Clinton brings $1 billion offer of aid to Yeltsin Vancouver summit focuses on control of Russian economy THE VANCOUVER SUMMIT

April 04, 1993|By Carl M. Cannon and Mark Matthews | Carl M. Cannon and Mark Matthews,Staff Writers

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- President Clinton came here yesterday offering Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin some $1 billion in U.S. assistance -- a down payment on much larger Western investment, provided Mr. Yeltsin can do his part.

"This is not a talk about aid," Mr. Clinton said after taking a walk through the woods with the Russian leader. "This is a talk about a long-term partnership."

The two leaders flew here yesterday morning, spent a short time with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and even shorter time reviewing the honor guards before immediately plunging into the momentous issues they face.

First on the agenda was the issue of how much Western investment in Russia is to be offered in the short term. The second is the closely linked matter of how Mr. Yeltsin will gain enough control over the Russian economy so that the West can fulfill its promises of large-scale, long-term financial investment in Russia to help the tumultuous passage from seven decades of failed communism.

"The entire thrust of the program is to help the process of reform," White House communications director George Stephanopoulos said at a briefing yesterday evening.

Mr. Stephanopoulos said that Mr. Clinton admired Mr. Yeltsin because "he's a fighter," adding that the president had a "a great personal feeling" for the Russian leader.

Speaking yesterday evening to a group of reporters in the lobby of the Pan Pacific Hotel, a buoyant Mr. Yeltsin pronounced himself "very satisfied" with the talks. Mr. Yeltsin was the guest of Mr. Clinton at a three-hour banquet last night.

Mr. Yeltsin, who is 62 said that despite the difference in age between him and Mr. Clinton, who is 46, the two men spoke to each other in most familiar terms. He said he was impressed that the president keeps "the little guy" in mind.

Prime Minister Mulroney said that the two leaders "seem to be getting along like a house afire, and I think they'll do very well."

This is not to say that the two men didn't have their differences.

Mr. Stephanopoulos volunteered that Mr. Yeltsin was troubled about U.S. policies in two areas, both of which the Russian president characterized as being "an irritant." These are U.S. laws stemming from the Cold War era. One requires Russia to document good-faith efforts to allow Jewish emigration. The other arises from export controls that inhibit Russia from purchasing U.S. high technology.

But the bulk of the conversation between the two men apparently did not focus on such issues. Instead, they focused on Russia's economy, seen by both sides as the key to a healthy bilateral relationship.

The sessions were seen by the U.S. side as crucial in helping Mr. Yeltsin regain the political initiative in his own country as a way of obtaining leverage over such institutions as the Central Bank in Moscow. Controlling the bank is vital in capping Russia's hyper-inflation, one the huge barriers to Western investment, but it is more of an instrument of the Russian Congress that has troubled Mr. Yeltsin so much.

At the same time, Mr. Clinton stressed repeatedly yesterday that he sees the relationship not as wealthy capitalists coming to the assistance of an impoverished nation, but as a partnership. As such, Mr. Clinton helps each man with his domestic problems: He helps soothe wounded Russian pride, which is one barrier that Mr. Yeltsin must contend with. It also serves to diminish the deep-seated antipathy in the United States toward spending tax dollars on foreign aid.

"Russia's rebirth is in the economic interest of American taxpayers, workers and businesses," Mr. Clinton said in his weekly radio address yesterday.

Later, in Mr. Yeltsin's presence, the president added, "The United States have a great deal to gain from a strong, successful, democratic Russia. It is in our interest."

The president also stressed that the United States does not expect to go this road alone.

In his radio address, Mr. Clinton invoked the image of the alliance put together by President George Bush during the Persian Gulf War as a model of international cooperation.

"Just as we mobilized the world on behalf of war in the gulf, we must now mobilize the world on behalf of peace and reform in Russia," he said.

Mr. Clinton certainly has a supporter for this approach in Prime Minister Mulroney, leader of the host country for this summit.

"We'll cooperate with President Clinton and all of our [Western allies] to make certain that the Russian people understand the high value that we all place on political action designed to strengthen democracy and freedom."

Mr. Mulroney greeted both Mr. Yeltsin and Mr. Clinton in separate airport arrivals yesterday morning. The first to arrive was Mr. Yeltsin, who shook off the offer of an umbrella to stand in the driving rain as he reviewed the honor guard.

Asked if he will continue to press for order in the chaotic Russian economy -- Mr. Yeltsin posed a headline: "Yeltsin asked if he can guarantee reform.

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