Clinton Says Russia Must Not Return to Communism: Sees New Nuclear Threat If Reform Fails

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President Clinton warned before departing for Moscow yesterday that a return to communism will not solve Russia's deepening economic and political crises.

"The reason I'm going to Russia is because we have learned the hard way that problems that develop beyond our borders sooner or later find their way to our doorstep unless we help our friends and our neighbors to deal with them as quickly and promptly as possible," Mr. Clinton said at an education event at Herndon Elementary School.

Russia's economic crisis could lead to weapons from its nuclear stockpile falling into the hands of terrorists, he said.

Mr. Clinton arrived early today in Moscow, where parliament yesterday rejected President Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, as the country floundered in an economic crisis that has shaken the Western securities markets.

The vote of 253-94 in the 450-seat Duma, the main house of parliament, meant Mr. Chernomyrdin would have to come to terms with the Communist Party, the largest faction with 134 seats, if he hopes to become prime minister.

"The Russian people are to be commended for embracing democracy and getting rid of the old communist system," Mr. Clinton said just hours before Air Force One lifted off from Andrews Air Force Base at 3:10 p.m. "But they're having some troubles today making the transition from communism to a free-market economy and from communism to a democratic society that has supports for people who are in trouble.

"What I want to do is to go there and tell them that the easy thing to do is not the right thing to do," the president said. "The easy thing to do would be to try to go back to the way they did it before, and it's not possible."

Mr. Clinton said that if Russians "will stay on the path of reform to stabilize their society and to strengthen their economy and to get growth back, then I believe America and the rest of the Western nations with strong economies should help them.

"At a time when India and Pakistan have tested nuclear weapons, we need to be moving the world away from nuclear war, not toward it," Mr. Clinton said. "We have to have the cooperation and the partnership with Russia to do that.

"We don't want terrorists to get a hold of weapons of mass destruction," the president continued. "A weakened Russia, a weakened Russian economy would put enormous pressure on people who have those technologies and understandings to sell them. We don't want that to happen. We know we need Russia's partnership to solve problems in that part of the world."

Mr. Clinton praised Russia for helping end the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He said the United States needs Russia's continued cooperation to resolve similar strife in the Kosovo region of Serbia. …