SLUG: 5-47444 Russia/US/Iran DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: An American delegation of arms experts will travel to Russia next week (EDITORS NOTE: EXACT DATE FOR TALKS NOT YET ANNOUNCED) to discuss Washington's concerns over Russia's plan to resume selling weapons to Iran. The United States is threatening to impose sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin goes ahead with such sales. Larry James reports from Moscow these developments are just the latest in a series of events signaling a changing relationship between Washington and Moscow.

TEXT: The dispute is over a 1995 agreement negotiated by Vice President Al Gore and then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In it the Clinton administration said it would not impose economic sanctions on Russia for selling arms to Iran, provided Russia agreed to suspend future sales beginning in 1999. Moscow recently announced it is backing out of the agreement and Washington pledged to retaliate with sanctions.

Viktor Kremenyuk is Deputy Director of the Canada - U-S Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He says the disagreement over arms sales to Iran is seen in Moscow as one in a series of events that collectively reveal a changing - and perhaps more troubling and complex - relationship between Russia and the United States.

///ACT KREMENYUK - In English///

It should be regarded as a part of some more general changes in the Russian-American relations. The deal, which was signed by Mr. Gore and Chernomyrdin, reflected another time, another period in Russian-American relations when the hopes of some partnership were rather high. When both nations thought they may become something like quasi-allies and all that has passed.

///END ACT. ///

Mr. Kremenyuk says since the 1995 Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement, Russia has felt its interests either rebuffed or ignored. He cites as two prime examples - the enlargement of NATO, carried out despite vigorous objections by Moscow, and the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia last year, also conducted in the face of strong opposition from Russia. Mr. Kremenyuk says Russian leaders see these as evidence that Washington has little regard for Russia or at the least, does not put a very high priority on Russian relations.

Yevgeny Volk is the Director of the Moscow branch of the U-S-based thin-tank, the Heritage Foundation. He believes Russia is taking a similar view of its ties with the United States.

///ACT VOLK In English///

I believe that Russia doesn't consider the United States opinion in this case so important as it did in early '90s. Now, Russia wants to be more independent, more self-confident and it wants to act on its own regardless of what the United States thinks about Iran, Iraq and other countries.

///END ACT///

Mr. Volk says Russia is undergoing a significant shift in foreign policy brought about by two things - the rise to power of its new president, Vladimir Putin, and an improved economic situation.

///ACT VOLK In English///

Mr. Putin is going to pursue a more independent and I would say, a more self-confident foreign policy than (former leader) Mr. Yeltsin. In fact, the previous governments in Russia were very dependant on foreign aid, including I-M-F loans, World Bank credits and they understood perfectly well that maintaining a good relationship with the United States was a pre-requisite for receiving this kind of aid. Now, due to a relatively stable economic situation here in Russia, primarily due to the high oil prices in the world markets, and Russia is the greatest oil and gas exporter, and of course due to the ruble devaluation, which made Russia less dependant on exports from the West, now Russia doesn't regard the close relationship with the American administration as really necessary and really a top priority in it's foreign policy.

///END ACT. ///

Experts in Moscow see the U-S threat of sanctions as counter productive. They point out that since Russia has so little trade with the United States the threat to limit it is not likely to have any real effect. Analyst Viktor Kremenyuk says sanctions could backfire.

///ACT KREMENYUK In English///

I don't think in the current state of mind the Russians would suffer too much. More than that that will mobilize of course the hardliners. I mean nationalists. I mean military. I mean our secret police and other people who are dying to get to power and who will simply greet this decision by the U-S because it will facilitate their job.

///END ACT.///

And that, says Mr. Kremenyuk, would hurt not only Russia, but would also hurt the United States and world stability. (Signed)