Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 115

Yeltsin’s narrow victory in the June 16 vote was greeted with cautious optimism and some relief in the U.S. and Western Europe, while Eastern European leaders, mindful still of the potential for a Communist victory in July, kept their responses more neutral. In Washington, U.S. president Bill Clinton and top administration officials were said to be pleased by Yeltsin’s narrow victory over his Communist opposition and quietly confident that the Russian incumbent would win the upcoming run-off election. Clinton applauded the Russian vote as "free and fair" and a significant break with a thousand years of Russian history. He congratulated Boris Yeltsin both for his "strong showing" and for "supporting the constitution and the elective process." The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Thomas Pickering, said that the vote totals had not surprised Washington and that he personally believed Yeltsin would defeat Zyuganov in the run-off election. Presumed Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole said that the "forces of democracy had prevailed" in Russia, albeit narrowly, and that Yeltsin should feel "pretty good about it." (UPI, Reuter, June 17; The New York Times, June 18)

In Paris, a Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed French hopes that "Russia stay on the road… to a market economy and democracy," while European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Rome, were reportedly relieved to learn of Yeltsin’s victory. But diplomats in Western and Eastern Europe were said to be concerned that Yeltsin’s current need to curry favor with Aleksandr Lebed — and with nationalist voters embittered by Russia’s fall from super-power status–could drive the Russian president to take a more strongly anti-Western line on NATO enlargement and other security issues. In Warsaw, a major Polish daily also pointed to the enduring significance of nationalist sentiment demonstrated by the June 16 vote and pondered whether the government that emerges after the July election might not be more assertive than the current one. (Reuter, June 17)

Governments Wary of Russia’s Prospects.