Clinton Tries to Support Yeltsin, Urges Commitment to Democracy

Article excerpt

WHILE it watches the political upheaval in Russia from the sidelines, Washington is trying to back both the concept of democracy and Boris Yeltsin at the same time.

This is a difficult task, given the complex nature of the situation. But Clinton officials are belatedly trying to avoid what they see as a mistake made by the Bush administration. President Bush, they feel, clung too long to his friend Mikhail Gorbachev, even after it became clear that the moment had passed for Mr. Gorbachev and the unitary Soviet state he represented.

At the same time there is deep sympathy in Washington for the embattled President Yeltsin. Officials feel he is more dedicated to real economic change than his parliamentary foes, who were elected before the Soviet Union had dissolved.

"I support democracy in Russia and the movement to a market economy, and Boris Yeltsin is the elected president of Russia. He represents that reform," President Clinton said in brief remarks on the subject March 12.

Mr. Clinton then appeared to try to downplay the seriousness of the Russian struggle, or at least not portray it as a simple confrontation between good and evil.

"They're having a parliamentary dispute over there which, as far as I can see, is within the bounds of legal authority, and I hope whatever is done in Russia is consistent with that," he said.

IN recent days the Clinton White House has taken several new steps to try to help Yeltsin. Early last week, Clinton urged faster movement on an international aid package for Moscow. …