German Chancellor Helmut Kohl concluded his visit to Moscow yesterday in much the same way as he had begun it: with kind words for Russian president Boris Yeltsin that were interpreted in Russia and in Germany — not in all cases with equanimity — as an endorsement for the Russian president in his re-election bid. Kohl, who speaks frequently with Yeltsin by phone and who last visited Moscow only five months ago, told German television yesterday that a presidential victory by Communist Gennady Zyuganov would cause Bonn many more problems that a victory by Yeltsin, "a proven friend of Germany." During a Moscow news conference he also said that he favored continuing aid to Russia and described proposals to the contrary as "stupid." He was quoted as saying, "If we do not help [Russia], developments will certainly take a turn for the worse."
But representatives of rival political parties in Germany were disturbed by Kohl’s embrace of Yeltsin to the exclusion of other presidential candidates. One warned that it "could have severe consequences for German-Russian ties…the Chancellor is playing Russian roulette." A conservative German daily commented that it "remains to be seen whether such partisanship, supported in Washington and Paris as well…will in the end help the master of the Kremlin." Some in Germany also speculated as to whether Kohl had abandoned his support for the integration of eastern Europe into NATO, a charge that he vehemently denied during his German television interview. (2)
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