Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Swedish Adviser Says Soviet Republics, West Are Squandering Chance to Solve Problems

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Swedish Adviser Says Soviet Republics, West Are Squandering Chance to Solve Problems

Article excerpt

THE adage that the world helps those who help themselves seems to be lost on the beleaguered Soviet Union.

The international community, sharply focused on the remnants of Soviet central authority, promises help if an all-union economic and political strategy is resurrected.

But the fractured republics have produced little more than acrimony, leaving would-be world assistance hanging in the balance.

Anders Aslund, director of the Stockholm Institute of Soviet and East European Economics, and a leading analyst of Soviet affairs, says the devolution of power to the local level is inevitable, and Western measures to preserve the center are wasting precious time.

"The only legitimate authority is on the republic level, and that authority shrinks every day that no serious economic remedies are undertaken," says Mr. Aslund, who meets frequently with Soviet officials on the union and local levels.

Meanwhile, inter-republican, ethnic, and nationalist problems intensify as the economy deteriorates: Ruble presses print a near-worthless currency 24 hours a day, inflation rages at 3 percent a week, and republics become more strident in their defiance of central authority.

Soviet leaders desperately trying to forge economic and political links know just how poor their prospects are.

On Oct. 21, less than a week after only eight out of the 12 republics signed a watered-down economic agreement, only seven of the 12 sent full delegations to the postponed opening of the new Soviet legislature, the Supreme Soviet.

Aslund says his own apocalyptic outlook on Soviet affairs is fast becoming reality. "Two months after the coup, the extraordinary opportunity of solving intractable political and economic problems ... is being wasted."

All the inter-republican efforts to legislate or sign agreements are "absolutely irrelevant. Absolutely insincere," says Aslund. "By and large they know no union is possible. Nothing can be done on this level, and no one wants to admit it," he says.

He also has harsh words for the international community, which he says considers the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the panacea for complex Soviet economic problems. The IMF, the newly charged leader of globally supplied economic advice and future cash infusions, is naively fixed on the centrists, says Aslund.

"The Fund ... believes that the Soviet Union still exists and they talk to people such as {Soviet President Mikhail} Gorbachev and {chief economic policymaker Grigory} Yavlinsky, who want to maintain the illusion," he says.

With a 20 percent fall in national income this year and some 280 million people on the brink of total chaos, "this is one of the worst financial disasters the world has seen," says Aslund.

The world doesn't have the luxury of deluding itself about the success of central coordination, he says. …

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