Clinton's Decision To Go To Russia Sparks Debate
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 30) -- President Clinton's decision to go ahead with his summit with Russian President Boris Yeltsin -- despite the considerable political problems of both men -- continues to trigger debate.
Though House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has said flat out that the summit should be scuttled, many other political and foreign policy figures have indicated grudging support, though with a degree of uneasiness.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was in charge of conducting U.S. foreign policy during President Richard Nixon's political meltdown in 1974, said Sunday that "ideally, this is clearly not the best time to have gone."
"The question really arose whether it should be canceled on very short notice. And I reluctantly came to the conclusion that it should not be canceled," Kissinger said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
President George Bush's secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, said canceling the summit in the face of Russia's economic and political woes would have sent a dangerous signal.
Clinton met with Yeltsin in Moscow in April 1996
"If we were to postpone it or cancel it now ... it shows absolutely no faith at all in Yeltsin's future," Eagleburger said on CNN's "Late Edition." "Now, maybe he doesn't have one. But we don't need to be the people to put the knife in his back."
One of Clinton's top diplomats, U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, gave a ringing endorsement of the decision to go to Moscow, calling "unfounded" Gingrich's comment that the trip was imprudent.
"President Clinton is enormously popular around the world," Richardson said on "Late Edition." "We've got a foreign policy president with a great record. Any nation, any world leader would give their right arm to have his [approval] numbers and his support.
"The trip is timely, it is important, and you don't have a weak leader in President Clinton," he said.
Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) voiced an opinion likely held by many:
"Dropping into the middle of a chaotic situation might do some significant good," he told CNN. "It might also be disruptive. The president seems to be committed to this course, so we will just hope for the best."