. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gore's High Praise Masks U.S. Worries

U.S. Vice President Al Gore's trip to Russia should have a victory lap for the Clinton administration's foreign policy, given Boris Yeltsin's convincing win over his Communist rival in the July 3 presidential runoff.


But the escalation of hostilities in Chechnya and continued worries over the Russian president's health -- heightened Monday when he canceled a planned meeting with Gore -- have demonstrated yet again the unpredictable nature of U.S.-Russian relations.


Gore arrived in Moscow on Saturday to participate in the seventh session of the Russian-U.S. Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which began Monday.


The U.S. vice president was accompanied by a high-level delegation, which included Defense Secretary William Perry, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Commerce Secretary Micky Kantor and Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary.


Upon his arrival, Gore praised Russians for showing "majesty, dignity and inspiration" during the recent presidential election.


"The entire world watched in awe as the people of this very nation ... went to the polling places in order and quiet determination and freely made a choice to select a future that holds great promise," Gore said, according to Reuters.


Gore has developed close ties with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, his opposite number on the commission. The relationship has weathered some tough times: In December 1994, Gore arrived to meet with Chernomyrdin just days after the Kremlin ordered 40,000 troops into Chechnya.


The issue of Chechnya, where heavy fighting has resumed in the wake of the July 3 presidential run-off, has once again cast a shadow on the meeting. In an interview during his flight to Moscow, Gore said he would tell the Russian president that both sides should refrain from further violence.


"We believe that it is the right thing for both parties to return to the cease-fire and the arrangements that were so painstakingly negotiated a month ago," Gore said, according to The Associated Press.


On Monday, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel urged the European Union to pressure Moscow to end the fighting in the breakaway republic. Over the weekend, the renewed violence brought a sharp condemnation of the Kremlin from a group of Russian human rights activists, including Yelena Bonner and several parliamentary deputies.


Despite the clouds over the meeting, some observers predicted the U.S. side will play down the problems and accentuate the positive.


"Clinton clearly wants to capitalize on the victory of Yeltsin for his own domestic purposes," said Andrei Kortunov of the Russian Science Foundation. "And this meeting will definitely [be] used by the White House to prove that the strategy chosen by Clinton was the right one, and that the Republicans' criticism of Clinton's support for Yeltsin was basically wrong. So I think it easy to imagine that the new outbreak of hostilities in Chechnya and Yeltsin's poor health will be downplayed by the Americans."


During its first session Monday, the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission discussed issues ranging from Russia's financial stabilization program to U.S.-Russian trade.


The commission also is expected to tackle questions related to copyright protection and nuclear non-proliferation, as well as joint projects in the area of environmental protection, health services and space exploration.