German chancellor Helmut Kohl told German television last week that he had insisted repeatedly during telephone conversations with Russian president Boris Yeltsin that Moscow had to respect human rights in Chechnya. Kohl, who said he hoped that Aleksandr Lebed would be successful in bringing peace to the Caucasus, also said that he would call Yeltsin again upon Kohl’s return to Germany from a vacation in Austria. (Reuter, August 18)
On August 15 a Christian Democratic ally of Kohl urged the German chancellor to use his close personal relationship with Yeltsin to halt human rights abuses in Chechnya. Christian Schwarz-Schilling, a former cabinet minister and now the head of parliament’s human rights committee, also recommended that the West consider suspension of financial aid to Russia if the Kremlin failed to stop civilian bloodshed in Chechnya. " I think it is necessary to make clear to the Russians in intensive talks at the diplomatic level that they cannot keep expecting further financial assistance from the West if basic human rights are trampled in this way," he said. (Reuter, August 15) Kohl, who is generally seen as Yeltsin’s closest Western ally, was also criticized in Germany during the lead-up to Russia’s presidential election for his unwillingness to deal substantively with Yeltsin’s political rivals.
A Government of Missed Opportunities?