The centerpiece of President Clinton's June meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will be strengthening national security. The Administration plans to do this by focusing on nuclear weapons and National Missile Defense. This is a short-term solution to a longer-term problem.
Ultimately, national security will be enhanced if the Russian state is tolerant of a plurality of views and becomes increasingly democratic. It is sobering but important to pay attention when Russian political and social activists claim that the modest movement in this direction under Boris Yeltsin has been undermined by Putin. President Clinton has an opportunity to be loud and clear about the importance of human rights and democracy, in contrast to other Western leaders meeting with Putin who have only whispered.
There is a tendency on the part of policymakers to talk about democracy and human rights when it seems strategically convenient. If they think that a focus on these issues threatens to interfere with traditional security matters, such as getting an agreement on nuclear weapons, democracy and human rights then fade from the agenda. […]