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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Kremlin Remains Key In U. S. Policy

The first phone call that British Prime Minister John Major received from President Bill Clinton was on the day Clinton announced his new policy of American intervention on the Bosnian peace process. For a chap who used to be on the phone to George Bush two or three times a week, this is close to humiliation.

By contrast, when Clinton called President Boris Yeltsin on that same day, it was at least the seventh phone conversation between the two men. The key moment in the formulation of the American decision came when the Russians agreed to back Clinton's plan to commit American troops, if required, to implement and enforce a Balkan peace agreement.

Clinton is beginning to see that Yeltsin can be for his foreign policy what Gorbachev was to George Bush - the indispensable enabler. From the Clinton White House, this continuity in dealings with the Kremlin might come as a surprise.

The reason for it is a man called Denis Ross. He was James Baker's chief foreign policy aide, the man who drafted the plan to build the new Middle East peace talks on the rubble of the Gulf War. Ross was also at Baker's side in all the meetings with Eduard Shevardnadze. In fact, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Baker and Ross were holding talks with Shevardnadze. and Ross was the man who hunted through the Foreign Ministry building for an English-alphabet typewriter, and tapped out the draft of the joint U. S. -Soviet statement condemning the invasion.

Denis Ross is the only political appointee of the Bush administration who has been kept on by the Clinton team. He is based in the State Department, where his main job is to maintain the momentum of the Middle East peace process.

But he is also a chum of Strobe Talbott, Clinton's old Oxford roommate and new Ambassador-at-large for Russia and the other former Soviet republics. Talbott spent a lot of the last four years working on a new book - "At The Highest Levels", about U. S. -Soviet relations as the Cold War ended. Denis Ross was one of those most closely consulted by Talbott in his research.

Ross keeps stressing one theme: "Everything we achieved in the Bush administration's foreign policy that worked, was because we kept close to the Kremlin.

"When we ran into trouble, it was because we got our wires crossed with Moscow", Ross rams home to the new Clinton team. "German unification, the withdrawal from Eastern Europe, the Gulf War, all depended on staying in the closest touch with Moscow".

The message has got through. For the new White House as for the old, Boris Yeltsin has become the essential man again.