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U.S.: Bush Advocates Tougher Stand On Russia

Washington, 14 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush says the United States should have cut off aid to Russia because of what he calls the slaughter of innocent women and children in Chechnya.

Bush made the comments yesterday (Sunday) in an interview on the U.S. television network NBC.

He said Washington should also have taken a firmer stand on International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to Russia, as well as on export and import credits because of Moscow's military offensive against Chechnya.

Bush said he sees the fate of missing Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky as part of the overall Chechen picture. Babitsky, who covered the war in Chechnya for the U.S.-financed radio, has been missing since mid-January. Moscow claims he was traded to the Chechens for Russian prisoners of war held by separatist fighters.

Bush said, "We ought to figure out how to get the man (Babitsky) out (and) ... to keep the pressure on the Russians."

The Texas governor was asked what country he would consider to be the most important for the United States during the new century. He replied it was China first and Russia second.

Bush said China is a giant that is still growing.

He said: "It's a country that's got huge economic potential. It's a country also that seems to be taking advantage of this notion of strategic partnership.... We're going to have to redefine our terms of dealing with China as one of competitors."

China needs to understand, Bush said, that the United States is going to promote peace in the Far East through strong alliances.

Bush added: "I think China is a country that is, obviously, as a result of their nuclear developments, weapons of mass destruction, we're going to have to be -- we're going to have to deal with them in a very stern and strong way."

Concerning Russia, Bush said it is too early to make a judgment of acting President Vladimir Putin, who succeeded Boris Yeltsin and is campaigning for Russia's presidential elections next month.

Bush said it is his hope that Washington can work with Putin in the post-Cold War era to bring greater security into Europe. He said the U.S. needs to work with Russia to continue to dismantle strategic and tactical nuclear warheads.

Bush is running for the November, 2000 U.S. presidential election. His chief Republican Party rival is Arizona Senator John McCain.