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DATE=6/1/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / U-S RELATIONS NUMBER=5-46424 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: President Clinton flies to Moscow Saturday for three days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It will be the first state visit by a foreign leader to the Russian capital since Mr. Putin took office last month. In this report from Moscow, correspondent Peter Heinlein examines the current state of relations between the former superpower rivals. TEXT: Diplomatic observers are wondering whether it will be a fresh start, or a false start. On the eve of the Clinton/Putin summit, the consensus of expert opinion in Moscow is that the U-S/Russia relationship is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Many analysts, such as Dmitry Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center, say that given the wide range of irritants in the bilateral relationship, the summit should be considered a success simply because the two leaders are meeting. /// TRENIN ACT /// I believe the big thing is the fact that the summit is being held. The fact that Russia still figures on the U-S radar screen [i.e., that Russia is important to Washington]. Not as a number-one issue, but at least as an issue. As a country which is not "lost" by the Washington administration. /// END ACT /// Carnegie Moscow Center Director Alan Rousso predicts this three-day summit will be a false start, laced with symbolism and grand words, but producing little of substance. He says the Moscow/Washington relationship has been on a steady downward slide since Mr. Clinton's last visit, a year and a half ago, when he lectured the Russian people on the importance of sticking to the path of economic reform. /// ROUSSO ACT /// It left Russians, in my view, with a very sour taste in their mouths about American understanding of the Russian predicament. The events of the ensuing year and a half didn't help matters. The two, I would say, or three most important events in the ensuing year and a half [were], with the crisis in Kosovo starting in March, 1999, the money-laundering scandal, which led to name calling by the United States of Russia as a criminal state or kleptocracy, and finally the war in Chechnya. /// END ACT /// Veteran analyst Victor Kremenyuk, of Moscow's U-S-A/Canada Institute, says many Russians blame the Clinton administration's policies for much of the country's post-Soviet decline. He says people have come to associate the word "democracy" with a lack of order, and "market reform" as a western term for corruption. /// 1ST KREMENYUK ACT /// I'm sorry, but the general attitude of the population at large to the United States and the American president has changed significantly during the last few years. The majority of Russians do not view the United States as friendly any more. They regard the United States with growing concern. They feel that the U-S is trying to exploit Russia's weakness. /// END ACT /// Mr. Kremenyuk says the best possible outcome for the first meeting between Presidents Clinton and Putin would be a new spirit of bilateral cooperation, even if it is just in the tone of the meetings. /// 2ND KREMENYUK ACT /// I think what would be good to expect from this summit is a fresh start. We really need a fresh start, because the reserve for improvement of relations in the `90s was used -- not always in the best way but was used. New reserves have not appeared. /// END ACT /// Senior Clinton administration officials, perhaps sensing the mood in Moscow, have tried to play down expectations of a breakthrough on the main summit issue, arms control. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, in the Russian capital for last-minute negotiations, told reporters the meeting would be aimed at opening a chapter in the relationship between the two presidents, not at closing a deal. That could be the "fresh start" observers on both sides are hoping for, avoiding the "false start" that could make Mr. Clinton's Russia strategy a major issue in November's U-S presidential election. Administration officials are feeding that hope, noting that the two presidents are scheduled to meet three more times before Mr. Clinton steps down next January. (Signed) NEB/PFH/GE/WTW 01-Jun-2000 13:54 PM EDT (01-Jun-2000 1754 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .