Yeltsin Criticizes U.S. Over Iraqi, Yugoslav Crises

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Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin criticized the United States on Monday for “dictating its terms” in the Iraqi and Yugoslav crises and said he hopes the Clinton Administration will be more conciliatory.

Though brief and mildly worded, it was the Russian leader’s first public rebuke of American policy in either situation. It reflected growing pressure from hard-line Russian officials and lawmakers angered by Moscow’s abandonment of both longtime Soviet allies.

Although Russia has joined in supporting military pressure on Iraq and diplomatic and economic isolation of Serbia, it is retreating on both fronts. Yeltsin emphasized that Moscow has followed decisions made by the United Nations, rather than by Washington, and that Russia’s U.N. delegates have clashed with their American counterparts.


“We have had differences of opinion . . . with the United States” over the Yugoslav dilemma, Yeltsin told reporters, adding: “We think that there needs to be political dialogue with Iraq. It seems to me (President) Clinton is more inclined to carry out just that sort of policy.”

Yeltsin met Indian and Russian journalists on the eve of a three-day visit to India to speak mostly about Russian-Indian relations. But his statements on the Iraqi and Yugoslav cases signaled the approach to post-Cold War diplomacy that he will take to his promised summit with Clinton early this year.

The statement responded to a reporter for the Russian-controlled Ostankino television network, who asked Yeltsin to comment on the view that the United States “is claiming the role of regulator” in international conflicts. “In Yugoslavia, in Iraq, the United States has a certain tendency of somehow dictating its terms,” Yeltsin said.

Then he implicitly challenged the notion of the United States as the world’s lone superpower, recalling that he and then-President George Bush just three weeks ago signed a treaty here to slash Russian and American nuclear arsenals.

“Everything used to be measured in terms of the number of nuclear warheads, how big a country was or how small it was,” Yeltsin said. “At present, when two-thirds of the nuclear warheads will be destroyed, the criteria will be entirely different. No one country will have to dictate how this or that region of the world should proceed.”

Yeltsin’s foreign policy is under such forceful attack at home, allegedly for being too pro-Western, that he described his India trip as part of an effort to balance Russia’s interests as a “Euro-Asian state.” He also visited South Korea and China late last year.


Extremist groups in Russia have sent volunteers to fight for the Serbs against rival Croats in the Balkans and to assist Iraq.