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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Helmut's Russian Buddy Makes Most of Bonn Trip




President Boris Yeltsin and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl exchanged effusive expressions of support, confidence and even muzhestvennaya lyubov, or masculine love, as Yeltsin put it, during their two-day summit in Bonn.


With Kohl trailing in his bid for a fifth term, this may be the last edition of the Boris-and-Helmut show, put on by two friends and allies who have met three times this year alone. Yeltsin, who seems to be invigorated by foreign trips, made the most of it.


Though he didn't come away with loans or aid, Yeltsin milked the Bonn summit for all it was worth in public-relations value, wooing investors, bullying his own ministers, and making a dramatic foreign policy pronouncement by saying he would intervene with Serbia over the fighting in Kosovo.


"Chancellor Kohl's personal support, as a major political figure in the world, is important to show that our policies are right," Yeltsin was quoted as saying by Reuters at a news conference at the end of the visit Tuesday.


Not to be outdone, Kohl praised the Russian government's action in the recent markets crisis: "These measures contribute significantly to increasing the confidence of foreign investors. ... Germany will support the reform process with great commitment."


There was no announcement of further loans or aid to Russia. But Yeltsin, by implying that he has a powerful friend who might help him wring more money out of the International Monetary Fund, made a bid to further calm financial markets rattled by Russia's economic problems. Russia's Central Bank had to spend hard currency reserves and briefly raise interest rates to 150 percent two weeks ago to defend the ruble and keep foreign investors from fleeing.


Germany is Russia's largest Western trading partner, and has economic interests in Eastern Europe that could be threatened by economic or political turmoil in Russia. In a sign of the prestige Germany wished to assign to the talks, they were called "consultations" -- a term used only with Germany's closest allies and partners.


"It's a politically important meeting that shows that Russian-German relations have been raised to another level," said Alexander Pikayev, an expert in security and foreign policy at the Moscow Carnegie Center. "It shows that the situation has stabilized ... that leading Western countries support the president and prime minister, which indicates indirectly Western support for Russia."


Yevgeny Volk, a political analyst at the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation, said that "Yeltsin, like [Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev, always refers to foreign leaders as his guarantors and supporters, to show that things are OK here, that Russia enjoys full support in the West and no major catastrophes can occur from the financial difficulties here."


Summits help distract attention from domestic political woes, such as unpaid government wages and an unlikely-to-succeed impeachment bid in the State Duma, Volk said.


The trip produced no major treaties, though the two sides signed agreements on issues ranging from nuclear and military cooperation to education and crime-fighting.


Yeltsin was accompanied by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuyev and Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov.


They may be happy to make it home. During the trip, Yeltsin returned to his old habit of threatening to make scapegoats of his ministers, saying they would each be graded like schoolchildren, and, if need be, flunked. "We'll give them grades," Yeltsin said Monday. "An F for this one, a C for this one, an A for this one. ... And of course Bs."


Those with Fs and Cs, "we will remove," he said. "A B can stay, but with marks against him ... and an A will stay and flourish."


This Yeltsin-Kohl meeting may be the last installment of a relationship famously honed in a Siberian sauna during a summit meeting in Irkutsk and which is so close that Kohl habitually calls Yeltsin "dear Boris." Polls show Kohl trailing Gerhard Schr?der, his challenger in the Sept. 27 elections.


Yeltsin also met with Schr?der -- for the second time. The two first got acquainted in 1986, when Yeltsin visited Germany as a Communist Party official from the Soviet Union.