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Thank goodness for Yeltsin's backbone

PRECISELY because something he has not done has not made headlines, Russian President Boris Yeltsin deserves the world's thanks and praise. On the other hand, not doing what he hasn't done is really the only thing he could have done....

Mr. Yeltsin's insistence that under no circumstances will Russia invade breakaway Chechnya in the important and volatile Caucasus region is a tribute to his political intelligence.

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It also shows an admirable measure of political backbone in the face of a possible backlash from great-Russian nationalists who might fault him for failing to respond forcefully to the virtual secession of one of Russia's 89 republics and regions....

Yeltsin likely is placing a fairly safe bet that even his nemesis, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, knows that to intervene in the Caucasus is to play with fire.... Too rarely do politicians get due credit for all the disasters they successfully forestall.

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