As Yeltsin Travels, Critics Demand Foreign Policy Review

Article excerpt

RUSSIA'S open foreign policy will be put to the test during a two-day Central European tour by President Boris Yeltsin.

Mr. Yeltsin was scheduled to travel to Warsaw today for talks with Polish officials, including President Lech Walesa. He then plans to visit Slovakia and the Czech Republic before returning to Moscow.

Polish, Slovak, and Czech officials hope Yeltsin's visit will stabilize relations among the former Socialist Bloc nations, giving a boost to sagging trade ties. But with Russia's domestic political turmoil apparently spilling over into the foreign policy realm, Yeltsin may be unable to deliver the stability that the Central European nations desire.

Of late, Yeltsin's political opponents have been increasing pressure on his administration to reassess Russia's post-Soviet foreign policy, which has emphasized close cooperation with the West. The nationalist-dominated opposition characterizes that policy as betraying Russia's best interests and has advocated tougher stances on many international issues.

Recent statements and actions by government officials have sent mixed signals regarding Russia's future foreign policy, a possible indication that Yeltsin's ability to maintain the present course may be weakening in the face of growing opposition.

Over the weekend, for example, Moscow suspended the withdrawal of Russian troops stationed in the Baltic republic of Lithuania. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement condemned "continual threats in Lithuania against Russian servicemen," and promised a quick response if the perceived harassment continued. Russia sets its own terms

The troop withdrawal, agreed upon after Lithuania gained independence in 1991, was to have been completed Aug. 31. Of the 30,000-strong Russian force to be withdrawn, about 2,500 are still in Lithuania.

The Russian statement said all troops would eventually leave Lithuania, "but under terms that suit the Russian Federation. …