WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration's said yesterday that the surprisingly large support for foes of reform in Russia's parliamentary elections last week showed that there had been too much emphasis on remaking the economy of Russia and not enough on improving the daily lives of its people.
Strobe Talbott, the State Department's ambassador at large for Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, also said the United States was looking to other Russian reformers as well as President Boris N. Yeltsin to bring change, even if they were Mr. Yeltsin's political enemies.
While Mr. Talbott was characteristically cautious and noncommittal, his remarks illuminated an important shift in official U.S. thinking: an admission, in effect, that the "shock therapy," the-faster-the-better approach to reform advocated by the West -- and until recently by Mr. Yeltsin -- has not worked.
In the first on-the-record admission that Washington is rethinking its strategy on Russia, Mr. Talbott acknowledged that the administration had begun "intensive deliberations" to take account of the election results.
The goal, Mr. Talbott added, is to find a way for "less shock and more therapy for the Russian people."
Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher sounded the same theme in a meeting with reporters in New York last night. Mr. Christopher said he hoped Russia's reformers would "be very conscious of the pain that takes place in the transition" from communism to capitalism.
Although the United States and the other Western nations have little direct influence on Russian politics, they have encouraged the speedy pace of reform by tying loans from the International Monetary Fund to the pace of economic change.
Worried about Russia's huge budget deficit and high inflation rate, the IMF has adhered to a strict lending policy, calling for action on those fronts before money would be handed over.
As a result, the fund has lent Russia only half of a promised $3 billion, a situation criticized last week in Moscow by Vice President Al Gore, who said the IMF's board was not sensitive enough to the hardships the Russian people faced.
Mr. Talbott also said the administration was considering the expansion of a strong social "safety net" for the Russian people, but he either was unable or unwilling to say where the money would come from.
Other officials were quick to insist that the United States would not go beyond the $2.5 billion it has already set aside for the nations of the former Soviet Union for next year.