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International Support for Yeltsin Urged : Diplomacy: U.S. moves to encourage Russian reforms in pushing for economic assistance.

September 23, 1993|DOYLE McMANUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Clinton Administration said Wednesday that it is moving "full speed ahead" on a campaign of diplomatic and economic support for Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin in the aftermath of his decision to dissolve the Russian Parliament and call new elections.

U.S. officials said they hope to marshal international support to bolster Yeltsin's power, encourage him to continue economic and political reforms and improve the chances that reformers will win in the Dec. 11 parliamentary election he called.

"I still think the United States has to be on the side of reform and democracy in Russia, and President Yeltsin represents that," President Clinton told reporters at the White House.

Senior officials said they have been encouraging other major countries to send similar signals of support to Moscow--and to reaffirm their promises of economic aid to Yeltsin.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher urged Congress to approve an Administration request for $2.5 billion of new U.S. aid to the former Soviet Union, and members of the Senate said they will probably pass the bill today.

"The fact that the Senate will pass the bill two days after Yeltsin's order will be the best signal we could give," a senior official said.

The Administration will also urge the International Monetary Fund to release a $1.5-billion loan to Russia as soon as economic reforms are implemented, a Treasury official said. The IMF was holding up the loan because the Russian Parliament was blocking some of Yeltsin's proposed reforms.

Christopher talked with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev by telephone Wednesday afternoon and told him, "We want to be there for you when you need us," an aide said.

The Administration's immediate goal is to demonstrate massive international support for Yeltsin, in hope of discouraging hard-liners in Russia's government and armed forces from actively opposing his decrees.

Then, officials said, they hope U.S. and Western economic aid can help strengthen Russia's reformers in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 11 parliamentary election that Yeltsin has called--without intervening overtly in the electoral process.

"I don't believe there's going to be an instance where we're directly intervening in the campaign to make a difference, but the money's going to be out there and it's going to be at work," one senior official said.

"There will be no delay in American economic assistance to Russia. In fact, I think there'll be a quickening," he said.

Another official recalled Clinton's efforts last spring to drum up billions of dollars in Western promises of aid--just before an April 25 referendum on Yeltsin's reforms, which Yeltsin won.

"We want our assistance program to help the reformers . . . but we won't be assisting individual candidates," he said.

U.S. officials are working to increase the publicity that American aid efforts receive in Russia, to promote economic reform in general and closer U.S.-Russian ties, he said.

The Administration may also seek a joint statement of continued economic support from the Group of Seven industrialized powers--the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada--when their representatives meet in Washington this weekend, officials said.

Officials said they were increasingly confident that Yeltsin has succeeded in cementing his hold on power in Moscow.

"The situation on the ground in Russia . . . is consolidating and stabilized in a way that we find generally quite encouraging," said a senior official who spent much of the last 24 hours scanning U.S. intelligence reports from Russia.

"Obviously, we are watching very carefully--through all means available to us--for any sign of what you might call abnormal or disturbing military activity, and for all intents and purposes, we have seen none," he said. "There are a lot of dogs that are not barking in this drama."

Asked whether the Administration had any doubts about Yeltsin's chance of succeeding, the official replied: "We're not in the business of backing losers."

As for Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi and other hard-liners who are claiming power, U.S. officials were dismissive.

"We're beginning to sense that there's a snicker factor there," one Clinton aide said. "Not only are the orders (given by the hard-liners) not being followed, but apparently they're the object of some ridicule."

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