ONCE home after meeting the G-7 leaders in London, Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev may find out that his dream of joining the
exclusive club of the world's mighty as the leader of a renewed
Soviet Union is further from reality than ever before.
It is not that the USSR does not have any chance to regain its
potential. But there are good chances that it will reemerge from its
current crisis with a totally different political and economic
structure, in which Gorbachev's role would be comparable to that of
the British queen.
Reports coming from Moscow indicate that the Union Treaty, which
the Soviet president so vehemently advertised to the Group of Seven
in London, may not materialize in the form Gorbachev expects it to.
As proposed by the central authorities, the new draft Union
Treaty provides Moscow with the right to formulate defense and
foreign policies and oversee communication and transportation
networks. It also gives the central government the right to control
gold and diamond reserves and define energy policy. State laws will
have precedence over republican laws.
Although the representatives of nine Soviet republics initialed
this treaty at the end of June, many analysts consider it more a
political gesture aimed at influencing the West on the eve of
Gorbachev's trip to London than a sincere expression of their will.
"There are areas of competence (of the central government) that are
still not recognized by everyone," one of the leading Soviet
reformist newspapers, Kommersant, pointed out.
The main challengers to the central government are Russia and the
Ukraine, the richest and most self-sustaining of the nine republics.
* Both favor a tax system in which the republics would annually
contribute a portion of their revenues to the federal budget,
something that is staunchly opposed by Moscow, which is not willing
to live at the mercy of the "provinces."
* While not rejecting the proposed notion of the "unified energy
system" as a whole, the government of Russia opposes including into
this system the republic's energy resources such as oil and coal
that constitute its main wealth. This refusal renders the whole
* During his electoral campaign, Russian President Boris Yeltsin
repeatedly stated that the legislation of the Russian Republic would
have absolute priority over that of the Union. Speaking in Samara,
an old Russian town on the bank of the river Volga, he promised to
free the republic's enterprises from paying 40 percent of their hard
currency earnings to the union budget and, instead, proposed that
they sell a portion of these earnings to the government of Russia, a
clear attempt to undermine Moscow's control over the hard currency