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October 31, 2000

Life in Rostov

The U.S. Election in Russians' Eyes

by Julia Urakcheeva

Soon the figure of Bill Clinton in the Tremaine Wax Figures Museum in Paris will be replaced. Except for De Gaulleís statue, only the figures of acting state leaders are hold there. The ORT TV-channel informed its viewers of it on the 24th of October. But no suppositions were made on who will replace Clinton, though the upcoming election in the U.S. is considered to be extremely important for us. The State Duma decided to send a delegation of observers to the United States. "As they donít make up results there, the only reason for going is interest," TV host Mikhail Leontyev concludes. He was the first nationwide media commentator who has tried to analyze the meaning of the U.S. election. Even the special magazine USA and Canada has featured the election programs of the candidates.

Right before and right after the election many experts will do the analysis. Whose victory is better for Russia? -- that is the question. Mass media discuss the election now mainly in the context of the Russian-American relationship. They talk about a document that emerged during the election campaign battles: the letter of the former Russian prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin to Vice-President Al Gore, written in 1995. The Commersant newspaper quotes Bill Gertz of The Washington Times: "Letter shows Gore Made Deal. Since the end of 1995 Vice-President Gore concealed from the Congress the details of the Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran on request of the Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin. Mr. Bush demanded explanations from Gore." The newspaper Izvestiya says that The Washington Times is owned by the Korean Rev. Moon who has lots of followers in the U.S. and who supports Bush in this campaign. Izvestiya claims to possess the copy of Chernomyrdinís letter in Russian. The letter says that Russia cooperates with Iran only in building the power station. Still, the author of the letter did ask Gore not to reveal this information to the Congress. "Political disclosures" are common practice during the election fights. Nixon had Watergate, and Reagan had ĎIran-contra Ď," the columnist tells us. One of the Russian reporters who visited the St. Louis TV-debate reports that the Chernomyrdin letter isnít discussed any more.

Generally speaking, the difference between Gore and Bush is very dim to most Russian people. The reporters who cover the campaign assume that most Americans donít see much difference in the two either. "It may happen that this time the President will win by less than 1 million votes," a popular daily says. "However, the last face-to-face battle in St. Louis ended in a draw."

We know that one of the candidates is a Democrat and the other a Republican. "We like the Elephants more, but itís easier for us to get along with the Donkeys. The two parties traditionally have had different voters groups. But now they contend for the votes of those who have always supported their rivals," Russian newspapers note.

The Democrats are reputed to stand for collaboration with Russia, and the Republicans to criticize them for such a position, and if the Republicans come to power they will end the Democratsí leniency to Russia. "Bush will put forward demands to Russia (IMF money is due), and Gore is willing to be friends with us as before," the public opinion tends to conclude. But is it right?

One of our experts says that the major difference between two American parties lies in the foreign policy ideas. "The Democrats are for globalization," he thinks. "Hi-tech, Internet, media, all the virtual sector -- that is what they rely on. They tend to expand their interests worldwide and make everybody adopt the American standards. Actually the U.S. plays a role of the world administrator by now. And the Republicans would like America to be more realistic and less hegemonic, as the hegemony is not quite real and firm. The economic difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is like the difference between Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, whose wealth fluctuates as stock prices floats +/- 10 billion dollars."

TV commentator Leontyev said the Republicans are aimed at the American national interest, but it doesnít turn them into our enemies! "In that sense Bushís awkward accusations of Russia are the signs of new attitude. We are no more instructed what to do, nobody tries to rule us, as the Republicans donít expand their power that far. If the Republicans win, Russia will be considered equal partner, and its interests will be considered if it can defend them."

Anyway, it will be unlike Clinton.


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