.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: He has also been one of the leading proponents of reform. When he was deputy mayor in St. Petersburg, and in his time as prime minister has moved on a number of issues of reform.
WALLACE: The final challenge, Russia's relationship with the rest of the world, including the United States. SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN), FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: We don't know whether Putin will be a friend of ours, he's in a war, he has a 90-day election period, and he will not be thinking of us in the United States, except tangentially.
WALLACE (on camera): And in addition to watching Putin on Chechnya, crime, corruption, and the economy, the White House will look to see how he handles being both, quote, "the custodian of Russian democracy, and a candidate for the presidency."
Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.
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