CLEVELAND -- Seeking to draw a sharp contrast with his own foreign policy record, Bob Dole lambasted President Clinton yesterday as a bumbler in world affairs whose "naive" policies are threatening U.S. security.
In a caustic attack, the Republican presidential contender argued that Clinton's missteps in dealing with Russia, Bosnia and NATO have retarded progress toward peace in the Balkans and slowed the expansion of democracy in Europe. The president's policies, Dole said, also threaten to reverse gains made after the U.S. victory in the Cold War.
"In an era of tectonic shifts in world affairs, we must not continue to entrust American leadership to would-be statesmen still suffering from a post-Vietnam syndrome, who are still suffering from the illusion that communism merely fell instead of being pushed," Dole said at a gathering of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, a day before Clinton leaves for the annual summit of major industrial nations.
"We should be building firm foundations for a century of peace," NTC he said. "Instead, Bill Clinton's policy of indecision, vacillation and weakness is making the world a more dangerous place."
Delivering his second major foreign policy address of the campaign, Dole sought to exploit what he sees as Clinton's lackluster performance on the world stage. In a speech in May, Dole asserted that Clinton's policy on Asia had diminished U.S. credibility abroad.
In deriding Clinton's foreign policy, Dole has gained support from several Washington foreign policy hawks who previously backed Clinton but have since become disillusioned. Among them are Penn Kemble, deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency, and retired Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, former head of the National Security Agency.
Former Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey is meeting with Dole today and is expected to endorse him.
Yesterday, Dole leveled his harshest criticism at Clinton's policy on Russia, which he called "misguided romanticism" that has led the president to try to "fine-tune the intrigues of Russian domestic politics instead of guarding against the nationalist turn in Russian foreign policy that has already occurred."
Dole also belittled Clinton's likening of the fighting in Chechnya to the American Civil War, and he mocked the president's explanation for Russian "subversion" of other breakaway states as akin to the U.S. military involvement in Panama and Grenada.
"President Clinton may not know the difference between the liberation of Grenada from Communist thugs and Russian intimidation of Georgia or the Baltic states, but I do," Dole said.
Vice President Al Gore said yesterday that "when you wade through the Cold War rhetoric and filter out the obvious nostalgia for the era of direct confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union, Senator Dole endorses the policies of President Clinton and NATO expansion and Russian-NATO relations, and we appreciate that."
To be sure, Dole and Clinton do not differ fundamentally on many foreign policy issues. But Dole is seeking to build a case for his argument that as president, he would be a more aggressive and consistent world leader.
Specifically, Dole said yesterday that while he admires President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia and supports Yeltsin's re-election, he would not turn a blind eye to accommodations the Russian leader makes to hard-line nationalists.
In addition, Dole said, he would not make the concession Clinton did to give Russia "a better deal" in recent arms-control negotiations that let Russia maintain conventional weapons along its borders with the Baltics or the Caucasus. Dole said that as president he would link Russia's adherence to arms-control treaties with the granting of any U.S. aid.
The Republican candidate also reiterated his criticism of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty, saying it "does not reflect the new realities of proliferation." He said he would seek new talks with the Russians about the "mutual benefits of missile defense" and would urge their cooperation on an anti-missile defense system.
On Bosnia, Dole condemned Clinton for failing to follow through on his promise to arm and train the Bosnian Muslims.
"Nothing better illustrates President Clinton's failure of leadership than his uncertain and vacillating policies toward Bosnia," Dole said. "After haphazardly getting America into Bosnia, President Clinton now has no idea how to get Americans out or how to accomplish the mission they went to fulfill."
Dole noted that he had been an early and consistent supporter of lifting the U.N. arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims. Although Clinton had vowed as much during his 1992 campaign, once in office he bowed to the wishes of nervous European nations that had troops on the ground in Bosnia and he began exploring other options. Ultimately, with Dole's grudging support, the president committed U.S. forces to help maintain the peace plan worked out in November.
On NATO, Dole charged that Clinton was deferring to Russian demands to delay the entry of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the alliance.
"It is an outrage that the patriots who threw off the chains of Soviet bondage are told that they must wait," Dole said. He said he would not grant Russia "a veto over NATO enlargement."
Last night, Dole made a bid for support among Americans of Slovenian descent with an appearance in Cleveland at a Slovenian Independence Day banquet.
Pub Date: 6/26/96