In his article "Pumping Up the Problem" [Outlook, Aug. 15], Robert Kaiser states that "in the context of Russian politics, the West's investment in Yeltsin seems -- for now at least -- counterproductive." How about in the context of Russian history?

Today we see the freest and most open Russian state and society in history; the least militarized in history; the least menacing to its neighbors in the world; the friendliest toward the West and the United States; and, after 1,000 years of authoritarianism, totalitarianism and patrimonialism, a Russia radically decentralized yet whole; a Russia with diverse and dispersed centers of power; a Russia where courts rule against the Kremlin, the army and the secret police; where the press is free from government censorship; political opposition (no matter how radical) is free to campaign and publish; and where free and competitive elections have become a norm, as has private property. One wishes all the West's "investments" were even remotely as "productive"!

One also wishes that Robert Kaiser -- an astute, serious and long-term student of Russian affairs -- did not resort to the cliche of Mr. Yeltsin's "using his army to shell the parliament." When, on the morning of Oct. 4, 1993, 12 tank shells (nine duds and three explosive charges) were fired at the parliament building, it had been taken over by and become the headquarters of the armed leftist militants and black-shirted antisemitic thugs of Aleksandr Barkashov's Russian National Unity, Viktor Anpilov's Working Moscow, and Stanislav Terekhov's Union of Officers, who a few hours before used grenade launchers against the national television center and rampaged through Moscow killing scores of civilians. Not one of the 1,041 members of the parliament (the Congress of People's Deputies) was killed, injured or arrested, and scores (including radical Communists) ran for the Duma two months later and were elected.



The writer, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of a biography of Boris Yeltsin.