INTERNATIONAL donors, meeting over the next two weeks to respond
to desperate Soviet pleas for help, are looking for a ready and
reliable set of partners on the receiving end.
But a coherent Soviet leadership - with a mix of central
government officials and representatives from the breakaway
republics - is as tall an order in this disintegrating union as are
the huge sums of foreign aid being sought from the West.
A host of United States, European, and Japanese officials are
now visiting Moscow to assess Soviet need and explore ways of
distributing foreign assistance. They are seeking evidence of
Soviet commitment to economic reforms before they dole out even a
portion of the tens of billions of dollars in requested aid.
But central and local leaders here are having difficulty
cooperating, much less reaching an agreement, and the jurisdiction
between the republics and the union remains undefined.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had indicated optimistically
that the republican leaders and central authorities could sign an
economic agreement by this Thursday. But many republics, citing
conflicting national interests, have been reluctant to coordinate
policies covering debt, currency, trade, banking, and customs.
Mr. Gorbachev has amended his earlier expectation, saying over
the weekend that an economic agreement will be signed by
mid-October. Observers doubt that even that date can be met.
Kirghizia and Armenia have so far withheld their support, and the
Ukraine has reserved its participation in an all-union economic
treaty until its Dec. 2 presidential election is held.
Even the relative economic powerhouse, Russia, is at odds with
the Economic Management Committee of the State Council charged with
managing the planned inter-republic economy. Committee chairman
Ivan Silayev, whose resignation as prime minister of the Russian
Republic took effect Friday, is accused by former Russian
colleagues of trying to work out an economic agreement that would
in effect undermine Russian sovereignty.
While the Soviets are mired in domestic squabbles, US Treasury
Secretary Nicholas Brady is pushing for an early meeting of the
Group of Seven to coordinate international policy toward the Soviet
The G-7 - economic policy makers from the world's richest
countries, including the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, and Japan - will meet in advance of the annual meeting of
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund scheduled later
this month in Bangkok.
High on the G-7 agenda is the mammoth $70 billion Soviet debt,
which the cash-strapped Soviets are increasingly unable to pay. US
and European officials say that in the coming six months, the
Soviets need more than $5 billion to service their debt and pay for
Soviet prospects for reaping foreign exchange through exports to
pay for imports remain dim. Soviet oil, the biggest dollar earner,
is needed domestically. Oil production has slipped dramatically
this year because of mismanagement, technical problems, and poor
equipment. A leading world producer, the Soviet Union may become a
net oil importer, if conditions continue to deteriorate. …