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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President, Premier Assure U.S. On Reform

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Washington on Monday for talks with the U.S. vice president, led a drive from Moscow to reassure the West that Russia is not abandoning the path of market reform despite recent changes in the administration.

"The market reforms will continue," Chernomyrdin told Vice President Al Gore on Monday at the start a session of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, according to Reuters.

But he added that, "some difficulties that come up from time to time along this path will be corrected. We will be making certain corrections in the social sphere. We have to do this and we will not deviate from our path."

The tone of the Russian prime minister's trip to the United States had already been set Friday night by President Boris Yeltsin during a 40-minute telephone conversation with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Yeltsin told journalists Saturday he had assured Clinton that "the talk concerning Russia's departure from the course of reform is nothing but bluff. There will be no such departure."

Russian-U.S. relations, in a brief lull due to the Russian president's bout of heart trouble in October, were now back on track, said Yeltsin. In fact, the telephone conversation had begun "a second honeymoon" between the two countries.

Yeltsin also said that he had told Clinton that he would press the State Duma to follow the U.S. Senate's example and ratify the START II nuclear disarma presidents in 1993 to further cooperation in economic and technological spheres.

The Russian prime minister will meet with Clinton on Tuesday, and is also expected to have talks with Michael Camdessus, head of the International Monetary Fund.

Chernomyrdin told Interfax before he left Moscow that he was confident difficulties that are currently holding up a $9 billion loan from the IMF could be overcome.

"This is our Russian problem," he said. "We must solve it, and I don't see any particular problems here."

Although the IMF loan had looked all but sealed earlier in the year, Yeltsin's sweeping response to December's victory by the Communist Party in parliamentary elections appears to have caused the fund's negotiators to hesitate.

The president has dismissed the remaining reformers in his cabinet, including the architect of privatization, Anatoly Chubais, replacing them with more conservative figures.

Yeltsin has also signed a decree of potentially inflationary economic measures, including raising pensions and stipends, setting up a fund to pay trillions of wages in back wages to state and state-dependent employees, and establishing a $4.4 billion restoration fund for war-ravaged Chechnya.

Crucially, however, he has not said where this money will come from.

Yeltsin, under fire also for his handling of the recent hostage crisis in Pervomaiskoye, has been anxious to show the West that he is not in the midst of any change of the basic course he has followed since coming to power four years ago.

His pledge to try to drive the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty through ratification in the Duma will help to reaffirm his relationship with Washington.

Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov also welcomed the U.S. Senate's ratification of the treaty, saying that it "opened the way for Russia's State Duma to ratify the treaty."

But START II may face stiff opposition in Russia's parliament. Hardliners are already rushing to gain election-year capital from the issue, while the new communist speaker of the lower house, Gennady Seleznyov, made it clear Monday that it will be some time yet before START II is ready for debate.

Interfax reported Seleznyov as saying every word and comma would first have to be translated, and then examined in committee.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov also told Interfax that ratification of the treaty could be complicated by the prospect of NATO expansion.

"NATO expansion violates the balance of conventional forces, destroys agreements already achieved and raises the issue of how to compensate for this," he said.

Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky counseled against ratification, saying it would make Russia into "a secondary state."

Sergei Baburin, deputy speaker of the Duma, said the treaty does not meet Russia's interests, and required substantial modification.

But analysts say the treaty has at least an even chance of passing.

"Every clear-minded person understands that the treaty is in Russia's best interests," said Alexander Golz, political observer for the military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda.

According to Golz, Russia has neither the physical nor the financial resources to maintain its nuclear arsenal, and mutual reduction is the only logical choice.

Dmitry Trenin, an associate at the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, said that the executive branch could greatly influence the vote.

"If Yeltsin and Primakov push this through, and work with the various factions within the Duma, then the treaty's chances are not bad," he said. Not least among the attractions for the Communists to cooperate, he said, is that Zyuganov is currently on something of a campaign to persuade the West that a Communist president would be nothing to fear.

Yeltsin has been wooing other foreign leaders as well. In Saturday talks with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, he sought Germany's support in opposing NATO's eastward expansion.

"It would be very good if we got [Germany] as an ally in opposing NATO expansion," he is quoted by Interfax as saying in remarks opening the talks. "You would not have to throw away tens of millions of dollars on this matter then."

Yeltsin will also co-host an international conference on nuclear security in Moscow on April 19 and 20, the president's press service reported Monday.

The conference will be held under the umbrella of the G-7, the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries, and Yeltsin will share the honors with French President Jacques Chirac.a