Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yeltsin Speech: The Answer to Russian Woes Is Strong State

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yeltsin Speech: The Answer to Russian Woes Is Strong State

Article excerpt

IN a reach back to powerful traditions in Russian history, Boris Yeltsin told the combined houses of the parliament yesterday that a strong Russia can only come from a strong Russian state.

Despite occasional references to "reform," the Russian leader left little doubt that the era of free market liberalism associated with the young reformers who entered the scene two years ago is over.

"As long as we have a weak state," Mr. Yeltsin said in his address, "there will be no order and stability in the country."

Such talk was calculated to please the parliament, particularly the lower house, or State Duma, where Communists, nationalists, and moderate reformers hold sway. Yeltsin avoided responding directly to the Duma decision the day before to give amnesty to the plotters of the 1991 hard-line Communist coup and the militant defenders of the old parliament, who were jailed after the battles of last October.

The tone of Yeltsin's address was most assertive when he turned to foreign policy. Russia's passivity in defending its interests would end, Yeltsin pledged, citing the Russian initiative in Bosnia-Herzegovina as an example of what was to come.

"Russia is not a guest in Europe, but a full participant in the European community, with an interest in its well-being," he said. Yeltsin spoke little of friendship with former foes such as the United States, referring instead to the need for "equality." Yeltsin warned against any expansion of the NATO alliance to the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union without Russia's approval.

Yeltsin also made it clear that the down-sizing of Russia's military is coming to a halt. "We will put an end to the practice of unilateral concessions," he said sharply.

Asserting Russian preeminence among the independent nations of the former Soviet Union, Yeltsin called for further steps to reintegrate those nations into a common economic and security system. "The euphoria of free sailing in the stormy sea of independence is over," he said.

At the same time, Yeltsin pledged to defend the 25 million Russians living in the former Soviet states. …

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