Washington, April 2 (RFE/RL) - A senior White House official
says the U.S. supports Russian President Boris Yeltsin's latest
effort to end the war with Chechen separatists.
"We welcome President Yeltsin's decision to begin withdrawing army
units and intensify the search for a settlement," National Security
Adviser Anthony Lake said Monday. "We call on Chechens to respond in
a similar spirit."
In a speech to the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Business
Council in Washington, Lake said Chechnya has become a tragedy for
Chechens, for Russians and for friends of Russian democracy. He
called for the "cycle of violence" to end.
"We support the territorial integrity of Russia and oppose attempts
to use violence to change international borders," Lake said. "We
oppose terrorism in all forms, but we also oppose -- strongly -- the
means the Russians have been using."
Lake says the widespread and indiscriminate use of force in Chechnya
by Russia "has spilled far too much innocent blood and eroded support
The war in Chechnya is not the only troubling issue in Russia today,
Lake said. "Senior officials who stood for reform have been fired,"
Lake said. "Protectionist pressures have jolted trade. " He also
mentioned Russia's ongoing nuclear cooperation with Iran and last
month's symbolic vote in the Duma to reconstitute the Soviet Union as
issues of concern.
He says U.S. hopes for Russia's future should not blind the West to
its current problems. He says it serves no one to pretend that
problems do not exist or that they do not matter.
"But neither should we yield to the prophets of pessimism who insist
that Russia is doomed to repeat its past," said Lake. "If we shrug
our shoulders, if we turn our backs, we risk creating a
self-fulfilling prophecy and we will miss a unique opportunity."
Lake also spoke to the specific concerns of the U.S.-Russian
business council, saying the U.S. is working to help Russia improve
the climate for business and to speed up reforms that will create a
truly free market.
"We know that for Russia's economy to work ... the business climate
has to be predictable and open," Lake said. "Contracts must be
honored, the banking system must be strengthened, taxes and their
enforcement must be fair, laws and regulations must be observed
throughout the land, and corruption must be rooted out."
Lake says the government and the private sector must "stand firm
behind Russia's new democratic institutions," because a strong
democracy is crucial for a free market.
He says the U.S. must also continue support for reform through
international financial institutions. He also says the U.S. will
continue to work with Russia on basic reforms and good business
"Together, these steps will help Russia create the economic security
its people so deeply desire," Lake said.