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American apathy toward foreign policy puts
Jews in the former Soviet Union
in an uncomfortable situation.
JAMES D. BESSER WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
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isten to political candidates
these days, and it's easy to
come away with the im-
pression that the world out-
side our borders has disappeared.
In the emerging contest between
President Clinton and Senate
Majority Leader Bob Dole, for-
eign policy is an afterthought —
With voters voicing a litany of
domestic gripes, congressional
candidates are loathe to mention
the American role in other parts
of the world. But the rest of the
world refuses to cooperate; the
changes that we once thought
would allow us to shift our at-
tention to close-to-home issues
have spawned new dangers, new
challenges to the nation's future.
In particular, the agonies of the
former Soviet Union do not con-
form to our constricting vision of
A parallel process is at work in
the Jewish community; many
Jewish leaders report a decline
in activism on behalf of Jews who
still live in dangerous parts of the
world. That myopia, too, could
have dire consequences in the un-
charted last days of the 20th cen-
It's not hard to see why Amer-
ican policymakers cringe at the
possibilities at work in the for-
mer Soviet Union. In December's
parliamentary elections, Russian
voters defied the predictions of
WE'RE FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE
the experts: the top vote-getters
were the former communists and
the ultra-nationalists, not the re-
Russia and Belarus are form-
ing a new federation; the Russ-
ian parliament recently passed a
resolution condemning the break-
up of the former Soviet Union.
With the Russian presidential
election only months away, Boris
Yeltsin remains a deeply flawed
candidate; retaining his hold on
voters will require something on
the order of a miracle.
And lest we forget, Russia re-
mains the second biggest nuclear
power in the world, with many
thousands of warheads and mis-
siles that once again could be
aimed at our cities, or sold to the
Foreign policy experts in the
administration are deeply dis-
turbed by these developments.
But voters are resistant to any
talk of renewed conflict with a re-
vived Soviet Union; the new con-
gressional leadership, taking its
cue from GOP freshmen who
have almost no interest in foreign
policy, are likewise disinclined to
invest political capital in events
in far-off Russia.
Outside of the inner sanctums
of the State Department, there is
little interest in debating ways to
forestall a possible communist or
ultra-nationalist takeover in Rus-
sia — a dangerous vacuum at a