Albright: NATO Will Expand (3/18/97)
Prepping For Helsinki (3/17/97)
Helsinki Summit A Go (3/14/97)
Clinton, Yeltsin Meet In Finland
Both sides downplay chance of agreement on NATO expansion
By Jill Dougherty and Wolf Blitzer/CNN
HELSINKI, Finland (March 20) -- President Bill Clinton and Russia's Boris Yeltsin opened their two-day summit in Finland today with a quick photo session and a dinner, but officials on both sides suggest there may not be any quick agreement on NATO's proposed expansion.
"I think they have to understand that we have a schedule that is going to go forward," said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, referring to the U.S. plan to expand NATO. The Clinton Administration is insisting it will not back away from its plans even in the face of stiff Russian opposition.
Russian officials, including Yeltsin, have warned that NATO expansion at this time would be a major mistake. Russians see it as a potentially destabilizing military buildup on their borders.
Arriving in Helsinki, Yeltsin said there are "difficult, serious discussions" ahead, but he said the two leaders "should not lose the partnership that has developed in recent years."
Said Yeltsin: "Bill Clinton and his team are prepared to find constructive approaches, to find compromises, so that we can resolve all question of disagreement and leave here, as we always have after such meetings, as friends."
Going into the summit, both sides appear to be deliberately lowering expectations about the outcome.
"I don't expect them to change their views, and they shouldn't expect us to change our views," said Sandy Berger, the president's national security advisor. "The issue is how we work together in spite of that."
Aboard Air Force One on the flight from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, senior administration officials said Clinton would move beyond the NATO question and propose additional arms control agreements, going beyond the START II Treaty.
The officials expressed hope that the Russian parliament would ratify START II this spring, which has already gained approval in the U.S. Senate.
In addition, the officials say the U.S. will propose the beginning of a new round of talks -- START III -- designed to further bring down the number of nuclear warheads to between 2,000 to 2,500 on each side.
Clinton, recovering from his torn knee tendon, was in a wheelchair as he arrived here. An airline catering vehicle lowered his wheelchair from the plane down to the tarmac and the red carpet for the formal arrival.
Clinton was then rolled into a special van for the motorcade drive into Helsinki. At the later photo session, Clinton was upbeat about the talks. "I think we'll work something out. I hope we will."
Press Secretary Mike McCurry said that Clinton, shortly after boarding Air Force One, began a physical therapy session, including special parallel bars that had been brought aboard the aircraft. He then had dinner and went to sleep.
The dinner, which represents the first meeting of the two leaders in 11 months, was hosted by Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari at the Presidential Palace. It will be followed Friday by two rounds of meetings followed by a joint news conference and a private dinner.
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