Strauss departs Moscow, rates Yeltsin as 'great'

November 07, 1992|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- With the moving van outside, U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Strauss gave a farewell assessment of Russia, its president and its future last night.

"It's the greatest revolution the world has ever seen," said Mr. Strauss, "led by one of the three or four great men of this century."

The great man is Russia's President Boris N. Yeltsin. "I've gained his confidence," Mr. Strauss said, "and he's captured my imagination greatly."

Today is the anniversary of the 1917 revolution, when the communists seized power.

Last night, the envoy of the world's biggest capitalist country sat in a Moscow mansion looking optimistically to a democratic Russia.

Mr. Strauss, once head of the Democratic Party and a wealthy Texas lawyer, was speaking to American press at Spaso House, the cavernous residence of the U.S. ambassador.

Mr. Strauss, who arrived 16 months ago during the August coup, said he was leaving "a country committed to reform, committed to a market economy and committed to democratic institutions."

He said one of Mr. Yeltsin's critics, Arkady Volsky, told him this week, "The reform process, Mr. Ambassador, cannot now be reversed. The democratization of this country cannot be reversed."

Mr. Strauss said Mr. Yeltsin's opponents may create obstacles along the way, but few people really want to return the country to the old system.

"I think the pace of reform will be slower than anyone had any idea it would be," he said.

Mr. Yeltsin has been viewed with some suspicion in the West recently because he banned an extremist opposition coalition and announced he would delay the pullout of Russian troops from the Baltics.

Mr. Strauss said both issues were handled badly. He said Mr. Yeltsin's announcement about the troops was unclear at first. He later said he was not stopping the pullout, only changing its pace.

Mr. Strauss sympathized with the slower withdrawal, saying Russia has no housing for the troops. "It's a very dangerous thing to bring back noncommissioned officers into the situation here," he said.

He said Mr. Yeltsin erred in banning an opposition group because ignoring it would have neutralized it.

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