US Fumbles Its Russia Policy

Article excerpt

TWO WEEKS after President Clinton visited Moscow to promise aid in return for continued economic reform, the United States is worried that its Russian policy is unravelling. Almost every day has brought news of economic reformers forced to resign. Policies favoured by Washington are dismissed as "market rk-Xticism" by the Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

There may be worse to come. An intelligence analysis says economic problems in Ukraine will lead to its substantial Russian minority trying to secede, provoking a civil war in which Russia might intervene. The liberal president of neighbouring Belarus was overthrown this week.

Some of these concerns are to do with press and diplomatic perception. During President Yeltsin's struggles with the Russian parliament last year - culminating in military confrontation in October - US commentators tended to dismiss as rhetoric the complaints of his opponents about the misery inflicted by reform.

The victory of Communists and ultra-nationalists in the December elections therefore came as more of a shock than it should. It was particularly unwelcome news for the White House because it was trumpeting the success of its Russian policy in late 1993 to divert attention from setbacks in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti.

The elections provoke a debate in Washington about policy towards Russia and the former Soviet Union which is still continuing. …