Courtesy Reuters

Russia and Eastern Europe: Will the West Let Them Fail?

A Call for U.S. Leadership

EVENTS during the past year in Russia and eastern Europe made clear that the West is not yet prepared to lead the way into a substantially new international system. Distracted by recession, domestic preoccupations and the U.S. election, the West made little headway in redefining its vision and priorities for a world changed by the collapse of Soviet power and its ideology. Western unpreparedness was highlighted by the muted response to the civil war in Yugoslavia and to the urgent need for economic assistance in Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.).

The recent revolutionary events in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union caused first euphoria and then despondency among people there and in the West. While 1992 brought some improvement to the economies of east-central Europe, it also saw a marked increase in nationalism and violence. And in Russia conservative forces gained considerable ground in the continuing struggle over the nature and direction of that country's future.

As a result of these factors, President Clinton faces historic challenges in dealing with Russia and eastern Europe. After 45 years of a successful foreign policy based first on the containment, and then on the defeat, of communism the United States has strong moral as well as practical reasons to provide leadership in bolstering democracy and creating a market economy in Russia and eastern Europe. It has clear geo-strategic interests that alone should motivate a more urgent response. Key among them is the daunting problem of dealing with nuclear weapons in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan before the inevitable hardening in Russian domestic politics makes that task more difficult, if not impossible.

Although the signing of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in January 1993 was heartening, many obstacles remain to realizing the treaty's goal of reducing U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals to one-third of their present levels. The most pressing is the uncertain chances of the treaty being ratified by an

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