In the U.S. Capitol, before a joint session of Congress, against the backdrop of an American flag, the president of a Russia striving for democracy denounced his Communist heritage in words so bitter, so deeply felt, that they overshadowed decades of Cold War rhetoric heard from American legislators in that very chamber. Spectacle is indeed a powerful ingredient in the affairs of nations, and yesterday's address by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin (see page opposite) symbolized his extraordinary campaign to join the free world.
Later, down Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, Mr. Yeltsin and President Bush signed seven agreements that would have seemed sheer fantasy not so long ago. Not only did they approve the most sweeping strategic arms reduction of the nuclear age; they agreed on conditions of friendship that that might even include joint military maneuvers, at last put their commercial trading ties on a normal basis and opened the doors to potentially immense U.S. private investment.
Much of this ceremony was aimed at goading the lawmakers who cheered Mr. Yeltsin so lustily into passing a "Freedom Support Act" that is essential in releasing $24 billion in International Monetary Funds to shore up the ruble as Russia converts joltingly to a market economy. But Mr. Bush was denied his hope for congressional approval while Mr. Yeltsin was in Washington. Election-year politics decrees that Democrats will use what leverage they have to link the Russian aid proposal with increased assistance for troubled American cities.