Whatever moral high ground Russian President Boris Yeltsin held during the NATO air war against Serbia has been forfeited by Russia's military campaign against Chechnya ["Russians Bombard Chechen Capital," front page, Nov. 27].

The Russian argument on behalf of Serbia--that NATO should not have used force in a Serbian [Yugoslav] internal matter--was a prelude to the Russian argument: stop meddling in our internal affairs.

The Russians may not have protested too much at the NATO bombing of Serbia, because that was a quid pro quo for NATO's stance of not protesting too much at the Russian military assault against Chechnya--a war targeting civilians as much as the terrorists who allegedly blew up a number of buildings earlier in Moscow. The immoral equivalence here is not between Russia and NATO, but between Russia and Serbia.

But more important than expressing moral outrage at any actions taken in Chechnya or Kosovo is the argument for robust implementation of what all the partners in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)--including the Russian Federation--agreed to at the recent summit in Istanbul: that the international community has the right to get involved in any internal matter if it threatens to spill over to the external domain, and that all parties involved should attempt, to the extent possible, to deal with their conflicts through "nonlethal" means.

It is not too late for the Russians and their partners at the OSCE to turn this humanitarian catastrophe into a collaborative solution to the often contradictory relationship in international law between sovereignty and self-determination--perhaps in the process creating a model for the prevention of future Bosnias, Kosovos and even Chechnyas.

DENNIS SANDOLE

Fairfax