NEW YORK — Former President Richard Nixon has criticized President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III for their policy toward Russia's democratic revolution, saying one of the century's historic opportunities is being missed, according to published reports.
"The stakes are high, and we are playing as if it were a penny-ante game," Nixon said in a memorandum circulated among friends and foreign affairs experts, the New York Times reported in today's edition.
The former president argues passionately in the memo that if President Boris N. Yeltsin fails in his effort to transform Russia into a free-market democracy, everything that has been gained in the peaceful revolution there in 1991 would be lost.
That would weaken democratic forces and embolden dictators from China to Eastern Europe and from the Middle East to Korea, Nixon says in the memo.
"What has the United States and the West done so far to help Russia's first democratic, free-market oriented, non-expansionist government?" he asks.
He listed farm credits, the humanitarian airlift, a "photo-opportunity international conference" and 200 Peace Corps volunteers, which Nixon said was "mere tokenism . . . (to) a nation of almost 200 million people covering one-seventh of the world's landmass."
"This is a pathetically inadequate response in light of the opportunities and dangers we face in the crisis in the former Soviet Union."
Nixon argued that the United States and its Western allies should provide much larger amounts of humanitarian aid, reschedule debts owed by the former Soviet Union until the new market economy begins to function and create a multibillion-dollar fund to help stabilize the Russian ruble as soon as Russia gets control of its money supply.
Nixon's criticisms come at a time when Bush has paid less attention to foreign policy as he concentrates on his reelection campaign.