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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Toastmaster Yeltsin Stymied Bush

It could never have happened in the anti-alcohol era of Mikhail Gorbachev.


When minions drifted in from the wings of the domed Kremlin hall carrying trays of drinks to toast and seal the signing of START II on Sunday, Boris Yeltsin put his stamp on the latest superpower summit.


George Bush is by now a veteran of superpower summits but he has never before been hosted here by Yeltsin, and he showed deep surprise when the glasses of white and red wine emerged.


The Yeltsin style proved to have its pitfalls. The presidents touched glasses, but as Bush got into the swing of it and tried to drink his, Yeltsin would not let him.


The Russian president, frowning slightly, waited until all of the two delegations had been given their glasses.


Bush tried again. This time he drank a little, but Yeltsin still would not respond. Instead he moved over to the American delegation and clinked glasses with Barbara Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger, General Brent Scowcroft and most of the delegation. Bush, a little bewildered, followed suit on the Russian side.


The two presidents met again in the middle, with Bush expectant and by this time a little uncomfortable. Still Yeltsin would not drink, moving over to the Russian side to touch glasses with Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the rest of the Russians. Bush obliged with the Americans.


Finally they were done. But instead of downing their glasses in one gulp, as Bush had done at a state banquet the night before, the presidents merely sipped.