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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Is it Doomsday For Clinton's Russia Policy?

After the disaster which befell the U. S. Rangers in Somalia, and new worries about the American contingent to the U. N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, the Clinton administration's reputation in foreign policy is looking tattered.


President Clinton is furious about this, angrily telling his aides that he is getting enough credit by being right about the biggest issue of all - the crisis in Moscow between Boris Yeltsin and parliament and Alexander Rutskoi's attempted putsch.


Few of Clinton's advisers feel confident enough to tell him that he may be wrong. Yeltsin was clearly and hugely preferable to a successful putsch. But in the Pentagon and State Department there is growing nervousness about the kind of Russia that may now emerge from Boris Yeltsin's victory.


Three factors explain these worries. The first is the new authority of the Russian military, who can claim to have saved Yeltsin's government. A month ago, Yeltsin told his Polish hosts in Warsaw that he had no objection to Poland joining NATO. Under military pressure, Yeltsin's green light has now been switched to red, for Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary too.


Then came the second IOU from the Russian military, which landed with a thump at NATO Headquarters in Brussels last week. The Russians have called for a "readjustment" of the 1990 CFE Treaty. This treaty, which limited both NATO and Soviet conventional forces in Europe, is now said by the Russians to be too restrictive for their new responsibilities for stability in the hot spots of the former Soviet Union.


The Russians now want to increase their forces in Russia west of the Urals, and in effect want a NATO endorsement of the Russian claim upon a sphere of special influence in the old Soviet empire.


The third new element came last Friday, when the New York Times gave great prominence to a new book which suggests that the Russian military were still this year playing war games of a full-scale nuclear exchange with the United States.


Bruce Blair, a former Air Force officer and Project Director at the Office of Technology assessment in the U. S. Congress, is one of the leading civilian experts on nuclear weapons systems. "The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War", his well-documented account of the continuing threat of accidental nuclear war from computerized and automatic systems, has had significant impact.


Responding to Blair's most startling claim, veteran U. S. defense and intelligence officials from the Bush administration called for the dismantling of the former Soviet Union's "Doomsday Device", a computerized system that would automatically launch a full-scale nuclear strike against the United States and its NATO allies even after all the Soviet political and military leadership had been wiped out.


"It is time to relax the combative stands of the arsenals on both sides", says Blair. "New policy guidance should de-emphasize the importance of nuclear weapons, and strengthen safeguards on weapons".


Clinton would probably like to concur, having been dismayed by the return of nuclear politics in the troubled relations between Russia and Ukraine, and by China's decision last week to resume nuclear testing. The world is not looking quite as safe and predictable as he hoped when he planned to spend his presidency concentrating on his agenda of domestic reform.