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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release July 27, 1999

Founding: The U.S.-Russian Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation was established in 1993 by President Clinton and President Yeltsin to promote partnership between the United States and Russia based on a shared commitment to democracy and human rights, support for market economies and the rule of law, and international peace and stability.

Structure: The Commission is made up of committees and working groups in the areas of agribusiness; business development; defense conversion; energy; environment; health; law enforcement; nuclear issues; science and technology; small business; and space. The committees and working groups -- each co-chaired by senior U.S. and Russian officials -- work to identify and achieve clear, mutually beneficial objectives, and promote strong partnerships with private companies and non-government organizations. Committees schedule meetings throughout the year, and the full Commission gathers in plenary session to report to the Vice President and Prime Minister on the progress of specific projects and to discuss areas for further cooperation.

The Commission also provides a context for intensive discussions between the Vice President and the Prime Minister on a variety of sensitive bilateral and global issues. Topics include non-proliferation, arms control, and security issues as well as economics and structural reform. This channel has proved to be a useful supplement to U.S.- Russia summits in helping to advance some of the most important and sensitive aspects of our relations with Russia.

Past meetings: The Commission held 10 meetings between 1994 and March of 1998 with Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin as co-chairs. The most recent meeting of the Commission was held in July, 1998 with then-Prime Minister Kiriyenko. This session will be the first with Prime Minister Stepashin as co-chair.

Accomplishments: Since the U.S.-Russia Commission was founded in 1993, the Commission has helped reduce Russian trade barriers for U.S. products; promote cooperation in space; expedite major commercial projects; stem a diphtheria epidemic in Russia; design production-sharing legislation to allow U.S. investment in the Russian energy sector; and convert to civilian use military facilities formerly associated with the production of nuclear weapons. Under the auspices of the Commission, the U.S. and Russia also agreed to end the production of plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

In 1998, before the tenth meeting of the Commission, Susan Eisenhower, Chair of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told the Washington Post: "[U.S.-Russia] relations right now are more strained than they have been in some time. For just that reason, it would be a disaster if anybody called off the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. A dialogue wouldn't take place without that mechanism." The Gore-Chernomyrdin channel -- created through the Binational Commission -- also played an important role in winning the peace in Kosovo.

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