Christopher Promises Further Aid for Russia : Diplomacy: Secretary of state criticizes Chechnya war but says no ‘cold peace’ will divide nations.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher held amicable talks Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev, clearly indicating that, despite the war raging in Chechnya, the Clinton Administration does not want to penalize Russia for its use of force.
Kozyrev, grateful for the Clinton Administration’s relatively mild response to Chechnya, promised after the talks ended that Russia will not let the end of the Cold War deteriorate into a “cold peace,” as Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin had warned European leaders last month.
Both in private talks and at a joint press conference here, Christopher criticized Russia’s handling of Chechnya, saying Russia will pay heavy costs at home and abroad if the war drags on.
“We want to see a stable, democratic Russia being integrated into the international community,” the secretary said. “What we don’t want to see is a Russia mired in a military quagmire that erodes reform and tends to isolate Russia internationally.”
Yet he also made it plain that the Clinton Administration will continue to support Yeltsin’s government, not only with words but with further U.S. economic aid to Russia. While warning that Chechnya might cause Russia to lose support with the American public or in Congress, he carefully avoided saying Russia would suffer any similar damage with the Clinton Administration.
“Our aid efforts (to Russia) . . . are in the best interests of the United States,” the secretary of state said.
A senior Administration official acknowledged afterward that President Clinton’s new budget, soon to be submitted to Congress, will include “a substantial amount” of new U.S. aid for Russia.
The talks here demonstrate that, for now at least, the Clinton Administration has decided to go ahead with Yeltsin’s government and hope for the best.
In the process, the Administration is ignoring warnings both from Russian reformers and from analysts in the U.S. intelligence community that Yeltsin has made a fundamental political shift by aligning himself with hard-line, authoritarian forces in Moscow.
Kozyrev breezily dismissed the talk of major political changes in Moscow. Instead, he relied heavily on Yeltsin’s past reputation as a reformer to help shore up support for the Russian president in the current political upheavals.
“In order to restore his relations with the reformists, the president (Yeltsin) needs only to come up to the mirror, because he himself is the major reformer,” the Russian foreign minister said.
At the press conference, Kozyrev also reaffirmed a promise made recently by Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin that Russia is willing to hold free elections in Chechnya and will consider letting international observers see those elections.
But he did not give any date for the elections or say exactly what the elections might decide.
Chechnya is seeking to break completely from the Russian Federation. State Department officials acknowledged after the talks that Kozyrev had discussed elections “within the federation,” implying that Chechnya cannot vote for independence.
Throughout the Cold War, European governments were much more cautious about criticizing the Soviet Union than the United States was. Now, in a surprising reversal, European governments such as Germany and the Scandinavian countries have taken the lead in denouncing Russia’s handling of Chechnya, while the Clinton Administration has been much more reluctant to do so.
Administration officials say they do not want the Chechnya crisis to undermine broader issues that they hope to work out through future cooperation between Washington and Moscow.
“This is a maturing relationship with a very broad range of strategic issues,” Christopher said, citing the arms-control treaties negotiated between the two countries and international efforts to extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.