Democracy, Yeltsin-Style

Regarding the Opinion page article "Summit: Friend or Foe to Yeltsin?," March 10: It seems that the spirit of the article once again manifests an inherent fear on the part of Americans and our government in taking a stand and making matters worse rather than better.

Can we be so naive as to believe that Russian hard-liners have any doubts about our preference for President Boris Yeltsin's reform policy vis-a-vis their intentions to slow it down and throttle it? Can we doubt that it is President Yeltsin's policies that will bring democracy to Russia?

By taking a stand now in meeting with Yeltsin and coming to his assistance with more aid, we are putting our cards on the table. We hope the European nations will do the same. To do nothing for fear that we upset others is ludicrous. As one who has spent most of his life overseas - 36 countries in total, including Russia - such strategies in the past have only derided Americans in the eyes of foreigners. Had we shown our support for Yeltsin over the past year, the situation in Russia today may well have not existed. Guy C. Hill, San Diego An answer to ethnic strife

In the Opinion page article "Democractic Reform: Long-Term Answer to Ethnic Strife," Feb. 25, the author, in urging the US "to discourage secession as a simple method of self-determination," while paying close attention to ethnic minority rights around the world," posits that "secessionist tendencies spur ethnic oppression, which fuels secessionist tendencies."

In doing so, the author reverses cause and effect. It is when an ethnic minority is driven by oppression by the dominant group and senses its cultural obliteration that it may move toward secession, especially when the center weakens.

And the claim that "democratic regimes are the best guarantees that the voices of minorities will be heard and that every group will feel included" is at best simplistic. For an ethnic minority will most often be at the mercy of the tyranny of the majority.

Given the terrible price of inter-ethnic strife, secession may at times be a more practical as well as a principled alternative to suppression. Aram Nigogosian, Philadelphia

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