- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2000

Anti-war fever

Denouncing the Russian war in Chechnya as genocide, prominent American foreign policy experts led by Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Zbigniew Brzezinski are urging the Clinton administration to pressure Moscow into ending the slaughter.

They are calling on President Clinton to block further loans by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to expel Russia from meetings with the seven leading industrialized nations, to support a U.N. human rights envoy to investigate the war in Chechnya and to call on Russia to allow humanitarian relief into the war zone.

"There is no excuse for inaction," said Mr. Haig and Mr. Brzezinski in a statement announcing the formation of the American Committee for Chechnya.

Mr. Haig, secretary of state under President Reagan, and Mr. Brzezinski, national security advisor under President Carter, are joined by Max M. Kampelman, Mr. Reagan's chief arms negotiator, as joint chairmen of the group.

"We are American citizens of diverse and independent views who have come together in opposition to the brutal war that Russia is currently waging against the people of Chechnya," they said in their "Founding Declaration."

"The ruthless bombardment and killing of civilians, the leveling of cities and the destruction of villages, the attacks on refugee convoys, the blocking of food aid and the denial of access to humanitarian relief organizations and human rights witnesses all belie Russian propaganda that this is a war against terrorism. It is nothing of the kind."

They quoted Yelena Bonner, widow of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, as calling the war "genocide" in testimony before the U.S. Senate in November.

The Russian Embassy expressed disappointment that the group "preferred to rush" to judgment and ignore the wider unrest in the region. Press spokesman Mikhail Shurgalin said the war was an outgrowth of rebel violence in neighboring Dagestan last year.

"It is a pity that such a large group of former U.S. officials and present-day public figures did not find time or take the effort to better acquaint themselves with the facts about the Russian government policies in the Northern Caucasus and preferred to rush to the wrong conclusion," Mr. Shurgalin said.

The group also criticized acting President Vladimir Putin for "diverting scarce resources" on the war and failing to deal with domestic civilian problems.

"The war fever generated by the government may enable [Mr.] Putin to win the March 26 [presidential] election, but for the Russian people this war is a dead end."

The committee also includes Morton Abramowitz, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Richard V. Allen and Robert C. McFarlane, former Reagan national security advisers; Paula Dobriansky, director of the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations; Thomas R. Donahue, former president of the AFL-CIO; Caspar Weinberger, defense secretary under Mr. Reagan; and James Woolsey, Mr. Clinton's first CIA director.

Putin's challenge

The major economic challenges facing Russia's acting president are reversing capital flight, eliminating official corruption and restructuring Russia's industry, a former Russian prime minister said this week in Washington.

Sergei Kiriyenko, now a member of the Russian parliament, told the U.S.-Russia Business Council that Mr. Putin is certain to win Sunday's election and will have to deal with a new generation of Russians.

"It has been almost 10 years since the emergence of an independent Russia," Mr. Kiriyenko said.

"A whole new generation of Russians, who were raised under market conditions and view free speech and freedom of the press as a basic value and not a revolutionary concept, are now entering both business and politics and are demanding change. Mr. Putin must involve this new generation in the reform process."

Mr. Kiriyenko, leader of the reformist party Union of Right Forces, has endorsed Mr. Putin and believes his election will begin an era of "democratic and market reform."

Mr. Kiriyenko served from March to August 1998, when Mr. Yeltsin sacked him during a financial crisis.

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