SLUG: 5-47346 Russia / U-S Elections DATE: NOTE NUMBER:










INTRO: Russians, along with the rest of the world, are waiting to hear who will be the next United States president. But many Russians say they see little difference between the two candidates and expect that the same problems and issues between Russia and the United States will remain regardless of who wins. V-O-A Correspondent Eve Conant in Moscow takes a look at those issues, and what the next U-S administration will be confronting in the coming years in its relations with Russia and its recently elected leader, Vladimir Putin.

TEXT: Russia's Itar-Tass news agency has quoted Kremlin officials as saying Moscow is determined to continue what it calls "equal and mutually advantageous dialogue" with the United States in all areas of concern. President Putin's deputy chief of staff, Sergey Prikhodko, said Russia wanted progress in trade and economic cooperation with the United States and a continuation of what he described as "positive potential" developed under the Clinton administration over the past several years.

But despite the positive potential - such as the joint signing of nuclear reduction agreements - there are key issues which remain in the spotlight and will continue to shape Russia-U-S relations for the coming years. Those top issues include NATO eastward expansion, financial assistance to Russia, and nuclear cooperation or non-cooperation. Moscow opposes Washington's plan to possibly build a limited nuclear defense shield - a move that would undermine a 1972 arms treaty that Russia views as the cornerstone of deterrence and arms reduction talks over the past three decades.

/// OPT /// George W. Bush has said he would pursue ambitious programs to protect the United States from missiles from so-called rogue nations even if it meant withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. Al Gore says more testing is necessary before a decision can be made ./// END OPT ///

The deputy head of Russia's US-Canada Institute, Viktor Kremenyuk, says that he views George W. Bush as a man who does not mix ideology and politics and therefore is a more straight forward negotiator that Al Gore.

/// OPT // KREMENYUK ACT 1 ///

Gore, he's much less pragmatic and tends to present all these moves in ideological terms, which his position much more inflexible, more rigid, and less prone to finding a solution.

/// END ACT // END OPT ///

Political analyst Kremenyuk points out that regardless of the U-S election results, relations between Russia and the United States are strained.


We still face a very hot time in our relations because we have to identify 'who are we? Are we still partners, already enemies, what?' And I think this will inevitably be the biggest questions.

/// END ACT ///

The head of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies, Andrei Piontkovsky, says he expects the Republicans to push forward plans for developing a nuclear missile defense shield. However, on another contentious issue - NATO expansion - he does not expect much conflict, as there is still time before the Baltic republics are examined for NATO candidacy. Absorbing those countries - which were formerly under Soviet influence - would infuriate Moscow.

Like many Russians, political analyst Mr. Piontkovsky says he would not expect significant change with either Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush, but that he feels Russia-US relations need some new players.


I think it would be beneficial for Russian-American relations to make a new start. So in this case, I think that from the Russian perspective the Bush presidency would be beneficial. Traditionally, during Soviet times, Moscow somehow managed to have better relations with the Republican administration, not the Democrats.

/// END ACT ///

/// OPT /// Although Russian media is providing moment-to-moment coverage of the elections, most average Russians say there is little difference between the two candidates, and that little will change no matter who is in the White House. A correspondent for Russia's N-T-V television network, reporting from the United States said, "the U-S does not need a president, in fact, they need a star for their soap-opera style news."

/// OPT /// But 44-year-old housewife Irena Ustinova says if she could have voted, she would have supported George W. Bush.


/// OPT /// She says, "I don't think it will make a difference. If Bush seems more military-oriented, well then so is our President Putin. I think they would balance each other out."

/// OPT /// 27-year-old Anna Dimitrieva says she likes Al Gore that he has more experience with Russia and would take a softer stance on Russia than Mr. Bush would.


/// OPT /// She says, "Gore is my choice because Bush was already starting to promote a harsh policy towards Russia, which would be bad for us."

/// OPT /// 22-year-old student Vladimir says the United States wants Russia to be weak, no matter who is in the White House.


He says, "Clinton strengthened American power over the world. If the next leader can't do that, then that might actually be good for Russia." He says, "The United States does not want us to advance because then there would be a second power in the world that could dictate its political will, tell the whole world what to do." /// END OPT ///

The new leadership in the U-S White House will need to negotiate with a fairly new Russian leader as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin was elected to office only earlier this year. The previous relationship between former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and President Bill Clinton slowly deteriorated during NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999. Another sticking point between Russia and the United States is the case of Edmond Pope, a U-S citizen facing trial in Russia on espionage charges. The U-S government has called for his immediate release.

Improving this strained relationship will be a tough task for both President Putin and the new U-S administration, but Russians say no matter what the results, they are ready for change and the beginning of what they hope will be a new era of relations. (Signed)