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East: Republican Party's Platforms And Policy

For the dominant U.S. political parties, the "platform" adopted every fours years at the presidential nominating convention serves as both a declaration of a party's principles and an enumeration of broad policy proposals. The Republicans who met in Philadelphia this week to nominate Texas Governor George W. Bush for president adopted a platform that is highly critical of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, especially in the area of foreign policy. RFE/RL's Washington correspondent K.P. Foley takes a look at this section of the Republican platform.

Washington, 4 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The chairman of the Republican platform committee, Governor Tommie Thompson of the midwestern state of Wisconsin, says Gov. George W. Bush cannot be expected to agree on every item in that platform. But he also says the platform is very important to the party's election campaign.

In a convention interview on the Cable News Network (CNN) this week, Thompson said:

"The platform is the party. The platform gives the candidates the opportunity to run on that, but it gives the delegates the opportunity to form, you know, the core of what the political party stands for, and that's what the platform is all about. It's very important. It's the essential tool to build the political party."

This year, the Republicans are pledging to fix what they consider to be eight years' worth of damage done to the United States by a Democratic presidential administration. The Democrats will have their turn in two weeks when they hold their convention in Los Angeles in the state of California. Vice President Al Gore will be formally nominated to succeed President Bill Clinton, who is limited by the Constitution to two four year terms.

The Republican Party's foreign policy statement accuses the Clinton administration of having "squandered the opportunity granted to the United States by the courage and sacrifice of previous generations."

Arizona Senator John McCain -- who challenged Bush for the nomination earlier this year -- used some of that platform language earlier this week when he endorsed Bush at the convention.

"He (Bush) knows well that there is no safe alternative to American leadership, and he will not squander this unique moment in history by allowing America to retreat behind empty threats, false promises and uncertain diplomacy. "

Among other things, the Republicans promise to restore America's defenses and construct a nationwide missile defense system, a plan that has raised concern among some of Washington's NATO alliance partners and which is strongly opposed by Russia.

The platform is explicit in its criticism of the Clinton Administration's Russia policy. The Republicans say the White House has pursued "weak and wavering policies toward Russia." The platform says "the administration has diverted its gaze from corruption at the top of the Russian government, the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Chechnya, and the export of dangerous Russian technologies to Iran and elsewhere."

Stanford University Professor Condoleezza Rice is described as a key foreign policy advisor to Bush. She is a Soviet affairs expert who served on the National Security Council for Bush's father, former President George Bush, and press commentators are already giving her an important foreign policy post should George W. Bush win on November 7. In her convention speech this week, she made clear where Bush stands on the question of missile defense.

"George W. Bush will never allow America and our allies to be blackmailed. And make no mistake about it, blackmail is what the outlaw states seeking long-range ballistic missiles have in mind."

The platform praises the former communist countries of Central and Eastern and Southeastern Europe. It says that, "Republicans recognize and applaud the tremendous achievements of the people of Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in reclaiming their freedom and rejoining the Trans-Atlantic community of democracies."

The platform also reaffirms the Republican party's "traditional ties with and strong support for the courageous Ukrainian and Armenian people, who like the people of the Baltic States, have endured both persecution and tyranny to reassert their ancient nationhood.." It adds that the U.S. "should promote reconciliation and friendship not only between the United States and Russia, but also between Russia and its neighbors."

The platform endorses the full integration of the new democracies "into the economic, political, and security institutions of the Trans-Atlantic community." Without offering a timetable, the document says the expansion of the NATO alliance must continue and that "Russia must never be given a veto over enlargement." This is a policy shared by the Democrats.

On relations with Russia, the Republicans say the development of a democratic and stable Russia is in the interest of the United States and all of Europe. The platform also says that, "the battle for democracy is a fight that must be won by Russians." The Republicans criticize what they call the current administration's quixotic efforts, saying they "have only propped up corrupt elites, identified America with discredited factions and failed policies, and encouraged anti-Americanism."

There has also been discussion on other foreign policy influences on Bush aside from the party platform. His choice of a vice presidential campaign mate, for example, is already being dissected by political commentators looking for signs.

The vice presidential candidate is Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense in President Bush's administration (1989-93). More recently, Cheney served as Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton Company, an international firm based in Texas that supplies essential services and equipment to the oil and natural gas industries.

Time Magazine notes in this week's issue that just last June, Cheney spoke at the World Petroleum Congress and called for an end to U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. He said U.S. firms were missing out on the development of Iran's huge energy sources while their European competitors were not.

A number of U.S. energy firms have also started urging the U.S. Congress to allow the law imposing sanctions on Iran to lapse when it comes up for review next year.

However, NCA Correspondent Michael Lelyveld, an expert on international oil issues, pointed out this week that it is not clear whether Cheney's views on Iran sanctions will prevail if Bush is elected. The consensus in the Bush camp is that the United States should make no more concessions until Iran agrees to an official dialogue between governments. That is also a view similar to that of the Clinton Administration.