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Dole Critical of Clinton's Russia Policy

Washington, June 26 (RFE/RL) -- The Republican Party challenger for the presidency of the United States, former Senator Robert Dole, says President Bill Clinton's Russia policy has been marked by "misguided romanticism," that has ignored "troubling developments."

In a speech Tuesday outlining his views on Russia and what U.S. policy toward Moscow should be, Dole said he hopes that Boris Yeltsin wins the presidential runoff election in Russia next week and that the Russian people will decisively reject communism. However, Dole says that, "whatever happens, America has interests that must be protected and values that should be promoted."

Dole spoke in the city of Philadelphia to the private World Affairs Council. He is expected to be the Republican Party presidential nominee after the party holds its national nominating convention in August. He will be running against Clinton, a democrat seeking his second and final term.

Until he stepped down from office two weeks ago to devote full time to his campaign, Dole was the leader of the Republicans in the Senate. He was frequently in opposition to many Clinton foreign policy initiatives, from Bosnia to NATO alliance expansion.

In a series of speeches and public appearances in recent weeks, Dole has been trying to demonstrate that he is far more pragmatic and clear-headed in his foreign policy approaches than is Clinton.

Dole said Tuesday that he wants the Russian people to succeed in their quest for enduring liberty and democracy, but, he says, "we should have no illusions about Russia's journey: it will be long, it will be difficult and it will be uncertain."

"My policy will reinforce the independence of all the states of the former Soviet Union, will support the new democracies of Europe, will lead to the enlargement of the North Atlantic alliance and will advance effective counter-proliferation measures," said Dole. "In doing so, I will deal with the Russia that exists today -- not the Russia we all hope to see."

The former senator said Clinton and his advisors have ignored disturbing trends in Russia over the past several years. He charged that Russian hard-line security services have regained much of their previous power, that privatization has too often served to enrich criminals and that signs of anti-Semitism are re-emerging.

Dole also said that since 1994, "the world has witnessed the specter of a Russian democrat, Yeltsin, permitting the bombing of cities in Chechnya to appease Russian nationalists."

"By remaining passive in the face of these and other troubling developments, President Clinton has given a green light to the most dangerous tendencies in the new Russia," Dole said. "I will not let illusions about the Russia we hope to see prevent me from seeing clearly the Russia that truly exists."

He also accused Clinton of appeasing Russian nationalists on the issue of NATO expansion.

"I will stand firmly with the champions of democracy," Dole said. "I will not grant Russia a veto over NATO enlargement."

Dole said the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland should be made full NATO members "today."

"Many other nations from Slovenia to the Baltics rightly aspire to this goal," Dole said. "And Ukraine, despite the great pressures of its geography, remains a willing dedicated, and welcome participant in cooperative activities with NATO. As I said, NATO enlargement is a process that should begin with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- but it should not end there."

Dole said it will be his goal to have these three countries made full members "at a summit in Prague in 1998, the 60th anniversary of the betrayal of Munich, the 50th anniversary of the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia and the 30th anniversary of the Soviet invasion."

Dole said there is no more appropriate year or place "to declare that Central Europe has become a permanent part of the Atlantic community."