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Russian election could signal shift in new world order

June 14, 1996
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EDT (2250 GMT)

From World Affairs Correspondent Ralph Begleiter

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Regardless who is elected Russia's next president, the election is sure to have an effect worldwide on politics in virtually every corner of the Earth.

The prospect of a Communist resurgence has Western leaders wondering how Russia's presidential election might affect world politics.

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Could the old Soviet nuclear arsenal be aimed once again at the West? Will Russia re-supply Syria's army? Will India acquire more Russian missile technology? And will Russia and China combine against U.S. interests in Asia?

"Russia is a serious and important country," said British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. "It's a proud country. But it is also a powerful country, and that is something we should never loose sight of." (170K AIFF or WAV sound)

"We need not to be afraid of Russians, but we need to be very careful of them," said Markku Salomaa, a Finnish analyst.

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Boris Yeltsin's ties to the West have moderated the Kremlin's old habits of politically opposing almost everything the West did.

"They do know that they need Western loans, that they need American cooperation in rescheduling their debt and they desperately need foreign investment. To have confrontation at this juncture would be very, very silly on their part," said Dimitri Simes, an analyst for the Nixon Center.

Western analysts worry about what might happen if Yeltsin's principal opponent, Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov, breaks some of those international ties.

"Without that tie, Russia has little incentive to cooperate with the West, and could define its interests in ways which could be destructive," said John Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to Russia

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The winner of the Russian election will face decisions about how to deal with or confront NATO's expansion into territory once under the Kremlin's influence.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said, "We don't want Russia isolated, and we'll do our best not to see them isolated. But it is not our responsibility. It is their responsibility." (136K AIFF or WAV sound)

No matter who wins the Russian elections, the West needs Russia's cooperation on the international scene.

After all, Russia still holds a veto at the United Nations. It's a veto power that could have -- but did not -- block peacekeeping operations in Bosnia or peace talks between Arabs and Israelis, or the war against Saddam Hussein.

"If there is trouble in the future in the Middle East, we need at least a Russia which allows Western countries to do what is necessary," said Dutch Defense Minister Joris Voorheuve.

Western analysts say both Russia and China now have strong enough ties to the United States, including trade and investment ties, to prevent either of them from colluding against the United States in Asia.

What happens in the Russian election will affect worldwide security because Russia is, still, a nuclear power.

And Russia's path toward democracy, however rocky, is being watched by many other countries in Asia and Africa which could find themselves making the trip in coming years.



For background information, links and stories, visit the Russia Elections main page.

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Pivotal Elections: Russia

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