- Boris Yeltsin flaunts Russia's nuclear arsenal while
visiting Communist China's rulers in Beijing. What's really going on? The
answers range from sobering to downright scary.
- The picture being carried out
of Beijing by international
television coverage shows a seemingly
out-of-control Russian president.
- One moment he is displayed
barely being able to stagger,
stand or sit.
- The next, he is furiously
brandishing his nation's still-mighty
nuclear weapons at the United
- "Clinton permitted himself to put pressure on Russia,"
Yeltsin stormed on Thursday.
- "He has forgotten Russia has a full arsenal of
weapons. He has forgotten about that. Therefore he decided to
his muscles, as they say."
- From Washington, Clinton tried
to one-up him: "I
haven't forgotten that. You know, I didn't think
he'd forgotten America
was a great power when he disagreed with what I
did in Kosovo."
- In a remark that got lost in the crossfire, Prime
Vladimir Putin tried to calm the rough water of discourse,
saying he felt
sure neither president wanted to harm ties.
- That's on the
surface. What's going on beneath is even
- Yeltsin is outraged
that President Clinton would have
the temerity to lecture him, as he
indeed did this week, about waging war
against Islamic rebels in
That's Russia's internal business and none of Clinton's,
bristles, and he seems to have the military and much of his own
with him on that.
- Clinton's admonitions about Chechnya and his own military
intervention via NATO in the civil war in Yugoslavia are, to Yeltsin, all
part of a menacing new United States policy of involvement beyond its own
traditional spheres of legitimate interest.
- Russia's war in Chechnya is
drawing increasing criticism
in the international community. That
presents major problems for Yeltsin
and he resents it deeply.
- Already, the
European Union is talking of imposing sanctions
on Russia, which needs
every scrap of trade to keep its foundering economy
Resentment about Chechnya is prompting pressure within
Congress to cut
off U.S. financial assistance to Russia, another crusher
There are growing concerns among Yeltsin's political
opponents that he
may have sown the dragon's teeth in Chechnya that will
monster problem for Russia among the millions of resentful Muslims
within its borders and in neighboring states.
- Agence France Presse reports
that a possible presidential
candidate challenging the Yeltsin faction
in next year's election, Konstantin
Titov, warned: "Will we not
then get from the Chechen people a new
messiah like Iran once got
Ayatollah Khomeini, a spiritual leader in exile."
returned from exile and installed an Islamic republic in that
- Against that background, Yeltsin went to Beijing, the
world capital where he knew he would find a warm welcome.
- Communist China is
the only major nation to support
Yeltsin's war in Chechnya, and he got
it again, on the record, as soon
as he arrived in Beijing.
- China's President
Jiang "completely understood
and fully supported Russia's actions
in combating terrorism and extremism
in Chechnya," Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov said.
- With that kind of support, Yeltsin felt free to rattle
his nuclear missiles at the U.S., but that raised the question of just
how battle-ready they are.
- Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, who commands
nuclear forces, said his atomic weapons are fully Y2K-ready.
" no accidental launches because its command
system is "impregnable
for any kind of intrusion."
- But a Russian
magazine announced it had purchased top-secret
documents that indicate
just the opposite - a "horrifying" danger
Strategic Missile Troops will experience a millennium computer
The Chinese don't seem to have any doubts about their
ability to wage,
or withstand, nuclear war. They've been on a roll.
- In recent weeks, they have
staked out two new bases
along their coast for enough new-model
missiles to take out Taiwan.
- They are building a new type of submarine capable of
launching missiles to land in any city within the U.S.
- China's latest missiles are
equipped with warheads and
guidance systems based on top-secret
technology stolen from the U.S. -
and aimed right back at it.
- The Institute for
Foreign Policy Analysis says China
already has 300 nuclear warheads and
expects 1,000 to 1,500 by 2025, roughly
the number the U.S. and Russia
- The Chinese People's Liberation Army boasts its
corps is now able to hit targets with 100-percent
precision at any time,
under all climatic conditions.
- This is no accident.
Through purchases of the latest
high-performance computers from the
U.S., China is able to guide even its
missiles with pinpoint accuracy.
- At the same time, China has
been perfecting its ability
to endure a nuclear attack on its own
military and civilian targets.
- According to the American Foreign Policy Council's
Reform Monitor, the PLA General Staff announced major
building elaborate defensive shelters - an underground
to enable China to survive a nuclear exchange
just as its ancient above-ground
Great Wall saved it from invading
- There is increasing evidence of joint Chinese-Russian
operations and little doubt both countries will use Yeltsin's
Beijing to forge even closer military ties.
- The upshot of all that is what
the world saw on television
was far more than an ailing, failing,
doddering old man venting his spleen.
- Those grim developments off
camera are the real story
behind "Boris Yeltsin Goes to
- They call up somber memories of a time when Communist
the Soviet Union were allied militarily against the Free World,
had good reason to be scared stiff.