Clinton, (“Bill”) William Jefferson


Clinton, (“Bill”) William Jefferson
(1946– )
   American politician. With little foreign policy experience, the former governor of Arkansas and 42nd president of the United States Bill Clinton tended to focus on his personal relationship with Boris Yeltsin in U.S.-Russia relations. Far from being a micromanager of foreign relations, Clinton delegated key policy decisions to subordinates, especially Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who was known colloquially as the “Russian hand.” Clinton often leveraged his strong personal bond with Yeltsin to encourage Yeltsin to accept American policies that were deeply unpopular in Russia.
   On Clinton’s watch, the United States strongly advocated shock therapy for the Russian economy, expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the former Eastern Bloc and ultimately up to Russia’s borders, and bombed Serbia, a traditional Russian ally and fellow Orthodox country in defense of Muslim Bosnians and Kosovars. Clinton, who was generally more focused on domestic economic concerns than foreign affairs, steadfastly backed Yeltsin during his darkest hours, including the violent constitutional crisis of 1993, the first Chechen War, and the president’s frequent bouts of erratic behavior brought on by alcoholism.
   In 1994, Clinton directed his vice president, Al Gore, to collaborate with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on an expansive reworking of Russo-American ties, which established a working relationship on issues such as environmentalism, foreign trade and investment, energy, security, and promotion of democracy. The relationship between Clinton and Yeltsin became somewhat frayed in the last year of the 1990s as the ruble crisis forced Yeltsin to purge his cabinet of economic reformers and pro-Western Atlanticists and stack it with nationalists and strong statists like Yevgeny Primakov. Disputes over the situation in Kosovo and the prospective admission of the Baltic States into NATO proved especially controversial in Russia. Clinton’s own political weakness—both as a lame duck and the target of impeachment hearings over his sexual relationship with an intern—limited his ability to sway Russia on these issues. Following the precipitous departure of Yeltsin from national politics in 2000, Clinton had few levers of influence in Moscow. Vladimir Putin, realizing he had nothing to gain from embracing the disgraced Clinton, received him coldly and waited for his successor to be determined and then inaugurated.
   Clinton, along with his predecessor George H. W. Bush, attended Yeltsin’s funeral in 2007.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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