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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It's No Time For Lebed To Cry Wolf

Alexander Lebed, apparently intent on squandering whatever credibility he has left over from the peace deal he struck to end the war in Chechnya, has spent the past few days flogging an amazing story about alleged missing nuclear bombs.

Nuclear security is a serious issue. But Lebed is not acting like a credible politician in sticking with dubious accusations aired on the U.S. television news magazine "60 Minutes." If he keeps it up, he will have to abandon any right he still has to be seen as a serious person, in the West or in Russia.

Briefly, Lebed's accusation is this: He says the Russian government cannot account for 100 suitcase-size nuclear devices, the existence of which he says he first discovered during his brief tenure as Security Council chief in 1996.

A skeptical observer would note the following: First, Lebed's information is at least one year old; second, he hasn't provided any documentary evidence or corroborating witnesses; third, not only the Russian government, but official and unofficial Western sources say they don't know what Lebed is talking about.

The bottom line, thus, is that Lebed hasn't provided the facts to back up his accusations. He seems more like Chicken Little or the boy who cried wolf than a solid politician.

It's worth stopping to remember a different Alexander Lebed, the man who a little more than a year ago negotiated the Khavasyurt agreement that brought the brutal 21-month war in Chechnya to an end. The agreement was achieved by facing reality. Russia could not win the war and needed to find a peaceful solution despite the rantings of the Kremlin hawks. Lebed faced unpleasant facts and took the tough, rational course in the face of hysterical criticism, much like the irresponsible stuff he's now dumping on the government.

It's obvious that Lebed, having done the dirty work and then been booted by the Kremlin, wants to stay in the public eye and preserve his chances for a run for the presidency in 2000.

He's had several opportunities to find a vehicle to do so. The first was in 1995, when he was deputy chairman of the Union of Russian Communities party. The union ran a lackluster campaign in the parliamentary elections and failed to get the 5 percent of the vote that would have established it in the State Duma. Lebed is now putting together another platform, the People's Republican Party of Russia. But it apparently doesn't keep him busy or prominent enough, either.

He's had his chances to build a launching pad for 2000, and so far they haven't worked out to his satisfaction. Playing Chicken Little about nuclear security isn't much of a substitute.