Moscow Seeks Boost at Home from Diplomatic Moves Yugoslav, Mideast Steps Aim at Shoring Up Democratization, Global Role

Article excerpt

SOVIET initiatives to bring peace to Yugoslavia and the Middle East are aimed not only at shoring up the Soviet Union as a global power, but also at strengthening the democratization process at home.

President Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to end the bloodshed in Yugoslavia appear to have borne some fruit, despite continued fighting. Following a joint meeting in Moscow Tuesday, Mr. Gorbachev, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and his Croatian counterpart, Franjo Tudjman, issued a statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and the start of peace talks within a month. Long-standing Soviet ties to the Serbian leaders are said here to give some hope that this agreement has greater chance for success than previous attempts.

Meanwhile, Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin was scheduled to start a four-nation Middle East tour Thursday in support of the US-sponsored regional peace conference, tentatively scheduled to take place in late October. The trip also could pave the way for the renewal of diplomatic ties between the Soviet Union and Israel, severed during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

The diplomatic moves come at a time when the Soviet Union's domestic affairs are still unsettled following the failed August coup. With winter fast approaching and a possible food shortage looming, the Soviet Union is racing to calm its internal situation before it can proceed with political and economic changes.

"Participation in world politics and the world economy, as well as an intention to increase cooperation step by step with the West is a key to the democratization process in the Soviet Union," says Sergei Blagovolin, a political scientist at Moscow's Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

Like the rest of Soviet society, however, the foreign policy-making apparatus finds itself caught in a transitional phase at a time when quick action is needed.

The Foreign Ministry is faced with adjusting its policy to the new internal situation - in which 12 remaining republics have a larger voice - while still maintaining overall consistency. The failure to adapt quickly enough could have disastrous consequences, Mr. Blagovolin warns.

If the Soviet Union drifts out of the diplomatic mainstream "it would lead to complete economic and political chaos" in the country that could endanger world stability, he says.

The progress in the Yugoslav mediation initiative should give Soviet foreign policy makers much needed confidence. It could also help Moscow's efforts to win Western aid needed to help bail the country out of its economic crisis, observers say. …