Russian premier arrives in Washington to thaw Kosovo chill
Stepashin to talk of cash, arms control
July 26, 1999
From staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON -- Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin arrived in Washington on Monday -- two days before the International Monetary Fund is expected to render a decision on his country's request of a $4.5 billion loan.
Moscow needs U.S. support for the loan and help for Russia's ailing airline industry.
U.S. and Russian officials also hope Stepashin's first visit since becoming prime minister last spring will thaw the Kosovo chill between the two countries and allow constructive talks to resume.
Stepashin's predecessor, Yevgeny Primakov, turned his plane around in mid-air in March after Washington told him NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia would go ahead.
But Russian President Boris Yeltsin later helped broker the peace accord and Russian peacekeeping troops are now serving next to NATO forces in Kosovo.
"I think that there are a number of areas where we are cooperating with Russia -- on economic activities, on arms control activities. We need to build on those," U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said.
The United States wants the Russian Duma to approve the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty and for Russian officials to begin negotiations on the next round of arms control.
Washington has also said Russia must stop selling missile technology to Iran, a practice Moscow denies.
One Russia expert says cooperation is in the interest of both nations.
"We have vastly different hopes and expectations, as far as the U.S.-Russia relationship is concerned, in Moscow and Washington," said Dimitri Simes of The Nixon Center. "What we need, however, is to manage this troubled relationship -- we don't want this relationship to go out of control."
The IMF and the World Bank halted loans to Moscow last year after Russia defaulted on some debts and devalued its currency.
But the bank's board last week approved terms for the lending to resume, and payments could follow by the summer.
The Russian government already has implemented measures to win the IMF loan. Its latest letter of intent to the IMF contains a blunt admission that it made mistakes in the past.
"We readily acknowledge that these fundamental elements of the crisis reflect, in part, the fact that the implementation of the government's economic program ... has been incomplete," said the letter, published on the IMF's Web site last week.
U.S. President Bill Clinton plans to greet Stepashin on Tuesday, but the prime minister will spend most of his time with Vice President Al Gore, beginning with breakfast at the vice president's residence.
U.S. officials say the long working relationship between Gore and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin helped convince Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of NATO's resolve on Kosovo.
This week's meetings are intended to give Stepashin and Gore a chance to develop a similar relationship and to discuss issues of mutual concern, including Kosovo peacekeeping and reconstruction.
Correspondent Chris Black and Reuters contributed to this report.
Institute for Study of Conflict, Ideology, and Policy at Boston University
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