Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gorbachev Buys Time on Economy and Secesssion Issues

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gorbachev Buys Time on Economy and Secesssion Issues

Article excerpt

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV is attempting to regain the initiative on the turbulent Soviet political scene, with so far uncertain results.

The Soviet government on June 13 presented to the parliament a revamped version of its controversial plan for transition to a market economy.

The previous evening, Mr. Gorbachev held a meeting with the presidents of the three breakaway Baltic republics, indicating a breakthrough in the impasse over their plans for independence from the Soviet Union.

Arkady Maslennikov, Gorbachev's spokesman, told reporters yesterday that the Soviet leader "would be flexible and not insist on certain forms or wordings." He insisted that "we are searching for a solution," not a continuation of conflict.

On both fronts, Gorbachev and his government have retreated slightly, seeking to buy time and avoid an immediate crisis.

The shift in Gorbachev's attitude is a response to the election of the populist Boris Yeltsin to the presidency of the huge Russian Republic and the assertion of sovereignty by the Russian parliament. The Russian developments have strengthened the hand of the Baltic republics and of those opposing the government's economic plan.

Gorbachev seems to have concluded that it is better to try to use the desire of the republics for economic and political independence than to fight against it. In a meeting June 12 with the presidents of the 15 republics, he offered to begin immediate talks on a new treaty of federation. And he gave his general approval to the idea, strongly pushed by Mr. Yeltsin, of horizontal economic links between republics, bypassing the central government.

The economic reform plan, presented three weeks ago by Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, ran into a storm of protest, mostly aimed at proposals for large increases in the subsidized prices of basic commodities. But critics from the left also charged the government with failing decisively to create the basis for a genuine market economy. …

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