A Shotgun Summit

In essence, President Clinton was forced onto Air Force One on Monday. The summit appears to be doomed in advance by Russia's crisis. But if Mr. Clinton had pulled his support now, the blow could help end Boris Yeltsin's presidency, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Scott Pelley reports.

This is also a perilous moment for Mr. Clinton - his greatest foreign policy challenge comes as his power is undermined at home. It is unclear what Mr. Clinton can offer Russia but encouragement.

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"What I want to do is to go there and tell them that, that the easy thing to do is not the right thing to do. The easy thing to do would be to try to go back and do it the way they did it before," Mr. Clinton said. "And it's not possible. But if they stay on the path of reform to stabilize their society, then I believe America and the rest of the wWstern nations with strong economies should help them."

Mr. Clinton is attempting a summit with a leader who is not always lucid in a country that, for now, has no permanent government. A senior administration official tells CBS News one of the principal goals is to look Mr. Yeltsin in the eye and judge just how coherent he is.


For Mr. Clinton's part, he is the weakest American president to bargain with Russia since Richard Nixon. In 1974, with Watergate rising around him, Nixon signed agreements in Moscow, then resigned five weeks later.

On Monday night, history was being written again. Russia stands in danger of falling short in its reach for democracy and market economy. The summit is not likely to provide any breakthrough.

Even if Mr. Clinton and Yeltsin shake hands on new agreements it is not clear they have the political strength to make good on any deal.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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