BORIS YELTSIN and Mikhail Gorbachev were on the road last week,
each seeking what the other has. Russian President Yeltsin was in
Germany for three days looking for international acceptance. At the
same time Mr. Gorbachev traveled to the Siberian city of Irkutsk
and the Central Asian republic of Kirghizia in a bid for popular
support for his vision of continued union.
"We are determined to occupy a worthy place among democracies
which rightfully belongs to Russia," Mr. Yeltsin told an audience
of German industrialists.
"Nothing but a union state can take us from this marsh and
restore order within the whole of the economic space," Gorbachev
told the daily Rabochaya Tribuna. "If there is no union state, I
shall not take part in the discussion."
The Soviet leader sounded this theme in factory speeches and on
the streets, where he met with what the official Tass agency called
"a good deal of bitter words" from residents standing in long lines
before stores with empty shelves.
Such sentiments are hardly new, but it is a long time since the
much maligned Soviet leader heard them first-hand.
Gorbachev has increased his tempo in recent weeks in beating the
drum for union.
He is pushing hard for the former Soviet republics to sign a
treaty forming a Union of Sovereign States to replace the old Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics. Last week he spent two and half
hours trying to convince republican leaders of this, a task he will
resume today when they meet again in Moscow.
At the same time, Gorbachev argues that political union and
economic reform are inseparable. Without a united state "in the
international arena ... it will be impossible to implement
reforms," he said in the interview published on Nov. 22.
His chief economist, Grigory Yavlinsky, has drafted a package of
eight agreements designed to implement the treaty to form an
economic community that was signed in October. These agreements
cover foreign debt, taxes, budget, social security, prices, and
inter-republican agreements to deliver food and other goods.
The experts have done their work, Mr. Yavlinsky told
journalists, now it is time for the politicians to act. A joint
communique signed by eight republics with the Group of Seven
leading industrial nations gave the unionists a significant boost
from the West.
The G-7 offered limited deferral of payments on the Soviet
Union's medium- and long-term debt, as well as some short-term
credits to meet immediate needs.
But they demanded in turn the republican acceptance of
collective responsibility for repayment through the existing
central Vneshekonombank and implementation of economic policies
under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund.
Those policies include reducing the huge budget deficit, curbing
growth of the money supply, liberalizing prices and foreign
exchange, and maintaining "free inter-republican trade."
"We're not trying to recreate the center," United States
Undersecretary of the Treasury David Mulford insisted after the
talks. "We've tried to help all the relevant parties set up a
system to solve their problems. …