(Washington, D.C.): The Bush Administration’s surprise announcement that it was nominating Robert Strauss, the preeminent Democratic operative, to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union can be explained simply: Amb. Strauss’ job will be to implicate the Democrats in President Bush’s increasingly expensive and politically risky policy of overinvesting in Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Strauss nomination comes on the heels of an important debate in the United States Senate on 15 May 1991 concerning the wisdom of extending a further $1.5 billion in taxpayer-subsidized agricultural credit guarantees to Moscow. Among those voting against this aid — which the Bush Administration is reportedly prepared to approve — were such leading Democratic senators as: Robert Byrd of West Virginia, chairman of the Appropriations Committee; Bill Bradley of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Deficits, Debt Management and International Debt; Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Agriculture Committee; Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission; Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Economic Policy; Don Riegle of Michigan, chairman of the Banking Committee; and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Foreign Commerce.
The obvious unease such top opposition figures have about further exposing the U.S. taxpayer to massive losses in lending to a bankrupt, unreformed Soviet Union could only have been compounded by the findings of a Washington Post-ABC News Poll published today. It found that two out of three Americans "oppose giving the Soviet Union even some of the billions of dollars that Soviet leaders say they need from the West to rebuild their country’s economy." (Emphasis added.)
"Clearly, the Bush Administration is nervous about the real prospect that the pressure mounting on it from Moscow and allied capitals to bail out the USSR will prove a serious domestic political liability," said Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., the Center’s director. "The Administration desperately wants company; it hopes to avoid a situation in which Republicans can be tarred with principal responsibility for losing a bundle trying to preserve the Soviet Union. Who better to ensure that the blame can be spread around than Mr. Democrat, Bob Strauss?"
Another fascinating aspect of this nomination is the fact that, as a former U.S. Trade Representative, few Americans are more familiar than Amb. Strauss about the serious harm that can be done to international financial organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank if an unreformed command economy like the Soviet Union’s is prematurely made eligible for their lending programs. Simply put, the integrity of these institutions is on the line; how can a man with Amb. Strauss’ background willingly be party to Bush policies that threaten so precious a commodity for the international community — and especially its less developed nations?
Fortunately, even someone with Amb. Strauss’ legendary powers of persuasion and deal-making may be sorely pressed in selling the President’s policy of providing life-support for the Gorbachev regime — particularly in light of the latest evidence of its true character: Yesterday in Moscow, the USSR Prosecutor General released a fifteen-page report commissioned by Gorbachev that completely exonerates the Soviet military of any wrongdoing in connection with the brutal repression in Lithuania on 13 January 1991. This report, which flies in the face of Western eyewitness accounts and all other evidence, reveals unmistakably the Soviet regime’s continued attachment to "The Big Lie." As if to ensure that the report’s sinister message was not lost (at least on the domestic audience), Soviet military forces engaged in a "show of force" yesterday in Lithuania, setting up checkpoints situated so as to cut off the republican parliament and arresting several pro-independence activists who tried to pass through.
Such ominous behavior fully validates the view expressed on Sunday by Mr. Republican, former President Richard Nixon, in an article in the Washington Post:
"[Gorbachev’s] most recent swing toward the reformers, including an offer to accommodate Boris Yeltsin’s Russian government and other republics has been uncritically accepted as an irreversible return to thoroughgoing perestroika after his dangerous detour last fall.
"But Gorbachev is not one-dimensional. He is a troika: a product of his upbringing in the Communist Party apparatus; a patriotic Russian nationalist; a brilliant pragmatic politician who likes power, knows how to use it and will do what is necessary to keep it. He sincerely wants major reform. But his vision seeks the strengthening, not the destruction, of the Soviet system. The zigzags in his policy are not accidental, but rather reflect a profound split in his political personality.
"Only the naively optimistic can confidently conclude that his recent agreement with Yeltsin [et. al.] will put an end once and for all to Gorbachev’s vacillation." (Emphasis added.)
What remains to be seen — and the Center for Security Policy earnestly hopes the Strauss confirmation hearings will reveal — is whether or not the Ambassador and his friends in the Senate are prone to be "naively optimistic" in so reckless, and potentially dangerous, a fashion.