Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Promise of Peace, or Just Hot Air?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Promise of Peace, or Just Hot Air?

Article excerpt

Now we know why Vice President Al Gore was suddenly detoured to Budapest last month, ostensibly to attend a funeral. He met secretly with Leonid Kravchuk, the Ukrainian president, to set up the most important function for President Bill Clinton's debut on the European scene: to act as catalyst in moving Ukraine's nuclear missiles back to Russia to be dismantled.

American tax dollars cannot be better invested than in such disarmament. Although the "re-aiming" of missiles away from cities was meaningless flackery, the tripartite agreement signed by Boris Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Clinton was a triumph of good sense and skillful American diplomacy. The ballyhoo of summitry shored up the Ukrainian leader in persuading parliamentarians - who could still queer the deal - to trust Russia.

The worrisome part of the agreement is the hint that some private "security guarantee" was given Ukraine, perhaps by Clinton. If hostilities break out between these two glowering neighbors, the American president cannot then surprise us with anything like, "Oh, I forgot to tell you - if Moscow nukes Kiev, I promised massive retaliation."

Should Clinton ever again face press and public in a prime-time East Room press conference, he must be prepared to say what commitments, if any, he has made to close this worthy deal.

In the cause of reducing global nuclear risk, prospective intelligence aid to Ukrainian defense may well be defensible. But the days of Rooseveltian secret agreements are gone; for our word to be our bond, we require Wilsonian "open covenants."

The question is not "How'd Clinton do?" The disarmament brokerage, aided by the promise and deadline of a summit, made the trip worthwhile. Although Yeltsin's promise to continue economic reform rang hollow when he fired his leading reformer after waving goodbye to the Americans, world aid is properly tied to ending the inflation Moscow causes by foolishly subsidizing communist-era plants.

The question is rather: "What can we do to deal with the debilitation of NATO?" Clinton thinks of Bosnia as a sad sideshow, but it has become the West's main event. On the eve of his departure for Europe, he admitted to pundits that the lifting of the arms embargo - the dirty U. …

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