Beware of the voters

April 17, 1996|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON -- Russians are learning what we Americans know too well: that no freedom is ever fully won because some group is forever trying to take it away, and freedom-lovers must repel them.

Blacks and other minorities in America see our November presidential election as a mandate over whether educational and job gains are to be wiped away through troglodyte assaults on ''affirmative action,'' and whether black voting power is to be diluted by court-ordered rejuggling of voting districts.

Some are already fleeing Russia out of fear that if the Communist Gennady A. Zyuganov wins, that country's brief flirtation with freedom for journalists, artists and all intellectuals will come to a swift end. Other Russians remember that the days of cheap bread and the self-respect of living in a ''great power'' were also the days of terrible shortages of all the things the people wanted.

Does anybody care?

What I don't understand is the paucity of discussions, in Russia and the United States, about what a Zyuganov victory would mean in terms of renewal of a Cold War.

Would those awesome missiles that Boris Yeltsin claims he targeted away from the U.S. be retargeted at Washington and the sites of our deadliest weapons collections?

If the Communists make a comeback in Russia, can they avoid the temptation of trying to draw some of the countries of Eastern Europe back into the Russian Communist orbit? Or, are American officials assuming that the ''Evil Empire'' Soviet Union died beyond resurrection?

Top Communists in Russia, like Viktor Y. Sochilin, are boasting that they are turning away large numbers of people who want to be members of Mr. Zyuganov's soon-to-be-victorious party.

Other people are trying to leave, taking their wealth with them. The most strident nationalists propose that the borders be sealed so ''crooks and swindlers'' won't be able to take money out.

And, of course, foreign bankers and investors have become very reluctant to put any new money in Russia.

What is the posture of the Clinton administration? Its wish for a Yeltsin victory is obvious. But is it believing the polls suggesting Mr. Zyuganov will crush Mr. Yeltsin? What does it want the American people to think (or do) if the Communists reclaim power in Russia?

When will Mr. Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher explain what we will do in terms of economic aid (and trade) with a Russia suddenly again under the political control of Communists? What is their view of the probability of a wider civil war that would dwarf the war in Chechnya?

But, then, why should I ask for these analyses when the Clinton administration has not told us how much racial warfare we can expect inside the United States as a fallout of our November elections.

Some fateful political days are upon us, and I look with as much unease upon the June balloting in Russia as I do upon the November voting here. You should, too.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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