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U.S., Russia cement partnership Yeltsin pledges 'no more lies' by former adversary


WASHINGTON -- The United States and Russia cemented a new relationship as near-allies yesterday after Boris N. Yeltsin electrified Congress with the pledge that "there will be no more lies" by America's former Cold War adversary.

Ending their two-day summit, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin signed a broad agreement pledging to join in ending and preventing European conflicts such as Yugoslavia's and opening the way to a potential "strategic partnership" that will bury any lingering military rivalry.

The summit, crowned by agreement Tuesday to the deepest-ever cuts in each side's deadliest nuclear arsenals, gave Mr. Yeltsin a surer spot on the world stage and Mr. Bush at least a temporary political boost.

But while Mr. Yeltsin prepared to leave Washington enveloped in friendship, he failed to get what he needs most -- an aid package that throws bipartisan U.S. weight behind an international pledge to help Russia's desperate economy.

House passage remained stalled by a determination to meet domestic needs first. Senate passage appears likely, but hopes of quick action during Mr. Yeltsin's visit were dashed.

But the Russian president greatly enhanced prospects for ultimately getting the aid with a riveting speech to a joint session of Congress that brought multiple standing ovations, cheers and shouts of "Boris, Boris!"

Going beyond the new arms pact he reached with Mr. Bush, Mr. Yeltsin announced that in advance of implementing the pact, Russia was taking its heavy SS18 missiles off alert status.

This goodwill gesture removed further the possibility of a hair-trigger launch. Mr. Yeltsin said in January that Russia would cease targeting U.S. cities with nuclear warheads.

Removing a sudden irritant that threatened to stall the aid bill, he pledged every effort to find evidence of American POWs in Russia.

"I assure you that even if one American has been detained in my country and can still be found, I will find him. I will get him back to his family," he said.

At a later news conference with Mr. Bush, he accused former Communist authorities, including Mikhail S. Gorbachev, of keeping secret the evidence of Americans held in the Soviet Union.

"They did know, that's the very point, they kept it a secret. The point is that that era, when they kept the truth from each other, has come to an end," Mr. Yeltsin said.

But the possibility that Vietnam-era U.S. servicemen might be found there receded when Mr. Yeltsin said he had informed the Senate of all the evidence in his possession. His letter last week disclosing that the Soviets had in the past held U.S. servicemen did not mention Vietnam veterans.

Communism, Mr. Yeltsin told the packed congressional session, has collapsed "never to rise again" in his native land. Vowing to press forward with free-market reforms, he said, "I will not say 'uncle' before I make the reforms irreversible."

But in a direct pitch for the aid package, he warned that without outside help, a totalitarianism could re-emerge.

"It was precisely in a devastated country, with an economy in near paralysis, that Bolshevism succeeded in building a totalitarian regime, creating a gigantic war machine, and an insatiable military industrial complex. This must not be allowed to happen again," he said.

The agreement putting U.S.-Russian relations on a new footing was among 30 pacts and joint statements emerging from the first formal state visit by an elected Russian president. Others eased trade restrictions and smoothed the way for what Mr. Yeltsin hopes will be hundreds of billions of dollars worth of private investment in Russia's infant capitalism.

The two countries also launched a joint effort to create a global protection system against ballistic missiles, something that may require amending the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty.

The Charter for American-Russian Partnership and Friendship envisions shared democratic values and human rights as the basis of the new relationship.

In it, the two nations pledged to cooperate in Asia and launched a series of initiatives to help fill the European security void so violently manifest in the Yugoslav war:

* A strengthened Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe with a special representative to ease ethnic antagonisms and treatment of minorities.

* A "credible Euro-Atlantic peacekeeping capability" drawing on NATO and forces of the Western European Union.

The agreement makes formal the cooperation displayed by the two countries for more than a year, but it goes further: A senior Bush administration official compared the new U.S. relationship to Russia with the U.S. approach to Germany and Japan following World War II.

The military rivalry that, though muted, continued to complicate negotiations on the latest strategic missile agreement would be replaced by cooperation between military establishments and a potential alliance, according to the agreement.

"In view of the potential for building a strategic partnership between the United States . . . and Russian Federation, the parties intend to accelerate defense cooperation between their military establishments," it says.

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