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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nixon gives Russia vote of confidence

Former U. S. President Richard Nixon played the role of one-man champion of Russia's reform process this week, pressing the flesh with leaders and the masses in advance of this month's U. S. -Russian summit in Washington D. C.

"What happens here affects the rest of the world", Nixon said earlier this week. "If there is retrogression here, there will be in other oarts of the world. But if it succeeds here, the impact will be felt even in China".

Nixon, the architect of Soviet-U. S. detente during the '70s, was officially visiting Russia and Ukraine as honorary chairman of the Fund for Democracy and Development, an American nonprofit organization designed last October specifically to assist the Commonwealt.

"I have a reputation of being a strong anticommunist, but I have never been anti-Russian", he said earlier in the week. "I will continue to support the reform process".

The 79-year-old former president's political career ended with his 1974 resignation after Watergate.

Nixon, though, returned to the limelight this winter after blasting the Bush administration for not responding swiftly or forcefully enough to Russia's plea for assistance from the West.

But on this visit, Nixon made clear that a Marshall Plan government-to-government assistance program is not enough to rebuild Russia. To move forward, he said, the country must rely on itself by creating conditions ripe for private investment.

"Some government assistance will come, but it will be limited", he said. "The great opportunity is from the huge American private sector. But American businessmen are not philanthropists".

During his whistle-stop tour of Moscow, Nixon lavished praise on Yeltsin for his "courageous" show of leadership. He also applauded the character of the Russian people.

"The people here are strong and hardworking", he told reporters at Moscow's Tsentralny Rynok Wednesday, after perusing the aisles for an hour. "What impressed me is that the few people I talked to did not seem to be discouraged", he said. "I would have expected them to be far more depressed and pessimistic".

Nixon, who first visited the Soviet Union in 1959 and has been here seven times since, said the market was much better stocked than in March 1991.

"The good news is there is more-available", he said. "The bad news is the prices are higher".

The former president did not comment on the lack of customers purchasing goods.

Speaking this week to a meeting of Russian people's deputies, Nixon offered his assessment of Russians transition to a free-market economy.

"In view of the immensity of the task, it will be a miracle if it works", he said. "But then who would have thought that a country with a Communist government would have a peaceful revolution and adopt a free government? "