Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Clinton Should Aid Embattled Boris

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Clinton Should Aid Embattled Boris

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton has been criticized on a number of issues since taking office, but one of the least valid complaints is that which has come from some quarters for his support of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Erratic and tempestuous though Mr. Yeltsin may be, his has been a voice for reform and progress in Russia. He is locked in contest with a Congress that would block that movement. Its neanderthal right-wing perhaps may not be able to return Russia to discredited communism, but it might take it back to the dark ages of dictatorship.

A United States president cannot remain neutral in such a confrontation; he must throw his influence and prestige on the side of forces that would nudge Russia in the direction of democracy.

He must do this because it is right. Russians deserve liberty no less than any other people.

A US president must also do this in American self-interest. Russia in quest of prosperity and freedom is far less threatening to the US than Russia narrow and xenophobic.

The critics offer several arguments against bolstering Yeltsin.

One is that American influence is limited. This is true. The Russian people must determine the future of Russia. The US cannot by itself ease Russia's economic woes or force democracy to bloom. But it can encourage and stimulate constructive action; it can come through with some economic aid, persuade others to do the same, and help reschedule Russia's debt.

By summitry in Vancouver, Mr. Clinton can contribute to Yeltsin's international prestige. That costs the United States nothing, but it translates into valuable political capital at home for Yeltsin.

While American influence may be limited, that is no excuse for not using it as effectively as possible.

Another argument leveled against embracing Yeltsin is that he may go off the rails and take some undemocratic action, such as declaring a state of emergency and neutralizing his political opponents. …

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