Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
4:56 P.M. EDT
MR. CLARKE: Good afternoon. We will now have the BACKGROUND BRIEFING on the visit of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin of Russia. This briefing is ON BACKGROUND and it's not for sound or camera. Our briefers today are: [names deleted]. Again, this is on background.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, Paul. What I'd like to do is just give you a sense of how today's meeting with the President and Chernomyrdin went, review very briefly the major accomplishments from our vantage point of these two days of meetings with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, give you a sense of where we're going from here -- and it's quite an active agenda -- and then turn it over to my colleague. I'll be speaking about those issues. [sentence deleted]
Let me just say, for those of you who haven't been to one of these briefings in the last couple of days -- and very briefly for those who have -- the background. Explain the background of this meeting. It came out of the Vancouver summit between President Clinton and President Yeltsin. And the effort on our part was to find a way to fill out what we hoped would be a full partnership with Russia.
We were quite sure that we had an active agenda and partnership in the security field and in the political -- that means foreign policy - - field. But we were impressed by the fact that U.S.-Russian economic relations were not up to par with the rest of the relationship. And President Clinton wanted to devise a way to gain the attention of highlevel Russians. He did that by appointing the Vice President to head the U.S. side of this commission.
The first meeting of that commission was during the last two days. And I think, for us, the results were significant.
Another motivating factor for us was to try to integrate the U.S. private sector, our business community, into what we were trying to do economically with the Russians. We are convinced of one compelling fact, and that is if the United States and the West are to be successful in helping to write -- underwrite the foundation for future economic reform in Russia, the private sector has to be a big part of that. Government, in fact, can only play a very small role. The private sector has to play in the long run the larger role.
Today's meetings were twofold in the morning, and my colleague will describe this. There was a very long meeting on space corporation and a long presentation on that, followed by a signing ceremony that
most of you were at or represented at, followed by a meeting with the President.
The meeting with the President was in the Oval Office. It was supposed to be a brief meeting of no more than a half hour. In fact, it went over one hour in length and it was a very good meeting. The Vice President and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin reviewed for the President the major accomplishments of the last two days.
The President was quite interested in the space cooperation component of this. He was also interested, and spoke directly to the Prime Minister about the importance also of filling out the energy side of the relationship, and specifically about finding ways to lower barriers to trade and investment and to expand American oil and gas investments and trade with Russia.
The President also spoke to the potential for U.S. bilateral assistance to Russia in energy assistance and in -- in energy efficiency assistance -- and in environmental assistance and also in the field of nuclear power. And I can go into those areas if you would like.
The Vice President explained that he and Chernomyrdin agreed to appoint ombudsmen, one working for the American side and one working for the Russian side. And the sole duty of these ombudsmen was to push forward in this very critical area of private trade and investment, and specifically on the energy side.
I think all of you know that the United States or American firms have a number of very large oil and gas deals that are in various stages of development being considered now by the Russian government. There are at least three in the Sakhalin Island area and there are a couple in the northern region of Russia -- the Arctic region. And the President expressed the hope that the Russian government would act quickly and act to hire American firms for these projects in the next couple of months.
The President also spoke about the importance of both Ex-Im and OPIC being active to support these American firms and to push these investments.
As you know, one of the things that was highlighted at the signing ceremony and was also discussed at the meeting with the President was the role of OPIC in helping Texaco to win an $80 million contract to renovate an oil well in west Siberia.
This part of the meeting was followed by a rather long discussion of some foreign policy issues that are currently on the U.S.-Russia agenda. The President asked a number of questions and had a good discussion with the Prime Minister on them. The President also asked the Prime Minister for his view of the future pace and direction of economic reform in Russia. And they had also a good conversation on that.
I will just say that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin assured President Clinton that the Yeltsin government remains firmly committed to economic reform and that, in fact, that is the basis of their overall reform program for the future.
The Vice President and Chernomyrdin then went on in this meeting with the President do describe what will happen during the next couple of months to advance the work of this new Commission on Energy and Space and Technology. They have agreed, the Vice President and Chernomyrdin, to meet two or three times a year. In between their meetings, they will be exchanging letters and phone calls. The personal dynamics between them were excellent. They have not met before, but they spent a lot of time together over the last couple of days -- breakfast, dinner yesterday. I think fully over 10 hours of meetings on both sides. And I think they both have a dedication to this, to make it one of the most
important things they both do that they'll be engaged consistently on these issues.
The Vice President, as you know, has accepted an invitation from Chernomyrdin to visit Moscow and other parts of Russia this autumn. We would expect that would probably be in the late autumn, and that will be proceeded by visits of other American Cabinet secretaries working in this area.
There has been a decision made to create six working groups underneath the rubric of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission. The first, and I would say in many respects, the most important is the Business Development Committee chaired on our side by Secretary Brown, and on the Russian side by Deputy Prime Minister Shokhin. This committee will be the committee that works in the oil and gas area, in the area of nuclear power safety and in the area of lowering barriers to trade and investment in general.
There will also be committees on bilateral energy cooperation. That one will be chaired by Secretary O'Leary on our side on the environment, space, science and defense conversion. And, theoretically, what we hope is that each of those groups will hold meetings in Moscow, and then perhaps back here in Washington again before the visit of the Vice President late this autumn to Russia. And, of course, we would then expect the President to be visiting Russia early in 1994, and all of these meetings could be seen as preparation for the President's meeting with Yeltsin, his third summit meeting with Yeltsin, ultimately, early in '94.
Let me just summarize the meetings by saying they really were better than we had anticipated. We had high hopes for this commission, but we also went into these last few days of meetings with a sense that perhaps progress would be slow, that we'd have to feel each other out, where we wanted to go on very controversial issues, like nuclear power safety, for instance. And, frankly, we didn't have a lot of hope that we would see much in the way of concrete developments on the energy side.
What we saw instead was a real willingness on the Russian side in particular to engage us in a fairly candid way on the nuclear issue, and to indicate to us that they are now prepared to take action in the area of American oil and gas development. And that was a very encouraging sign.
I would also note, and just kind of second what the Vice President has already told you in his press appearance, and that is he has tremendous respect for the Prime Minister. I think everybody on the American side found him to be someone who is interested in action and not just in words, who, because of his background in economics and in the Russian industrial sector has a very real sense of the opportunities available to how foreign countries like our own, and particularly foreign businesses can be of help to their future development. So in that sense, it was a very encouraging meeting.
With that very general summary, let me turn it over to my colleague for a fuller description of the space options.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I think a lot of you got a pretty good idea of what was discussed in our space session this morning because we got a little view afterwards in the press briefing that was given at the time of the signing ceremony. But let me just run you through quickly some of the points.
The meeting today was actually preceded by a very intense period of bilateral work through the month of August. We had been talking to the Russians for some time about how we can -- actually since the Vancouver Summit -- about how we can proceed together with some very
close cooperation on space, because we really saw that, as many of you have heard me say in the last couple days, as a very good first step in the kind of high-technology partnership that we want to pursue with the Russians over time.
So, from Vancouver on, we were working with the Russians and talking to them about space cooperation. We really got a chance to sit down with some technical teams, round about the first of August they got here, and they had a very short period of time to work through a lot of technical questions about how you can, in many ways, marry up two space programs to get some good technical work out of them in a fairly short period of time. Because the whole idea here was to get the two sides working together quickly to begin to do some good work together, and to begin to shorten up the time periods needed for some of these activities, and to bring down costs.
So there was a sense that we wanted to work intensively, but we also then had the goal of this meeting starting on September 1st, and ending today on the 2nd. So we wanted to get something done for that agenda.
The meeting today was a good one because we had two briefers who really knew their stuff. One, Dan Golden, the administrator of NASA; and the other, Yuri Koptev, the Director of the Russian Space Agency. And they have been working very closely together. They were the kind of leaders of these teams that have been working over the past month, and Koptev has been back and forth from Moscow several times.
It had, I think, a really good effect on the overall outcome, because there was good high-level attention on both sides, and you could see that today in the briefing. They did do that briefing this morning in the session for the President, for the Vice President, rather, and for the Prime Minister and for all of those present and went into some detail. And I thought that was really very worthwhile.
I don't want to lose sight, though, in talking about the very important space cooperation of all the pieces that were agreed to here. One very important piece -- and one that we believe is really a very good signal of Russia's intent to be a really reliable partner in terms of its nonproliferation behavior, its willingness to abide by the principles of the missile technology control regime and be a reliable partner in its sales of high-technology goods and services -- was this memorandum of understanding on the missile technology control regime. I would put that at the head of the list, really, of what was signed today.
The second piece, which is the precursor of where we want to go with high-technology access for Russian goods and services, was the Commercial Space Launch Agreement, and that was the second important piece that was signed. Third, then, is this Joint Statement on Space Cooperation. I'll go over that in a bit more detail in a moment. But there are two other pieces that we haven't heard all that much about, but I think are very important. The one is the Environmental and Global Monitoring and Space Sciences Joint Statement. They're all put together they're all put together in one piece, but the overall goal of that is to get the two sides working together in more organized ways on things like Mission to Planet Earth, getting a lot of pieces put together of already international cooperative activity involving the Russians and the United States, and getting them in a more organized mode to work together on global monitoring.
Space science, there is a lot to do there as well. And there will be some study activities undertaken to lay out an agenda for more space science work.
The aeronautic side -- one again, here we were looking for areas where cooperation can set new strategic objectives and directions. In
the aeronautics side, clearly you're looking at developing aircraft in the future. I want to stress that this particular agreement will focus on kind of the fundamental research and technology issues, research and development issues, and we'll do a lot of work on some projects involving some very good experimental capabilities that the Russians have -- test stands and wind tunnels and that type of thing -- so it will take good advantage of some very good capabilities they have.
Once again, this would be working not in the space area, but in the aerodynamic area, in aircraft development.
Now, let me go back and say a few things about the Space Cooperation Agreement. What we have, basically, is three phases that we're talking about. Phase I and Phase II are essentially bilateral efforts that will be more near-term efforts over the next couple of years. We will focus in these bilateral efforts on proof of principle, answering technical questions, working closely together to develop all the kinds of precursors we need to start thinking about a truly international space station where the Russians would be involved as partners.
Part of that process over the next several months will involve very close consultation with our international partners --with Japan, with Europe, with the Canadians to insure that everybody's on board and is ready to work together in this effort. The other part that I think Dan Golden brought up very effectively this morning is that both sides need to work within their own political systems to work with Congress here in Washington and with the parliament in Moscow to put together that side of it.
And a very important aspect of what we're trying to do is to go about this in a very responsible way in terms of the fiscal issues that both sides have to grapple with. So that will be also an important part of what we are working on over the next couple of months.
The other thing that I think is very important to focus on overall is win-win, in looking at the kinds of projects we could do with the Russians, once again starting at Vancouver, going through the summer, picking up the pace in August and ending on this day, with an agreement to go further and really get down in the weeds with the technical issues. We always were governed by the principle that we were looking for win-win situations, situations where the Russians would benefit in terms of getting good project work, we would benefit from finding project work and other kinds of joint activities that would help us to bring down our costs, shorten up the amount of time involved, and get us to a space station faster and in a more effective and efficient way.
I want to emphasize and reemphasize, though, that we have a baseline space station program. And what we do with the Russians will be a bonus to that baseline space station program. So I do not see it affecting our prime contractor relationship or anything like that. It is a situation where what we do with the Russians will take the baseline program and provide a bonus to it.
So, once again, we get lower costs, shorter time to get activities going in space, shorter time to get construction going, shorter time to get people flying in experiments underway. And that is, I think, very, very important to emphasize.
Let me just say a few words, and then I'm going to open the floor to questions. You'll probably have some questions for my colleague as well.
The things that we're looking for experience in, in more detail are intensive experience in complex construction activities in space, command and control where we've got for the first time since the ApolloSoyuz project in '75 -- you're going to have Russians and Americans
working closely together on some very complex operations, you'll also have the other international partners involved. So there will be some complex kinds of issues to do with command and control and interoperability. And those will be important to work out carefully over time.
We see a lot of what we do in Phase I and Phase II with the Mir module, with the Shuttle, as bringing us along in that process. And a lot of it will involve construction activities in space.
But I wanted to stress that we're not going to limit ourselves to working that set of problems, that there will be a lot of science going on as well. And that is the reason that the Priroda inspector modules were brought into Phase I, because we wanted to be able to begin early with some scientific experiments that would get us to where we needed to be with some life science experiments and with some other kinds of scientific experiments.
So I think that we will really be working along two paths, one of which will be to get us quicker to a space station, the other which will be to continue the process of doing some really useful science in the meantime, and we really welcome the opportunity to do that with the Russian side.
I think that that's all I'm going to say, and let's open the floor up to questions.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the space station. You're going with the baseline. Does that mean the redesigned space station will be built as planned, or will some components of it be assembled, launched and attached from Russia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We've got some work to do over the next couple of months. And I should have said that between now and November 1 there will be an intense study period going on where we look at some of these really important technical questions about what can be done by the Russian side to add to the capabilities that we would have under the space station program.
It will possibly involve some capabilities, some modules and some overall equipment that we would not have otherwise have had. For example, the solar power dynamics program that was mentioned in the joint statement. That is essentially a new means of generating power in space and will be an important experimental effort that I think could really pay us some important dividends. But we really need a couple of months to look at exactly where we're going to go.
Q: It doesn't mean a Russian modification of the redesigned baseline space station?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It means a Russian-provided bonus to the redesigned space station.
Q: The Vice President this morning said that he hoped or that this would allow the launching and the orbiting of the space station four years earlier than originally envisioned. When was it originally envisioned and what date are we shooting for now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you'd have to know exactly when your starting point is going to be and that's still up in the air. And it is part of what will be agreed in our consultations with Congress over the next couple of months. There's a lot of work to be done. But we're clearly looking at getting something up and flying in the mid-1990 time frame. Whether that's '96, '97 -- I'm just not sure exactly what the beginning point is going to be.
But there has been a concern out there that there would be a
stretch-out that would go on that would affect our ability to fly anything before pretty much the turn of the century.
Q: But was it originally planned in the year 2000?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to have to defer you to NASA. I don't know -- I don't remember exactly what the schedule looked like. But really, the significant cutback in the schedule is there if we look at what we can do with the Russians. And a lot of that has to do with the experience that we gain on things like construction capabilities and interoperabilities and so forth because we're going quicker up the learning curve, essentially.
Q: Can you compare for us the percentages of American and non-American content, participation, whatever the proper term would be, in the space station absent this agreement and with this agreement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, Doyle, I just don't know yet, because you also have to think of the partners and what -- I assume that's part of your question. Actually, I could probably refer you to NASA for part of that in terms of what the overall volume of international partner participation is at the present time and then what she would envision with the Russians. So it's just too difficult for me to answer that particular question.
Q: It is very tempting to infer and I suspect some contractors will quickly infer that when you bring in a big new partner with the Russians, even if you want to call it a bonus, that may mean a quicker launch, but the U.S. part of the product is going to be a smaller proportion. Is there any way out of that? I can't figure out another way to make the mathematics come out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I understand that point very well because we thought long and hard about it. And there are clearly some questions that we'll need to look at over the next couple of months as to what exactly the impact is going to be on our own contractors here in the United States. But our view is, in looking at it early over the last couple of months is that there will be enhanced work in the areas of integration, particularly, that may, in effect -- and net you more jobs, you'd get a net job gain rather than a net job loss. This is something we're going to be looking at very, very seriously over the next couple of months.
But I think it is fair to say that the question does not have a clear answer, and that working -- where you get the cost savings is in the shortening up the time period. It's not in the dropping of big pieces of hardware. That we already know.
Q: In terms of the $100 million in '94 and then the $300 million for the next three years, what precisely are we going to be buying in that? Is that just for the use of Mir I over the period, or is there something else to it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Mir I module, use of the Mir I module plus the space shuttle in the so-called Phase I, plus SPEKTRE and Priroda, the Fiscal 1994 percentage of that is $100 million. And how much of that work is done in Fiscal 1994 is yet to be seen, and that is something once again we're going to be working on determining that budget between now and November 1st. But there will be some work under the additional $300 million in the Phase I part of it with, I suspect, the science programs -- once again, the SPEKTRE and Priroda --various experiments. And, by the way, the experiments themselves will be in a process of definition between now and November 1. NASA has already begun to talk to the scientific community about defining those experiments.
But the greatest -- I would suspect the greatest part of the
additional $300 million will be spent up in Phase II. It's just at the present time, we've got enough work to do to define, number one, what Phase II looks like and, number two, what its budget is going to be, that it's difficult for me to see where the line is going to be drawn.
Q: Can you explain what the SPEKTRE and Priroda projects are?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, the SPEKTRE and Priroda? They're modules, they're Russian modules that will be flown with the Mir I and the space shuttle and will have on them some capability for doing scientific experiments -- rads and so forth for doing scientific experiments. And there will be a number of experiments that will be thought out, worked out, planned over the next couple of months. It's very important, I think, to begin early to get some science done, in addition to just the overall engineering feat of getting this thing up and constructed.
Q: Will they be flown up by the shuttle and then attached to MIR?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is one idea we're looking at.
Q: Can we get some more on the Clinton-Chernomyrdin meeting? Yesterday you indicated that that was the forum where other international issues would be talked about, and I wonder what they spoke about -- specifically, Bosnia, Middle East peace talks, Russian troops in the Baltics. Refuseniks you mentioned yesterday. Anything else?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. A lot of those issues came up in sessions apart from the President's meeting, but in the President's meeting the President did take some time after the discussion of the space and energy issues to ask a series of questions about issues that are of great interest to us.
The first was on Ukraine. And as you know, we have a great interest in what happens especially in the security relationship between Ukraine and Russia. Chernomyrdin is on his way now to the Crimea to meet Yeltsin for a summit meeting with Kravchuk that will take place tomorrow.
There are a number of issues of concern to us that will arise tomorrow and the President had a discussion with Chernomyrdin about those issue. Obviously, the President reiterated our commitment to do what we can to help improve the Russian-Ukrainian relationship, and also our interest in seeing, obviously, as soon as possible a nonnuclear Ukraine.
Second issue that was raised by the President was the Baltics. And the President simply reiterated to Chernomyrdin our continued interest in an early withdrawal of the Russian military forces from Estonia and Latvia. He asked Chernomyrdin for a sense of Russian government thinking on that issue and they had a good conversation on it.
In addition to that, there was a short conversation on RussianJapanese relations. The point from our side that has been made for the last couple of days in these meetings, but also I would say in the last few months, is the critical importance of Japan and Russia having a good solid relationship, and particularly in the economic arena where Japan is so important as a source of bilateral funding for a country like Russia, but also as a source of support for international macroeconomic lending to Russia.
And again, we are interested in doing what we can to help improve that relationship. So that was really -- I think those were the
three foreign policy issues that were raised today. There was also a discussion of the coming political season in Moscow, an interest on our side in Chernomyrdin's views on that, how the constitution and the possibility of new elections would play itself out.
Q: On the Baltics, did the President come away with a sense that the Russian troops would be out by the end of the year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think what we heard -- I obviously don't want to go into the specifics of the conversation, but what we heard was hopeful in the sense that Chernomyrdin communicated a very strong view that the Russian government understood the need to withdraw the troops. He listed the problems that are currently preventing an early withdrawal. But he did speak with some degree of certainty that the Russians had a plan to withdraw the troops. That's obviously what we want; that is what we have wanted for some time.
Q: But no date?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there were no specific dates talked about.
Q: Just on refuseniks, you said the President -- I think you indicated the President would be raising that, did you not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That issue didn't come up. The President talked to Chernomyrdin about our attempt to lower barriers to trade on our side, since we also did a lot of talking about lowering barriers to trade on the Russian side. And the President said that he was working with the leadership in Congress to pass a bill this autumn that would effectively eliminate 60-odd laws and statutes from the Cold War period. He talked about that.
Jackson-Vanik did not come up in the meeting today, but it came up extensively in yesterday's meeting, yesterday morning's meeting, between the Vice President and Chernomyrdin, and there was a very long and detailed conversation about Jackson-Vanik. And we --there were even some separate conversations on the side with other Russian officials on that.
Q: What's the time frame for the repealing Jackson-Vanik and how do you envision --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't have a time frame for repealing Jackson-Vanik. Our view has been that there continues to be a problem with refuseniks in Russia. There are still Jews and Christians denied the right to emigrate for two reasons --one is security reasons and the other is what they call poor relatives. We also feel very strongly that the Russian government must establish a commission that can review cases in the future after any possible repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. But right now we are not talking in real terms about doing that because we're not there yet. We've simply enunciated our position again for the Russian side.
And to be fair to the Russian government, they think they see this as a fairly significant symbolic part of the past that they would like to eliminate from our relationship. We would like to as well. But certain steps have to be taken before we can agree to that.
Q: Did the President raise the missile technology control, or is that an issue that's now totally settled between the two sides?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My colleague can speak to that better than I can. I will simply say that I think it came up in passing and I think people are very pleased that the agreement today codified the understanding we had reached earlier in the summer.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have anything to add to that really. The President raised it with him to express his point.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, so he did raise it directly.
Q: On the discussion about Russian-Japan relations, how much focused on the islands dispute?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There wasn't really a focus at all on the islands. The focus was --
Q: It didn't come up as a way they might be able to improve their economic relations with Japan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I mean, I think, obviously, when you discuss Russo-Japanese relations, the islands are always looming somewhere, either in the forefront or in the background of the discussion. But in this discussion it was really just an attempt by us to reiterate our position that as Russia looks to support for its economic reforms, it can certainly look to the United States and the President, in fact, in the meeting at several points reaffirmed his strong personal support for the Yeltsin government and for the course of reform in Russia. But Russia also has to look to other international partners to play a role in the IFFIs -- international financial institutions -- and bilaterally, to help them.
Germany is a key country in Europe. The European Community is also central to this. But Japan is a very important source of future lending for Russia. And you all know about the background of what happened last year, with two cancelled presidential visits. It's in our interests to see an improvement in Russian-Japanese relations, and we simply wanted to get a sense from the Prime Minister of his view on the issue. We're encouraged that he shared our view and that he said President Yeltsin also shared our view of the central importance of Russo-Japanese relations.
Q: A quick question in terms of timing of these meetings. Back during the dispute of the sale of the rocket technology to India there was a cancelled visit. Were these agreements that were signed today originally scheduled to be signed back then?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me speak to the energy side and then ask my colleague to help out on the space side. We had intended back in May and June to have a series of agreements on the energy side, both Ex-Im, OPIC and also some energy cooperation agreements.
On the space side?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We needed some more time in June to work these issues with the Russians, and so we mutually agreed to put session off for a couple months. And some of the key agreements that we needed more time to work on were the MTCR agreements. And at that time the space launch, commercial space launch agreement also needed a bit more time to conclude. And we did that in the weeks following. It took another two, three weeks to get things wrapped up. But it was a period where we benefited from having some more time.
Q: When you said there was a discussion of the coming political seasons in Moscow, what did you mean by that? What was involved in that? And in particular, did Chernomyrdin offer any explanation or analysis of the suspension of Rutskoi and Shumeiko?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that from our side we were interested in getting his view over how the Yeltsin government will proceed to do what it says it wants to do. And that is to put in place
a new constitution, which as you know, is already written and is now being review throughout Russia.
And secondly, to entertain the possibility of new elections. Obviously these will be major events in determining the future course of Russian politics and, I would say, Russian economics in the course of reform.
We wanted to get a very specific sense if we could of the latest senior level of Russian government thinking on this issue, and he supplied it to us.
He did talk in general about the action that President Yeltsin took the other day, but I don't care to go into the details of.
Q: Did he give you a date for elections?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He didn't, no.
Q: The space station survived by a very narrow margin in the House. Was this necessary as an argument to the opponents in Congress that this would make the station cheaper enough and earlier enough to make it a good sell, a better international project, et cetera? How can you explain --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I said we needed some time to work these issues with the Congress, and I meant it. There are people on both sides of the issue in Congress. Some who say that this is real bonus to the program, as we say it is. And will help not only in terms of getting us more station faster, but will also be what we also think it is which is a terrific symbol of new partnership with the Russian side.
There are others, however, who feel differently. And I think that I cannot say that the effect of this particular, this particular effort is consistent across the Congress. There are just very different views about it. But there are quite a few Congressmen and Senators who are enthusiastic about the Russian participation.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END5:35 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269115