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Yeltsin Presses for More Western Aid during Visit France

By William Drozdiak
The Washington Post


Russian President Boris Yeltsin bluntly warned the international community Thursday that unless foreign assistance is stepped up dramatically, a new dictatorship may arise to crush his country's fragile experiment with democracy and free-market economics.

Yeltsin said the delayed arrival of substantial aid from abroad is becoming politically dangerous and could eventually trigger a resurgence of totalitarian rule, from either the left or the right.

"I have faith in these reforms and I believe they are irreversible," he said during a city hall reception on the second day of a three-day visit. "But if they fail, I can already feel the breath of the red shirts and brownshirts on our necks." His reference was to the red emblem of communism and the Nazi brownshirts, or storm troopers.

The Russian leader said the next three months will prove critical in determining whether his country escapes the threat of an authoritarian relapse. He declared that the West must realize that "if Russia fails in its reforms, especially of the economy, a dictator will appear. That's why the international community must contribute to a solution."

Western aid deliveries have stalled because of transportation problems, inadequate distribution networks in the former Soviet republics and alleged siphoning of some supplies to the black market.

Under one of several cooperation agreements signed Thursday by French and Russian officials, France will provide about $300 million in credit for future grain purchases. Prime Minister Edith Cresson also said France will extend a similar line of credit to permit Russia to buy French industrial goods.

At a meeting with French businessmen, Yeltsin chided the company leaders for failing to invest in his country. "Perhaps you can save a franc today," he said, "but if the Cold War returns, you will end up paying a thousand times more."

He acknowledged that it could take up to five months to stabilize Russian prices after the country's recent moves toward a free-market system, and he added that several years may be needed "to create a really stable economy." But he insisted that despite the difficulties, "we won't retreat."

During talks with French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, Yeltsin vowed to go further in reducing Russia's nuclear arsenal than is called for under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed by U.S. and Soviet officials last year. "We are ready to cut the number of nuclear warheads nearly six times, from 12,000 to 2,500, which I consider a minimum defense to deter terrorists and irresponsible leaders," he said.

He expressed hope that as Russia and the United States reduce their nuclear arsenals, France will "in turn abstain from increasing its nuclear armament." The French government has repeatedly declared that it will not match the drawdown in nuclear arms because its nuclear force is much smaller than that of the two larger powers.

During a final meeting Friday with French President Francois Mitterrand, Yeltsin is expected to sign what will be his newly independent country's first peace and friendship treaty with a Western power.