hariette spierings hariette at
Tue May 21 08:51:13 MDT 1996

>     Unfortunately, there may be a clash between what's good for
>Russians and what's good for efforts to control excessive US
>military spending when it comes to the Russian election, at least in
>the near term. Those of us concerned to further adapt US military
>policy to the post-Cold War world would like for there
>to be minimal flack coming from the direction of Russia. We worry
>about the backlash if a Communist is elected president of Russia.
>We anticipate, probably correctly, that the Republicans, the Defense
>Department, and self-protective Democrats will rush to increase
>military spending to stave off the dangerous new Russia. Thus, however
>reluctantly, many liberal activists join the Yeltsin as "lesser evil"
>camp and hope that Yeltsin will win the election and thus there will
>be minimal rightwing backlash.
>        My view is that President Yeltsin has departed so far from his
>early promise, culminating in the invasion of Chechnya, that it would
>be best for Russia to move to a new president, even if that president
>is Zyuganov. My criticism of Yeltsin is partially related to his
>personality (an alcoholic authoritarian) and partly his policies
>(excessively under the spell of Western advice about rapid,
>destructive economic "reforms"). The consequence of these two factors
>has been the continual erosion of fledgling democratic institutions
>and a new, more open political culture.
>        Russia needs compromise politics. It may very well need
>FDR style public spending to stem the Great Russian Depression.
>It may need a tough anti-corruption campaign, focused on many of
>Yeltsin's cronies.
>        Excessive US meddling in Russian domestic affairs has and will
>produce an escalating backlash that should come as no surprise. The
>most likely consequence of the relentless pressure on Russia to do
>what outsiders prefer will be to create an even greater erosion of
>economic and political life, leading ultimately to a military coup.
>This would be the classic "unintended consequences" of the ostensible
>US policy which is to support democracy and economic development in
>Russia. This phenomenon is well known in the history of US foreign
>policy. It usually comes from the ignorance and arrogance of US policy
>makers (and their colleagues).
>        It is true that the Russian military is in catastrophic shape
>and poses no threat to most of its neighbors. Thus, some would argue,
>it does not really matter from the security point of view who is
>president of Russia. I agree that the Russian military has fallen on
>very hard times but there is still enough tinder there to feed the
>worst-case compulsions of Washington national security bureaucrats and
>interested politicians. It is useful to point out the problem of the
>Russian military and their
>preoccupation with problems at home but I don't think this analysis
>will succeed in carrying the day against alarmist fears.
>        It may be necessary to confront head on the benefits that flow
>to Russia, and ultimately to the West and the United States, from a
>post-Yeltsin political era, even if Communists (and former Communists)
>play a significant role in Russian politics. We, and the Russians,
>need to back away from confrontational, apocalyptic versions of Russia
>future. The narrow perspective that only sees Yeltsin and his
>"red/fascist" foes is imposing an unnecessary
>straight-jacket on what is possible.
>        Although US policy makers, and most analysts, argue that the
>United States has not sought to deliberately weaken Russia over the
>past four years, actions speak louder than words. And the preference
>for a weak Russia is starting to be more frankly expressed. But there
>are real national security dangers for everyone concerned by continued
>weakening of Russia. It is not up to foreigners to solve Russia's
>enormous problems but foreigners should step back from the habitual
>policy of external pressures (primarily economic) and ideologically
>motivated advice. I have some hope that Russians themselves
>are capable of generating their own novel solutions.
>David Johnson
>Center for Defense Information
>djohnson at
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