DATE=1/27/2000 TYPE=NEWS ANALYSIS TITLE=ALBRIGHT / RUSSIA (UPDATE) NUMBER=45329 BYLINE=KYLE KING DATELINE=STATE DEPARTMENT CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: Secretary Albright departs for Davos, Switzerland, around midnight E-S-T Thursday. Overnights in Davos, Friday and Saturday, before flying on to Moscow. /// INTRO: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright travels to Moscow Sunday for a visit that will include her first meeting with acting President Vladimir Putin. As VOA's Kyle King reports from the State Department, officials are still trying to get the measure of the man who has become the leading candidate in Russia's upcoming presidential elections. TEXT: The Secretary's visit to Moscow (Jan 30 to Feb 1) will be her first since Vladimir Putin was named acting Russian president on New Year's eve. State Department officials say Ms. Albright will use her talks to get a first hand assessment of how he intends to operate as acting President. Mr. Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, has been the leading supporter of the Russian military campaign in Chechnya, a campaign that has repeatedly been questioned by U-S officials, who have, among other things, expressed concerns about civilian casualties. During a Speech in Washington last week, Ms. Albright praised Mr. Putin as one of the country's leading reformers. But noting his past as an intelligence officer and his policy in Chechnya, she said there was also a tough side to the man. Nevertheless, Ms. Albright said it is in the U-S national interest to work with the Russian government on a host of issues. /// ALBRIGHT ACT /// So we are not kind of starry eyed (unduly optimistic) about Russia, we are realistic about the difficult problems, but also understand the importance of pushing, and working with them and having it seen as being in our national interest that we continue to provide assistance in the form of threat reduction and assistance to various parts of their civil society. /// END ACT /// Ms. Albright will spend much of her time in Russia meeting with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Those talks are expected to focus on arms control, the war in Chechnya, and Russian economic policies. On arms control, the two sides are trying to move forward on a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that would slash the number of U-S and Russian nuclear warheads by one half. The Russian Parliament has still not ratified the Treaty, which was approved by the U-S Senate in 1996. U-S tests of a proposed missile defense system are expected to complicate the arms control talks. Russia has repeatedly said that U-S efforts to develop an anti-ballistic missile defense system are a violation of the anti-ballistic treaty. State Department officials say they would like to see Russia agree to "modest adjustments." The financial side of the talks should be less contentious. The Clinton administration plans to provide about one-point-one billion dollars in assistance to Russia this year. Much of the money is for programs aimed at reducing the country's aging nuclear stockpiles and providing support for Russian scientists to help prevent them from selling their expertise to other nations. In addition to bilateral relations, Ms. Albright will also use her trip to Russia to co-chair a Middle East peace conference. The goal of the February first session is to promote economic ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Though Secretary Albright says she views Mr. Putin as a leading Russian reformer, U-S officials make it clear that Washington's policy toward Moscow will be guided more by Russia's actions than by what its leaders say about reform. (Signed) NEB/KBK/KL/PT 27-Jan-2000 17:39 PM EDT (27-Jan-2000 2239 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .