RUSSIAN ELECTIONS : Old Soviet nations back the devil they know
Saturday 15 June 1996
A joke attributed to Ukraine's President, Leonid Kuchma, has been going the rounds in eastern Europe before tomorrow's Russian election: On election night an aide rushes to President Boris Yeltsin and says: "Bad news, boss. Zyuganov's got 55 per cent." As the distraught president clutches his head, the aide adds: "No problem, though. You've got 65 per cent."
Jokes aside, there is no question that every leader in the former Soviet bloc, with the apparent exception of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, is desperate for a Yeltsin victory. Visiting Poland last week, Mr Kuchma himself said: "If Yeltsin loses, it would be an earthquake, especially for Ukraine but also for Poland."
However strongly they may feel about Mr Yeltsin's reassertion of Russian influence over many former Soviet republics, the leaders of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Moldova and other newly independent states feel sure that life would be far worse with Gennady Zyuganov. The same goes for leaders in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and others who have clashed with Mr Yeltsin over their aim of joining Nato but who still prefer him to his Communist challenger.
Although Mr Zyuganov's exact intentions are uncertain, he is clearly nostalgic for the Soviet Union and occasionally speaks of restoring the defunct state by peaceful means. Earlier this year the Russian parliament, where Communists are the largest faction, voted to condemn the 1991 treaty by which Russia, Ukraine and Belarus abolished the Soviet Union.
Alarm about the potential direction of a Zyuganov presidency is so high that Armenia's President, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, predicts that the 11 non- Russian members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will try to dissolve the organisation if Mr Zyuganov wins. The odd man out is Belarus, where Mr Lukashenko is an unashamed advocate of union with Russia and, beyond that, full integration of the former Soviet area.
The Baltic states, with their large ethnic Russian minorities, have particular reason to be worried about Zyuganov, but they also see the presidential election as a chance to emphasise their new pro-European identity.
"The impact would be the same as on the European Union. Security is indivisible, and Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are part of Europe," said Estonia's President, Lennart Meri.
According to one theory, a Zyuganov win might at least jolt Western governments into accelerating the process of admitting new members into Nato and the EU. "This could be enough of an argument for our partners in Europe to speed up the integration process," said Poland's President, Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Yet politicians in most ex-Communist countries are also conscious that rapid expansion of Nato in response to a Zyuganov victory could bring undesirable consequences. It might divide Europe into Western and Russian spheres of control hostile to each other, and raise tensions to dangerous levels in countries caught in the middle such as Ukraine and the Baltic states.
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Nepal earthquake: Rescuers forced to dig with their bare hands in search for survivors as images show damage to historic buildings
Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson in angry clash live on BBC's Andrew Marr Show
Bali Nine executions: British grandmother on death row in Indonesia Lindsay Sandiford says she 'just wants to get it over with'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...