WASHINGTON — RUSSIAN President Boris Yeltsin ``seems to have the upper hand'' in his struggle against parliament, says Rep. Lee Hamilton, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Representative Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat, told a Monitor breakfast yesterday that power centers - primarily the military and the security police - support Mr. Yeltsin at this time.
Yeltsin's strength seems less certain among the regional governments, where enthusiasm for the president appears to be dividing along executive and legislative ``fault lines,'' Hamilton says.
Despite the current tensions in Russia, Hamilton says the country has achieved ``remarkable transformations'' in military, social, and economic areas since the cold war. It has achieved this with an impressive lack of violence.
So far, the standoff between Yeltsin, his arch rival, ``acting president'' Alexander Rutskoi, and his parliamentary supporters has avoided bloodshed. Hamilton says if violence breaks out in coming days, however, ``I don't know what happens.''
Hamilton suggests that the United States could do more to help Yeltsin and move Russia toward democracy. The congressman says he is ``uneasy'' over the sluggish rate of US aid moving toward Russia. That aid could help in three major areas: speeding privatization of business and industry; dismantling nuclear weapons; and assisting reform of both public and private sectors.
Russia's economy clearly has serious problems, Hamilton says. He notes that ``the excesses of free markets'' are clearly visible in the streets of Moscow, as new limousines drive past impoverished people. There is ``social deprivation,'' he says. But there are also ``a lot of entrepreneurs doing pretty well.''
On the difficult issue of Somalia, where a US helicopter was shot down Sept. 25 with the loss of three crewmen, Hamilton sees congressional sentiment moving toward a greater emphasis on political and economic solutions.
Already, Hamilton notes that US troop levels have dropped from about 25,000 at the beginning of the year to about 5,000 today.
America's goals in Somalia are mostly achieved, he says. No one is starving. And 90 percent to 95 percent of the security goals are in place.