West Gains Influence in Russia Boris Yeltsin Has Used Foreign Support to Prove That His Disbanding of Parliament Has Legitimacy

Article excerpt

IS it true, parliament deputy Oleg Rumantsyev asked an American reporter last week, that the US Congress is opposing President Clinton's decision to support Russian President Boris Yeltsin?

A few days later a call came from an acquaintance in the Urals industrial center of Chelyabinsk, an official of the regional soviet (council) there that is sympathetic to its comrades in the Russian Supreme Soviet (parliament). Has the British Parliament joined its American counterpart in opposing Mr. Yeltsin? he asked.

These rumors have been swirling around the besieged White House, the Russian parliament building, in recent days. They've spread from there out to the provinces. While these desperate tales of support from the West were being circulated, Yeltsin was bragging to the Russian people over television that more than 70 governments were backing him.

No one here would argue that Western support for Yeltsin's Sept. 21 decision to dissolve parliament and rule by decree until new elections in December has been the decisive factor in this crisis. Internal power blocs, from the Army and the KGB to the regional governments, as well as the Russian populace itself, are what ultimately will decide the victor in this struggle.

But from the first day of the crisis, Yeltsin has been able to use effectively the backing of Western governments to demonstrate to his population that his move has legitimacy in the eyes of the world. After all, the Yeltsin camp says, if the democratic governments of the West support this decision, then how can it be a step toward dictatorship, as his opponents charge.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who credited the West with trying to bloc the coup against him in August 1991, now criticizes the West for backing Yeltsin. "They simply don't understand our situation," he told the Interfax news agency. …