John Broder in the NYT Oct 2000,
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — In June 1995, Vice President Al Gore signed a secret agreement with Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, then the Russian prime minister, calling for an end to all Russian sales of conventional weapons to Iran by the end of 1999.
But the deadline passed with no sign of a halt to such sales, despite repeated complaints late last year and this year to senior Russian officials by Mr. Gore, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Moscow continues to be a significant supplier of conventional arms to Tehran despite the Gore-Chernomyrdin deal, the Central Intelligence Agency reported in August.
The Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement appeared to undercut a 1992 law, the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, known as Gore-McCain after its principal sponsors, Mr. Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, and Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican. The law was rooted in concerns about Russian sales to Iran of some of the same weapons that the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement expressly allowed.
Senator McCain said this month that he was unaware of the deal that Mr. Gore struck with Mr. Chernomyrdin, which was codified in a document stamped "Secret" and signed in Moscow on June 30, 1995. Mr. McCain said a "strong case can be made" that the Russian delivery of arms, especially the submarine, should have triggered sanctions against Moscow under the provisions of the Gore-McCain law.
"If the administration has acquiesced in the sale, then I believe they have violated both the intent and the letter of the law," he said.
President Clinton entrusted his vice president with an extraordinary degree of authority to manage one of the most important accounts in American diplomacy. Mr. Gore used that authority to pursue a broad agenda on issues from arms control to the environment to cooperation in space.
Much of that work was carried out in a channel known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, which was established in 1993 and which met twice a year until Boris N. Yeltsin, the former president, dismissed Mr. Chernomyrdin in March 1998. Mr. Gore has cited the work of the commission as among his signal achievements as vice president and an important part of his résumé for the presidency.
Some critics in Congress, as well as Governor George W. Bush's foreign policy advisers, say that Mr. Gore placed too much faith in his close personal relationship with Mr. Chernomyrdin, and that this led Mr. Gore to turn a blind eye to strong evidence of corruption by Mr. Chernomyrdin and associates, who appear to have profited handsomely from the rapid privatization of Soviet state enterprises.