When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 247, Part II, 28 December 1998


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 247, Part II, 28 December 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and
Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central
Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning
Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.  Part I
covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is
distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are
online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS 25 DECEMBER BELARUS-
RUSSIA

* UNION DECLARATIONFOUR DAYS OF CLASHES IN KOSOVA

* DRUG BUST IN MACEDONIA TO HERALD NEW POLICY?

End Note: A DIVISIVE CALL FOR UNITY
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DELAYS ADOPTING 1999 BUDGET... The
Ukrainian Supreme Council on 25 December postponed the
debate on the government's 1999 draft budget until next
week after deputies failed to agree on the projected
deficit of 1 percent of GDP. The draft budget provides
for revenues of 23.4 billion hryvni ($6.8 billion) and
expenditures of 24.6 billion hryvni, with annual
inflation forecast at 19 percent. Finance Minister Ihor
Mityukov, who presented the budget to lawmakers, argued
that with Ukraine's economy expected to decline by 1
percent in 1999 it is unrealistic to count on revenues
and expenditures as high as the parliament wanted.
Meanwhile, President Leonid Kuchma on 26 December  said
he will leave lawmakers without their salaries unless
they pass the 1999 draft budget. "This is for sure. This
cannot go on like this," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying.
JM

... RAISES MINIMUM WAGE ONCE AGAIN ... The parliament
also increased Ukraine's minimum wage the same day from
55 hryvni ($16) to 73.7 hryvni and set the official
poverty level at 90.7 hryvni. The decision was taken two
days after the legislature failed to override Kuchma's
veto on a bill passed in November, which nearly tripled
the minimum wage to 148 hryvni. JM

... AND APPROVES CRIMEAN CONSTITUTION. By a vote of 230
to 67 the parliament on 23 December approved a new
constitution for Crimea, Ukraine's only autonomous
republic. The constitution allows Crimea to have its own
government and legislature and permits the republic to
independently sign foreign trade deals. It also
stipulates that all taxes and duties collected on
Crimean territory are to be directed to the republic's
budget. Over the past six years, Crimean lawmakers have
submitted four constitutional drafts, but all were
either rejected or approved only partially due to what
Kyiv's parliamentarians considered separatist
provisions. The latest constitution draft was approved
after deputies had inserted a separate provision that
bans Crimea from approving legislation not in accord
with Ukrainian law. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS 25 DECEMBER BELARUS-
RUSSIA UNION DECLARATION. On 25 December in Minsk police
arrested some 10 demonstrators during an opposition
protest against the Belarus-Russia declaration on a
single union state signed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka and
Boris Yeltsin in Moscow the same day, Reuters and
RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The demonstrators,
who carried white-red-white flags, paralysed the traffic
in the center of Minsk for some 15 minutes. Two
protesters have been hospitalized after their arrest.
Meanwhile, Stanislau Shushkevich, Mechyslau Hryb, and
Syamyon Sharetski, three former speakers of the Supreme
Soviet which was dissolved by Lukashenka in 1996,
denounced the signing of the 25 December declaration as
a "crime against the Belarusian nation. Lukashenka is
afraid of free elections. That is why he is going to
surrender our country's independence, in the hope of
acquiring supreme power in the united state," they said.
JM

LUKASHENKA DWELLS UPON FUTURE BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION.
During a live two-hour television appearance on 27
December, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka presented his
vision of the Belarus-Russia Union following the signing
of the 25 December Belarusian-Russian declaration on
steps toward a single state. He said the union should
have supranational power and administration bodies,
including a parliament and a government. Lukashenka
insisted that the two countries "will remain sovereign
states," but that the union leadership should be
empowered with such functions as the coordination of
foreign policy, defense, the customs service, and the
border troops. He did not rule out a common president
"if a presidential form of government is chosen." He
added that privatization should be carried out
independently by each union state. JM

ESTONIAN PREMIER SAYS EU MEMBERSHIP "NOT GOAL IN
ITSELF." Mart Siiman told Estonian state radio on 23
December that Tallinn would not take any steps
detrimental to the Estonian people just to get into the
European Union, BNS reported.  "For us, the European
Union is not a goal in itself. In this access process,
the interests of the state and the people must not
suffer." And he added that "nothing will be wrong if
Estonia is not a member of the European Union on January
1, 2003."  PG

ESTONIA FACES RISING CRIME RATE. Estonian criminologist
Juri Saar told BNS on 23 December that the number of
crimes committed in 1998 was greater than in any year
since the restoration of independence, but that the rate
of increase had slowed slightly and the number of
violent crimes had actually dropped.  The total number
of crimes rose 11.4 percent during the first 11 months
of 1998 compared to the same period in 1997. For the
comparable period a year earlier, the number of crimes
rose some 15.7 percent.  Faced with this increase, the
Estonian police have agreed to make use of personnel
from the country's paramilitary Kaisetliit units after
the latter undergo special training.  PG

ILVES SAYS ESTONIA IS A NORDIC COUNTRY, NOT A BALTIC
ONE.  Writing in "Eesti Ekspress," former Estonian
foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves argued that his
country is part of the Nordic region rather than one of
three Baltic states, BNS reported on 23 December.
Estonia has few cultural or historical links with Latvia
and Lithuania, Ilves suggested.  And he noted that
Lithuanian leaders agree with him. He cited Lithuania's
foreign minister Algirdas Saudargas as having said "on
numerous occasions" that Lithuania's "historical,
religious, geographic and other ties are not with the
Baltic states but with Central Europe through Poland."
Ilves concluded that the best way to describe Estonia is
as "the only post-communist Nordic country."  PG

LATVIA OPPOSES ECONOMIC BARRIERS AMONG BALTIC STATES.
Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans is categorically
against the erection of any economic barriers among the
three Baltic states, BNS reported on 23 December. He
told Latvian state radio that his government would take
what he said were strong measures to protect domestic
food producers against imports but that he would oppose
new barriers to food imports from the two other Baltic
states.  PG

LATVIA SEEKS TO UPGRADE ITS MILITARY.  Defense Minister
Valdis Kristovskis told BNS on 24 December that he is
working to overcome what he acknowledged is a disastrous
situation in the Latvian army. By raising military pay
and reorganizing the internal structure of the forces,
Kristovskis said he hopes to make the army more capable.
At present, it is losing officers to better paying jobs
in the private sector and is experiencing enormous
difficulties with draftees. One-fifth of the latter
cannot speak the national language, 10 percent have a
criminal record, and 62 percent have less than a
complete secondary school education.  PG

LITHUANIANS ORDER RUSSIAN MILITARY TEAM OFF TRAIN.
Lithuanian border guards forced 28 Russian soldiers to
leave a train at the Kaliningrad-Lithuanian border when
the troops attempted to travel without the necessary
papers, BNS reported on 23 December.  PG

MOSCOW CRITICIZES LITHUANIA ON RUSSIAN MINORITY.  The
Russian embassy in Vilnius has issued a press statement
sharply critical of the way in which Lithuania has dealt
with Russian citizens living on its territory, BNS
reported on 28 December. The embassy statement
criticized the trials of pro-Soviet activists, the
failure of the government to register an association of
Russian citizens, and problems in Russian-language
schools. It said that these actions have raised concerns
"in Russian society."  PG

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS CLOSING IGNALINA AES.
The Lithuanian government has approved in principle two
scenarios for closing the Ignalina atomic power station,
BNS reported on 24 December.  Under the first, Ignalina
would be forced to close sometime in the next two years;
under the second, it would be upgraded and allowed to
continue to operate until 2020 or even later.  Vilnius
is under pressure from the European Commission to come
up with a plan to close the reactor.  PG

POLISH MINERS WIN PENSIONS CONCESSION, END STRIKE. On 24
December, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski and Labor
Minister Longin Komolowski signed an accord promising to
preserve miners' right to early retirement with full
pension after 25 years of work regardless of employees'
age, Polish media reported the same day. A special bill
including the early retirement rule is to be adopted by
parliament within six months. The miners who have been
protesting underground for two weeks (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 23 December) have left their mines. The
signed deal signifies a major concession to miners who
protested the new pension system that sets the
retirement age at 65 for men and 60 for women. JM

POLAND'S LUSTRATION PROCEDURE STARTS IN 1999. Early next
year the Warsaw Appeals Court will start reviewing some
23,000 statements by current politicians, parliamentary
deputies, and other top public post holders on whether
they collaborated with the Communist-era secret police,
PAP reported on 23 December. Such statements are a
requirement under Poland's lustration law passed in
1997. The law stipulates that those who admit having
collaborated with the secret police will not be
forbidden to participate in politics or public life,
whereas concealment of such facts will be punished with
a 10-year ban on holding some public posts. Thus far,
some 100 officials have admitted that they worked for
the Communist secret services. Their names will be
published in the government's official journal. JM

SLOVAKIA TO PURSUE EU MEMBERSHIP OFFENSIVE. Deputy
premier Pavol Hamzik on 26 December said Slovakia will
"do everything" for the European Union to decide in 1999
in favor of inviting Bratislava for talks on membership,
TASR reported. Hamzik said Slovakia must better
coordinate its legislation with that of the EU and make
better use of the Phare programs for EU assistance. He
also said his country will be more active in pursuing
bilateral relations with EU members and with neighboring
states to build up support for accession to the EU.  MS

SLOVAK CABINET TO FREEZE STATE SALARIES. The cabinet
decided against wage hikes for state employees in 1999,
as part of the effort to improve the country's economic
situation, AP reported on 23 December. Government
officials will also forego a raise in wages. Premier
Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists that a package of
other measures will be introduced on 7 January and that
the cabinet wants "to ask the citizens to help us heal
the country's economy." MS

ORBAN DISCUSSES HUNGARIANS BEYOND BORDERS. In an
interview with Duna TV on 23 December, Prime Minister
Viktor Orban said Hungary "can not be satisfied with the
situation of Hungarians beyond the border as long as
there is no independent university [with Hungarian
tuition]  in places where there is a large Hungarian
minority," because of the danger of "slow assimilation."
He said his government has allocated considerable
funding for education for Hungarians abroad but the
results thus far are "partial," and a breakthrough will
only be achieved when Romania agrees to an independent
university for the Hungarian minority in Transylvania.
Orban said he expects the situation of Hungarians in
Croatia to improve with the envisaged "strategic
cooperation" between the two countries, but the
situation in Ukraine is "more difficult" since the
country is large and has "a cumbersome and complicated
administrative system." MS

HUNGARIAN GOVERNING PARTIES WELCOME OPPOSITION'S NATO-
RELATED INITIATIVE. National Security Adviser and
parliamentary Defense Committee chairman Bela Gyuricza
on 24 December said in an interview with "Nepszabadsag"
that the opposition's suggestions on amendments to the
constitution to make possible the transit of NATO peace
keeping troops through Hungary are "a possible base for
talks." Zsolt Lanyi, of the Independent Smallholders'
Party (FKGP) said the proposal is "suitable for
parliamentary debate." But FKGP parliamentary group
leader Attila Bank said the Socialist Party's proposed
compromise was "a false solution that would only
complicate the situation." (See "RFE/RL Newsline, 23
December 1998).  MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

FOUR DAYS OF CLASHES IN KOSOVA. Serbian security forces
exchanged fire with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in
the Llap region near Podujeva between 24 and 27
December, leaving at least 12 persons dead. It marked
the worst fighting since Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic and U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke
reached an agreement on 12 October. Serbian spokesmen
said that the renewed crackdown was necessary following
what the spokesmen claimed were attacks by the UCK on
individual Serbs. But observers noted that the Serbs'
use of up to 100 tanks was a disproportionate response
to the UCK's provocations. The observers added that the
Serbs' extensive use of heavy armor may be in violation
of UN Security Council resolutions. U.S. envoy William
Walker, who heads the civilian monitoring mission,
announced on 28 December that he had secured a cease-
fire. Observers suggested that the agreement was only a
temporary truce to allow both sides to evacuate their
wounded. PM

FUTURE OF MONITORING IN DOUBT. OSCE Chairman Bronislaw
Geremek said in a statement in Vienna on 28 December
that the "spiral of violence puts in danger the
perspective of a peaceful solution to the conflictŠ If
the bloodshed and violence escalate, the OSCE would have
to reconsider the forms of its activities [in Kosova] in
the context of a broader involvement of the
international community in the search for a peaceful
solution to the conflict." Some 600 unarmed monitors,
known as "verifiers," have arrived in Kosova under the
terms of the Milosevic-Holbrooke pact. The remaining
1,400 were to have arrived by early January, but
Geremek's remarks suggest that the OSCE may reconsider
its plans. The London-based "Daily Telegraph" wrote on
28 December that the flow of events is forcing the
monitors into the role of peace-keepers, which neither
they nor anyone else wants.  PM

RENEWED 'ETHNIC CLEANSING' IN KOSOVA? The UCK said in a
series of statements in recent days that it still
respects the overall cease-fire but that it will fight
in self-defense wherever Serbian forces attack. Also
over the long weekend, up to 1,000 Kosovars fled their
homes in the Podujeva region in sub-freezing
temperatures. The "Guardian" wrote on 28 December that
this could be the beginning of a new wave of displaced
persons in the province. One of the main goals of the
Milosevic-Holbrooke pact was to enable refugees and
displaced persons to go home before the onset of winter.
EuroNews Television reported on 28 December that
"instances of ethnic cleansing" have taken place, in
which Serbian forces have looted and burned Kosovar
homes. The London "Times" noted that Kosova remains "a
powder keg." Balkan expert Tim Judah told BBC Television
that the crux of the problem remains that Serbian and
Kosovar goals are irreconcilable.  PM

NATO'S CLARK SPEAKS OF 'NEW PHASE.' U.S. General Wesley
Clark, who is the supreme allied commander in Europe,
told dpa in Hamburg on 26 December that "we are seeing
the emergence of a new roundŠ of a possible significant
escalation in the scope and intensity of the violence by
the Serb side. The Yugoslav army has broken its promises
to NATOŠ The facts have been passed to NATO political
authorities." On 24 December, a White House spokesman
said that the U.S. strongly protested to Belgrade the
actions of the Serbian security forces. PM

ALBANIA WANTS NATO INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA. The Foreign
Ministry issued a statement on 24 December condemning
the military operation of Serbian forces around
Podujeva. The statement called for more international
pressure on Belgrade and for NATO intervention in
Kosova. Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told a special
parliamentary session that "the latest course of events
shows that NATO action is a determining factor for the
political solution," dpa reported. Majko also called on
the opposition Democratic Party to end its boycott and
participate in a 28 December parliamentary session,
which is slated to approve a resolution on Kosova.
Democrat leader Sali Berisha, however, told a press
conference in Tirana on 24 December that it is up to the
party's National Council to decide about a possible
return to parliament. He added that he does not expect
his party to return soon, "Albania" reported. FS

LEADING KOSOVAR POLITICAL PRISONER ORDERED BACK TO JAIL.
The Prishtina district court has sentenced some 15
Kosovars to jail terms ranging from three to ten years,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 December.
Most of those tried come from Kacanik and were charged
with "hostile activity" and "terrorism." Berat Luzha, a
journalist with the daily "Bujku" and chairman of the
Kosova Association of Political Prisoners, was tried in
absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison, KIC news
agency added. The Milosevic-Holbrooke pact includes an
amnesty for all offenses connected with the fighting
this year except for war crimes. PM

MILOSEVIC RESHUFFLES ARMY COMMAND. The Yugoslav
president announced a series of new appointments to top
military positions on 25 December. These include the
promotion of General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who headed the
Prishtina Corps, to become Commander of the Third Army,
which includes Kosova, Reuters reported. The shuffle
follows the sacking of General Momcilo Perisic as chief-
of-staff one month ago. Milosevic has never fully
trusted the army and instead built up the paramilitary
police force as his Praetorian Guard. PM

REPUBLIKA SRPSKA PARLIAMENT BACKS DODIK. Muslim,
Croatian and moderate Serbian deputies voted in Banja
Luka on 24 December to keep Prime Minister Milorad Dodik
in office. Three days later, President Nikola Poplasen
said that he nonetheless wants his fellow hard-liner
Dragan Kalinic to head the cabinet, RFE/RL's South
Slavic Service reported. PM

DRUG BUST IN MACEDONIA TO HERALD NEW POLICY? Customs
police on the Greek border on 24 December discovered the
largest illegal shipment of marijuana in Macedonia to
date. The cannabis, which was hidden on a truck, has a
street value of $1.5 million. An RFE/RL correspondent in
Skopje said that the bust reflects the seriousness of
the new government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski
in cleaning up smuggling and corruption. The
correspondent added that the marijuana haul is but the
"tip of the iceberg," and that observers expect the
authorities to launch further drug busts in coming
weeks. PM

BLAST DESTROYS CENTRAL ALBANIAN POWER LINE. An explosion
destroyed a high-voltage power line in central Albania
on 25 December. It was the fifth such blast this year
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 1998). The Interior
Ministry issued a statement blaming the attack on
unspecified saboteurs seeking to "destabilize the
country." Government officials have linked the
opposition to previous blasts, but did not name specific
suspects. Police have not made any arrests. Democratic
Party Secretary Fatos Beja condemned the blast on 25
December as a "terrorist act [against] the whole
population."  He called on police to bring the bombers
to court, "Rilindja Demokratike" reported. FS

FITCH IBCA DOWNGRADES ROMANIA'S RATING. The
international European rating agency Fitch IBCA
announced on 23 December it was downgrading Romania's
rating for servicing its long- term foreign debt from BB
to B and the rating for servicing its domestic debt from
BBB to BB, Mediafax reported.  Two American rating
agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor, twice downgraded
Romania's country risk in recent months. Fitch IBCA
cited as reasons  Romania's current account deficit of
about 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and the
country's continued economic decline, estimated at 5
percent of the GDP in 1998. It said this renders
doubtful Romania's capability to service in 1999 its
nearly $ 3 billion foreign debt or to raise from lenders
the $ 5 billion needed to cover both the external debt
and the current deficit account. MS

POLLS SHOWS ROMANIANS UNDECIDED ON POLITICAL OPTIONS. A
public opinion poll conducted by the Center for Urban
and Rural Sociology on behalf of the National Liberal
Party shows that nearly half (47 percent) of Romanians
are undecided about their political options, the media
reported on 23 December. Among decided voters,  29.8
percent support the Democratic Convention of Romania,
closely followed by the opposition Party of Social
Democracy in Romania (28.5 percent). The extremist
Greater Romania Party (PRM) is third (17.3), followed by
the Democratic Party (10.5), the Hungarian Democratic
Federation of Romania (6.1) and the Alliance for Romania
( APR, 5.2 percent). In a presidential contest,
President Emil Constantinescu would garner 30 percent of
the vote, former president Ion Iliescu 26.2,  PRM leader
Corneliu Vadim Tudor 17.3,  APR leader Teodor Melescanu
15.1 and Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman 7.8
percent. MS

LUCINSCHI POSTPONES SUMMIT. President Petru Lucinschi on
24 December postponed a summit meeting with
Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov, scheduled for 25
December,  Infotag and Flux reported. Lucinschi's
representative at the talks with the separatists, Ion
Lesan, said the postponement was due to the fact that
Lucinschi's "presence in Chisinau was necessary in order
for him to participate in the search for solutions to
some social and economic problems." The meeting was to
discuss, among other things, the special status of the
separatist region. On the same day,  the Moldovan
Foreign Ministry released a statement protesting against
the recent declarations of Russian Liberal Democratic
Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Tiraspol and
calling them a "gross interference in Moldovan internal
affairs" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 23 December 1998). MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PRESIDENTIAL APPEAL ON
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW.  The parliament on 23 December
reconfirmed its earlier decision to include the Taraclia
district in the  Cahul County, thus rejecting President
Petru Lucinschi's appeal to grant the district
(inhabited largely by ethnic Bulgarians) administrative
independence, Infotag and Flux reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 December 1998).  Iurie Rosca, co-chairman
of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM),
threatened to dismiss parliament chairman Dumitru Diacov
unless the law was reconfirmed. Diacov said this
amounted to a "dictatorship of the CDM" over the
governmental Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (APDR).
In an interview with "Novoye Vremia" on 25 December,
Diacov said that "some partners in the ruling coalition
are beginning to sabotage the terms on which the  APDR
has been set up and seek to provoke a conflict between
the president and the parliament," Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL ASKS COURT TO VOID MONARCHY
ABOLITION. Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev asked the
Constitutional Court to declare void the 1946 referendum
that abolished the monarchy, Reuters and AP reported on
23 December. Tatarchev says that under the law, the
constitution could not be changed by a referendum. The
court is expected to rule at the end of January. The
appeal coincided with a visit to Bulgaria by former king
Simeon II, who was received by President Petar Stoyanov
on 23 December. Stoyanov showed the former monarch
Bulgaria's new coat of arms, in which the royal regalia
have been restored. A presidential spokesman said they
discussed ways to improve Bulgaria's international image
and that Simeon pledged "to work for his country, as he
always has done." MS

TURKISH COMMEMORATION MONUMENT DEFACED IN BULGARIA. A
monument  in Momchilgrad commemorating the victims of
totalitarianism and of enforced assimilation of
Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority in the 1980s, has
been desecrated, BTA reported on 27 December. Lyutvi
Mestan, a deputy representing the ethnic Turkish
Movement for Rights and Freedoms, told a rally in
Momchilgrad that Bulgaria's respect of minorities'
rights "is still below that of European standards." MS

END NOTE

END NOTE: A DIVISIVE CALL FOR UNITY

by Paul Goble

	An agreement between the Russian and Belarusian
presidents to move toward the merger of their countries
is sending shockwaves through both countries,  the other
post-Soviet states, and the West as well. And it is
having this effect even though many people in all three
places are now dismissing this accord either because
they oppose such a new union state or because they doubt
that these two former Soviet republics will ever form
one.
	On 25 December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and
his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed
a series of accords in the Kremlin that both men said
pointed toward the unification of the two countries into
a single state, possibly as soon as mid-1999.
	And while they promised that there would be "public
discussion" of this idea -- the Russian press even
called for a plebiscite -- the two presidents said that
they had already agreed to introduce a single currency
and common tax system early next year.
	Not surprisingly, this announcement has had an
immediate impact in the two countries most directly
affected. In Russia, reformers have spoken out against
this move. On the one hand, they are concerned about the
way in which this agreement was reached.
	And on the other, they view it as a threat to
democracy and free market economics, with many fearful
that such a reunification would transform the
authoritarian Belarusian president into a major player
on the Russian political scene.
	That latter possibility -- a Lukashenka run for the
Russian presidency -- has somewhat dampened the
enthusiasm of Russian communists and nationalists who
otherwise welcome what they see as a restoration of the
past and a challenge to NATO and the West.
Consequently, at least some of them may oppose the
reunification of the two countries for the same reason
they have blocked it earlier: the enormous financial
costs unity would impose on Russia itself.
	Meanwhile, in Belarus, the impact of the accord has
been still more dramatic. Given the extent of
Lukashenka's increasingly authoritarian control in
Minsk,  Belarusian officials have dutifully backed the
Yeltsin-Lukashenka deal.
	But democratic activists opposed to it clashed with
police over the weekend. And the Belarusian Popular
Front issued a statement noting that the accord reflects
Lukashenka's willingness "to eliminate Belarusian
statehood" in order to enhance his power.
	This fundamental difference of opinion sets the
stage for ever sharper political combat between
Lukashenka and those Belarusians who are committed not
only to national independence but to democracy, free
markets, and cooperation with the West.
	As dramatic as that clash is likely to be in the
coming weeks and months, the consequences of the
Yeltsin-Lukashenka accord on Russian relations with the
other post-Soviet states and with the West are likely to
prove far more significant.
	The Yeltsin-Lukashenka accord appears certain to
presage an expanded effort by Moscow to promote the
reintegration of the former Soviet republics. And such a
move will almost certainly exacerbate relations within
and among them.
	Within many of these countries, some political
factions will welcome proposals for closer relations,
given their current economic difficulties.  But there
will be many more who will oppose any such moves lest
they lead as with Belarus to the extinction of national
statehood.
	And whatever the outcome in the short term, such
domestic conflicts are likely to leave many of the
governments involved weakened politically, thus setting
the stage for increased Russian influence there despite
Moscow's current weakness.
	But the greatest challenge by far that is posed by
the Yeltsin-Lukashenka agreement may be to Western
governments: First, it represents a direct challenge to
NATO which is now scheduled to include Poland as a
member later this spring.
	Second, it highlights the continuing influence in
Moscow of those interested in reversing the 1991
dissolution of the Soviet Union and calls into question
Yeltsin's past commitments to oppose any such revision.
	And third, by setting the stage for greater
conflict among the post-Soviet states as well as between
Moscow and the West, this agreement may force Western
governments to play a very different role than they
would like.
	While increased conflict in the region may lead
some to advocate a further retrenchment of Western
involvement in the region, increased conflict between
Moscow and the West would likely have precisely the
opposite effect.
	And for all these reasons, the Yeltsin-Lukashenka
accord appears likely to define the nature of many
conflicts in the post-Soviet states during the next year
as well as the ways in which all the players will
respond.

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