U.S. ambassador to Russia to leave post in next few months

September 22, 1992|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- Robert S. Strauss, the well-connected Democrat who arrived here as U.S. ambassador just over a year ago, said yesterday that he would leave his post in the next few months.

But just as bridgegrooms often tell their prospective in-laws, "You're not losing a daughter but gaining a son," he told President Boris N. Yeltsin yesterday, "Instead of losing an ambassador, you'll pick up one."

Mr. Strauss, the consummate deal maker, was sent here to nurture commercial relationships with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. But the August coup against Mr. Gorbachev occurred before he even arrived, and Mr. Strauss found himself in the middle of a whole new agenda -- diplomatic instead of business.

The last year has been an exhausting one for the Mr. Strauss, 73, and, even worse, it has kept him far from the milieu he loves -- in the center of activity in Washington.

"I expect to maintain a deep interest in this country," he told reporters yesterday at Spaso House, the ambassador's residence. "And in some respects I can do more good for Russia from an office in Washington than an office in Russia. It's hard to work the phones from here."

Mr. Strauss said that he had told President Bush when he took the job that he would not remain for much longer than a year. "I don't expect to be here in 1993," he said. "And I'm not planning [on] leaving any day soon. But it won't take me a helluva lot of time to get out of town."

He said that although this winter would be difficult for Russians, there appeared less chance of social unrest than last winter, when antigovernment riots were widely predicted but never materialized.

Mr. Strauss dismissed speculation that Mr. Yeltsin faces a serious threat from a session of the Russian Parliament that opens today. Nationalists and communists have asserted that they would try to topple him.

A challenge to his authority is likely to come when he tries to name Yegor Gaidar prime minister. Mr. Gaidar, now acting prime minister, is chief architect of Russia's economic reform. He has numerous critics among powerful industrialists, who say he is pushing radical reform too quickly.

Mr. Strauss said that Mr. Yeltsin would like to get Mr. Gaidar confirmed but that "he can get along without it."

"I think Boris Yeltsin is stronger politically than ever," he said. "His support has hardened -- it has certainly hardened."

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