President Clinton is planning to attend VE Day ceremonies in Moscow on May 9. We cannot understand how this can be done in such a casual manner. Russian brutality in Chechenia - its massacre of innocent women and children goes on unabated. Its deepening involvement in the fighting in Tajakistan has added a deadly dimension to the growing conflict there. Conditions in Russia are not stable. Social and economic problems prevail. Crime is rampant. It appears that Yeltsin's government cannot contain the forces that oppose it. He himself was responsible for the bloodshed in Moscow. Now Russian human rights campaigners are appalled at the slaughter by Yeltsin's shock troops. They appealed to Mr. Clinton and other Western leaders to protest about the slaughter of more than 200 civilians in the devastated Chechen village of Samashki, 20 miles west of the capital Grozny.
The International Red Cross says that drunken and drug-crazed Russian troops went on the rampage throwing grenades into shelters crowded with civilians.
Not much criticism came out of the White House. It seems that Clinton is trying to stave off a political crisis with Yeltsin at the cost of the poor Chechens.
Among the European countries, it was only France that formally condemned Russia for its brutal attacks on civilians.
Mr. Clinton may whimper about Chechnya but that will be in private.
He is scheduled to meet some opposition members although the firebrand Zhironzky is not on the list.
His partner on this trip John Major too will toast the capitulation of Germany in 1945. But Clinton, like Major, will not have much to cheer about. The erosion of political support for his policies abroad bound to plague him during his Russian tour. The Republican majority in the Senate has drafted legislation to block all economic support for Russia until the Chechen situation is resolved. Clinton himself seems to be oblivious to the criticisms of his Russia policy. He believes that the rest of the world should support democracy and non-aggression in Russia. What non-aggression? Or does he think that the invasion of Chechnya by the blood thirsty Russians is a stroll in Central Park.
This is what Messrs. Clinton and Major should realize - Russian barbarism and frenzy for blood should be curtailed.
You cannot let the Russian economy take precedence over politics.
Yeltsin has lied before and he will do so again to his guest.
His announcement of a cease-fire four days ago was not a gesture of peace made by a man touched by the lives already lost, the misery already brought, and thus moved to find a honorable solution. He did not even pretend that the aim was anything like that.
This one, instead, is a cease-fire declared for the strangest of reasons - to give the Russian president time to wash the blood of the innocent from his hands and appear before world leaders as a man of peace, as a member worthy of joining the search for a just order.
Nearly 50 of them are scheduled to arrive in Moscow in a week's time.
The irony is that they are traveling to the Russian capital to take part in World War II commemoration ceremonies, to celebrate the fall of a philosophy that believed in the right of brute strength to deny other peoples the basic right to a culture or the freedom to have an opinion. And the leaders, Clinton among them, are determined to share with Yeltsin the stage from where they will celebrate the passing of half-a-century after the death of Hitlerism - while Hitlerism triumphs on, in Grozny, Bamut, Yandi and in so many other cities, villages and mountains.
The irony will appeal to Yeltsin.
After the cease-fire was declared in Moscow, Russian artillery has been keeping up its bombardment of villages in western Chechnya. For instance, Bamut has been hit by hundreds of shells, as it has been every day for four months now. According to agency reports, "shells were exploding in the village at a rate of more than four a minute for several hours and Russian illumination flares burned continuously overhead." The village was also raked with machine gun fire throughout the night.
That is only one Bamut. There are hundreds of others. The names differ, but the story is the same, everywhere, every day.
Will his guest face the moral dilemma squarely or back off as they have done so many times in Bosnia.
Nobody has any idea of what is going to happen - what we know for sure is that glasses will clink and an upright Yeltsin will tell his guests that the "war is over" and that there is now peace.
Yes, there is peace in Chechnya - peace of the dead.
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