PRESIDENT Mikhail Gorbachev says the Soviet Union will take a
giant step on the road to recovery when the leaders of three
powerful republics sign the new union treaty tomorrow.
But other influential Soviet leaders, including Prime Minister
Valentin Pavlov, have attacked the treaty, saying it could
exacerbate problems in the country.
The agreement will drastically alter the relationship between the
Kremlin and the Soviet Union's 15 republics, distributing
significant decisionmaking authority to the republican governments.
After three arduous months of negotiation, the leaders of the
giant Russian Federation, along with the Central Asian republics of
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, will be the first to sign the treaty at a
Kremlin ceremony tomorrow. Six other republics have indicated they
will sign later, but one, the Ukraine, is balking at the proposed
The six remaining republics - Moldavia, Georgia, Armenia and the
three Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia - are seeking
independence from the Soviet Union and have refused to sign the new
treaty. Armenia, however, may change its position depending on the
outcome of a referendum in September. The republics that don't sign
the new treaty will still be bound to Moscow by the 1922 union
The new treaty's text doesn't contain the word "socialism" but
transforms the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics into the Union of
Soviet Sovereign Republics. Perhaps most important, the republics
are given control over their economic resources.
The treaty also allows the republics to collect taxes, then pass
on a fixed percentage to Kremlin coffers. The central government
will retain control over security and defense, but the republics
will have a voice in military policy and foreign economic relations.
The treaty's completion provides the impetus for further reforms
of the Soviet Union's fast-sinking political and economic system,
including a new constitution and fresh elections at all levels,
according to Mr. Gorbachev. "The treaty creates the prerequisites
for profound changes for the better in all spheres of public and
state life," he said in a recent nationwide television address.
Though less enthusiastic about the treaty than Gorbachev, Russian
Federation President Boris Yeltsin is supporting it.
"We favor the signing of the union treaty, although we are not
quite satisfied with those provisions based on compromise," said Mr.
Yeltsin, a former bitter political rival of Gorbachev, at a news
Other influential leaders from across the political spectrum are
gloomy about the treaty's ability to heal rifts and get the country
going again. …