Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Rethinks Russia Policy Following Yeltsin Victory

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Rethinks Russia Policy Following Yeltsin Victory

Article excerpt

IN Washington, Boris Yeltsin's crushing victory over hard-line parliamentary foes is being received with relief - and a sense of unease about Russia's future.

Officials worry that President Yeltsin's use of tank fire against civilians could carry an unavoidable taint, whatever the provocation.

At the same time the road for democratic and market reforms is by no means clear, while power increasingly flows away from chaotic Moscow toward the hinterlands.

The Clinton administration's staunch support during the crisis of recent days has aligned United States policy more closely to Yeltsin than ever. US officials hope that support will help keep Yeltsin clearly on the reform track.

"The thing now is to focus on ... not only a restoration of order, but a reaffirmation of the Russian government's commitment to get on with the process of democratization and to resolve the political differences that clearly exist in the country," said Strobe Talbott, ambassador at large and adviser to the secretary of state for New Independent States, at a briefing for reporters.

Some critics complain that US policy towards the ex-Soviet Union has become too personalized.

Ironically, they point out, that's just the charge candidate Clinton made against President Bush's policy of support for Mikhail Gorbachev.

While in the crisis, the US had to stand behind its ally. Now is the time to reach out to other power centers, they say. Yeltsin would have found it much more difficult to move against his foes without the backing he received from such key regions as the Kuznetsk coal basin and Siberian oil fields, where workers stayed on the job throughout the crisis despite threats to strike.

"We need to deal more with new power centers in the regions," says Zalmay Khalilzad, a RAND analyst and former top Defense Department official in the Bush administration.

At the same time, the US may have to deal with a Russian military whose political power is increasing. Top generals ordered tanks to fire on their own people in Moscow. Their payment could be a turn toward nationalism in foreign policy, US analysts worry.

Such nationalism was also a part of the appeal hard-line parliamentary leaders had for key segments of their constituency, including ex-communists and the economically disadvantaged. …

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