WASHINGTON -- President Bush said yesterday that he expects it to be "a lot easier" to negotiate arms control treaties with the 12 successor republics than it was with the now-defunct Soviet Union because they don't view "the U.S. as an enemy."
Speaking to reporters the day after former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev turned out the lights on the 74-year-old Communist state, the president said he is already planning to meet soon with the new Kremlin leader, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin.
Bush aides say the session with the man who has taken over most of the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal, as well as its treaty obligations, might come next month.
Based on assurances that he has received from Mr. Yeltsin and leaders of the other three former Soviet republics that possess nuclear weapons, Mr. Bush said he believes that the re-configuration of the Soviet Union into the new Commonwealth of Independent States will make it "far easier to hammer out whatever additional arms control agreements are in the world's interests."
In a first test of these new relationships, the United States said yesterday that a pact limiting conventional forces in Europe negotiated with Mr. Gorbachev must now be ratified by all the former Soviet republics in the region to be valid.
The president signed a Senate-ratified copy of the CFE treaty during a brief Oval Office ceremony before his meeting with reporters.
Mr. Bush called the news conference yesterday to announce the appointment of Barbara H. Franklin, a businesswoman and long-time Republican activist, to take over as secretary of Commerce when Robert A. Mosbacher leaves next month to become general chairman of the Bush re-election campaign.
Ms. Franklin, 51, who heads a management consulting firm and has served in a variety of federal posts under four presidents, shares Mr. Mosbacher's knack for political fund raising.
Last month she helped organize a $1,000-a-plate Washington dinner that raised $1.2 million for the president's re-election bid.
"Her first priority is the same as mine -- jobs and economic growth," said Mr. Bush, who is to leave with Mr. Mosbacher Monday on a four-nation tour of the Far East that has been styled by the administration as a trade and "jobs" mission.
Ms. Franklin would also likely find herself catapulted into the debate over strategy and tactics for new measures Mr. Bush is scheduled to propose next month to stimulate the stalled economy.
The president declined to offer any new details of his package.
He said he hoped the interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve Board last week would "work its way through" to create new jobs, but he would not rule out asking for some other short-term stimulus, such as a middle-income tax cut.
The meeting with Mr. Yeltsin may come shortly after the president returns Jan. 10 from his trip to Japan, Australia, Singapore and Korea.
Mr. Bush made clear, though, that the Yeltsin meeting would not coincide with an international conference on emergency aid to the former Soviet republics that the United States expects to sponsor here in late January.