MOSCOW — With concern starting to show in the Soviet Union about the fast-paced changes in Eastern Europe, Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze reassured lawmakers here Friday that the reforms are both necessary and good for East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland as well as the other members of the Warsaw Pact--and the future of socialism itself.
Shevardnadze assured the Soviet Union's neighbors of its support in the reforms and warned that any attempt to forestall the changes would bring a renewal of the Cold War.
"We have to hail the bold, innovative steps of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany)," he told the foreign policy committees of the Supreme Soviet, the country's legislature. "They meet the interests of socialism, of Europe as a whole, of the East German people and of the Warsaw Pact. . . .
"We support the course of the renewal of democracy in the German Democratic Republic and wish our friends and allies success."
Apparently rebutting legislators who asked why the Soviet allies could not merely modernize past policies, Shevardnadze said the countries of Eastern Europe are beginning the process of "a deep renewal of socialism," just as the Soviet Union had with its reform program, known as \o7 perestroika.\f7
"The changes are logical and historically justified," he said. "What is now taking place is the democratization, the renewal of socialism and the realization of people's right to a free choice."
In affirming the Soviet Union's desire to see such fundamental changes, Shevardnadze went further in his policy review than past statements had in making it clear that Moscow is, in fact, pushing the reforms.
"Regarding democracy and freedom as solely Western values is utter arrogance, a 'Western delusion of grandeur,' " he continued. "Universal human values cannot be reduced just to Western ones."
Socialist countries are proceeding with the reforms based on the "new political thinking" that underlies long-term changes in Soviet foreign policy, new cuts in armaments and the feeling of greater security that stemmed from these factors, he said.
Although the Soviet Union has supported the reforms from the outset, their rapid spread through much of Eastern Europe has brought fears of instability in a region that Moscow considers to be its front yard, as well as fears of a possible collapse that would jeopardize \o7 perestroika.\f7
"Poland's stability is a factor in our national security, and we must promote its stabilization," he acknowledged.
But Shevardnadze told the legislative committees that Poland's coalition government, which is led by Solidarity, emerged from free elections last summer and that it has a popular base.
"The people made their choice," he said, recalling that Solidarity had defeated many Communist candidates from the Polish United Workers Party. "The government has been recognized, and it is respected by the Polish United Workers Party. So, we have no grounds for not respecting the Polish government."
But he felt some uneasiness last month, Shevardnadze conceded, as he traveled to "quite a different Warsaw" for a meeting of the Warsaw Pact's foreign ministers. "And it was quite unusual to hear 'Mister' rather than 'Comrade' during the discussions at that meeting," he said.
Answering criticism from Soviet conservatives about the danger posed to socialism by the reforms, Shevardnadze warned that "it is impossible to return to the ideological stereotypes of the past--we would be very close to a new Cold War at that point."
Looking ahead to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's meeting with President Bush aboard Soviet and American warships off Malta on Dec. 2-3, Shevardnadze predicted that the discussions will speed changes in the nature of relations between the two superpowers toward those based on good will and cooperation rather than rivalry.
"This meeting will proceed without a fixed agenda, and there are no plans to sign any agreements," Shevardnadze said.