A Smooth Summit

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HELSINKI: In a post-Cold War world, the U.S. and Russia find themselves arguing not about sweeping ideology but about policy details. With the Russians playing a significantly weaker hand, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton made no firm decisions on NATO expansion but did agree on an arms reduction package. "Yeltsin was a model of conciliation," TIME's Karen Tumulty reports. "In the news conference, he acted precisely as U.S. officials had so earnestly hoped. Over and over he used the word partnership." In the days leading up to the summit, Yeltsin had engaged in tough talk that bordered on Cold War rhetoric. But Friday he was taking a softer approach. The Presidents "agreed to disagree" on the key issue of NATO enlargement. While Yeltsin maintained an unbending tone on the expansion for the benefit of his people back home, he chose to make the best of what Russians view as a bad situation. Russia will be given a consultatory seat at the NATO table but will not be awarded veto power. Clinton was able to ease Yeltsin's biggest concern - that NATO enlargement could lead to a threatening buildup of permanent combat forces near Russia - with reassuring language. Key to their agreement was a joint statement affirming that nuclear weapons would not be moved into countries closer to Russia in a joint statement that NATO members have "no intention, no plan and no reason" to deploy nuclear weapons in states that are not yet members of the alliance. The Presidents also laid groundwork to end the long impasse on the START II missile-reduction treaty. They agreed to cut back more than 80 percent of the two countries' long-range nuclear weapons in the next century. Russia was given more time to get down to the START II ceilings, while the United States was reassured Yeltsin will ardently seek a ratification of the START II by the Russian Parliament this spring. In all, says Tumulty, "It seems the summit couldn't have gone any better for the United States."