Concluding his two-day summit with President Clinton, Russia's Boris Yeltsin said Wednesday his politically paralyzed nation is determined to stay the course to democracy and a free economy. Clinton held out hope for expanded Western investments but emphasized "there is no shortcut" for Russian reform.
The world stands ready to provide financial help so long as Russia remains on a democratic track, he said.Yeltsin, in the throes of a full-throttled political crisis, was asked in a wrap-up news conference what he would do if the Russian parliament refused to confirm his choice of Viktor Chernomyrdin to return as prime minister. Would he dissolve parliament in that event? Yeltsin took several seconds and then said, speaking in Russian, "We will witness quite a few events for us to be able to achieve all those results."
As Clinton and others waited for more, he added, "That's all."
Clinton was asked whether he had struck the right tone in his TV appearance regarding Monica Lewinsky. After Yeltsin's reply he grinned and quipped, "That's my answer, too."
Regarding the brief TV remarks, criticized by many as too grudging and not apologetic enough, he said, "I read it the other day again and I thought it was clear that I was expressing my profound regret to all who were hurt."
A reporter also asked Clinton whether he thought the reaction to his admission of an affair had hurt his ability to lead the country.
"I have acknowledged that I made a mistake, said that I regretted it, asked to be forgiven, spent a lot of very valuable time with my family in the last couple of weeks and said I was going to go back to work," he said. "I believe that is what the American people want me to do, and, based on my conversations with leaders around the world, I think that's what they want me to do, and that is what I intend to do."
Both presidents described their meetings as successful, and Yeltsin told reporters he and Clinton discussed ways to intensify U.S.-Russian economic relations to pull Russia out of its economic tailspin.
"We shall have to suffer through much blood, sweat and tears before new forms of business cooperation worthy of our two great powers are found," Yeltsin said without mentioning the political paralysis he faces with the State Duma over forming a new government.
Said Clinton: "I know this is a difficult time, but there is no short-cut."
Yeltsin said the key to Russia's economic recovery was not further U.S. assistance but more foreign investment. "This is what we really need now."
The Russian leader said several times he wanted the world to know that Russia does not view U.S. support as a crutch. He said Russia had no choice but to stick to its plan - now in danger of failing - to build a free market economy.
"Still we need to conclude our reforms, to bring them to completion and, consequently, to get results," he said.
Later Clinton addressed some two dozen members of the Duma and regional leaders, including Alexander Lebed, a regional governor and former hard-line commander with a record of challenging Yeltsin's policies, and Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader who also is a chief Yeltsin nemesis.
"Russia must have its own approaches that keep the nation strong, that care for the people who are in need, that prepare for the future of your children," Clinton said, emphasizing the benefit of a national debate. "No other country's approach would be exactly right for Russia."
Referring to Russia's failure so far to build an effective tax collection system, defeat corruption and pass laws to protect and regulate banking and other commercial enterprises, Clinton said, "I do not believe you can find one country in the world that is economically successful that has completely ignored the ground rules of the global economy.
"If the basic framework is not in place, as a friend I say I do not believe that you can defy the rules of the road in today's global economy any more than I could defy the laws of gravity by stepping off the top floor of Spaso House," he said, referring to the U.S. ambassador's residence in which he was speaking.
At the Kremlin news conference, Clinton said he told Yeltsin: "If the reform process can be completed, I for one would be for greater assistance to Russia."
Clinton, in his remarks to reporters, referred obliquely to Yeltsin's standoff with communist and nationalist lawmakers.
"I think if other political forces try to force the president to abandon reform in midstream or even reverse it, what I think will happen is even less money will come into Russia and even more economic hardship will result," Clinton said.
Before taking questions, Yeltsin and Clinton signed two security agreements. One commits each country to ridding itself of 50 tons of weapons-grade plutonium from old nuclear warheads; the other calls for sharing information on missile launch warnings.
They also signed joint statements on biological weapons control and on the situation in the Kosovo, the Balkan region torn with civil strife. The leaders called for measures to effectively implement a 1972 ban on development and stockpiling of biological weapons, and they pledged to try to get more nations to join the prohibition.
On Kosovo, they said the conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in the Yugoslav province was causing "great alarm" around the world. They insisted that President Slobodan Milosevic halt the Serb offensive.
Yeltsin said the atmosphere in the summit talks was friendly, notwithstanding disagreements on some security issues that he and Clinton discussed at length.
"Russia rejects the use of power methods as a matter of principle," he said. "Conflicts of today have no military solutions, be it in Kosovo or around Iraq or Afghanistan or others."