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Albright Remarks on the Yeltsin Resignation

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release

SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT REMARKS TO THE PRESS ON THE RESIGNATION OF RUSSIAN PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN

Washington, D.C. December 31, 1999

QUESTION: On the situation in Russia, the President a few years ago cut back on assistance because Russia hadn't taken all the taxation and other reforms that the U.S. wanted. I wonder if this policy will be under review under the new Acting President, whether the U.S. will, maybe as a gesture, be more generous now; or will you still wait and see whether they adopt the modern system?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I think that we are all very encouraged and pleased by the way the transition has taken place according to their constitution. I spoke about an hour ago with Foreign Minister Ivanov; and he assured me -- as he has any number of times, but this time I think with earnestness because there has been a shift in leadership -- that there is no shift in terms of their foreign policy. What they have done has taken place with transparency. Ivanov also told me about preparations for their elections, which will take place in March. He and I will be speaking more about overall foreign policy issues.

Clearly, one of the issues upon which we have not agreed and do not agree is Chechnya, and we continue to make clear to them that the road they are choosing is not one that will lead to the kind of settlement that is necessary for a peaceful resolution of the problem.

In terms of our policies, I believe that our policies have been appropriate and obviously are constantly under review to make sure that they are appropriate. I think that there is nothing that has happened in the last 24 hours that would lead us to take a different view. On the contrary, what is interesting here is the continuity and transparency. I was just trying to analyze my own feelings this morning when I heard about this, and there is a certain sense of sadness about Yeltsin's leaving because he has had a terrific record in really moving Russia from a communist state to a democratic new one with a constitutional system, and he's done a great job. We are looking forward to working with Acting President Putin.

QUESTION: Were you surprised, Madam Secretary, to get this news? Many people say it was unexpected.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There clearly have been rumors like this for some time, and there were some people who felt that rumors - obviously, I think, when something like this happens, then people are surprised when it really does happen, but there have been rumors. I think that they've done a very good job about having this be very smooth. I must say that in my conversations with Foreign Minister Ivanov he made very clear they had had a meeting in the morning and power had been transferred, and the smoothness of it all is very encouraging.

QUESTION: And your assessment of the new man now in charge?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I've met him now a number of times, and he gives the impression of somebody who is a very hard worker, who understands all the things that need to be done with Russia, and kind of a can-do person, in the number of times I've met him. Obviously, we have a relationship with Russia and a number of officials and people -- Acting Presidents, Foreign Ministers, and parliamentary members -- and it's the system and nation that we are looking at. But my meetings with Acting President Putin, they've all been very positive.

QUESTION: Any short-term impact on our relations with Russia?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it should have no impact beyond the fact that we do have a disagreement over Chechnya, and that will continue. We have agreement on a whole host of other issues in terms of how we work together around the world. To bring it to the point of today, there is very good cooperation on the Y2K issues; and we've been working with them closely and will continue to do that obviously throughout this period.

Thank you.

(###)


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