MOSCOW — With the blessing of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, two Soviet officials have issued a startling proposal for the United States and other industrialized democracies: a request for massive economic aid in exchange for explicit, formal guarantees of continued domestic reform.
The plan's chief author, Grigory A. Yavlinsky, one of the movers and shakers behind last fall's abortive plan to refashion the Soviet economy into a market system within 500 days, is to leave Moscow for Harvard University today to continue work on his latest proposal.
"Our problems can soon become the world's problems; a possible collapse of the U.S.S.R. now threatens, with geopolitical consequences," Sergei A. Zverev, an aide to Yavlinsky, said in an interview Saturday.
"The West can choose not to cooperate with us, but this will cost it much more," Zverev warned.
Although favoring Gorbachev's foundering reform campaign, governments, banks and businesses in the United States and other capitalist countries have become increasingly gun-shy in recent months. They are concerned about pouring aid or investment funds into the Soviet Union, citing the nose-dive of the economy and the near chaos of political life.
For instance, President Bush, questioning the wisdom of providing $1.4 billion in requested farm credits to the Kremlin, dispatched a delegation of American experts to Moscow this weekend to investigate Soviet food distribution problems.
The proposal drawn up by Yavlinsky, which is co-signed by Yevgeny M. Primakov, a top Gorbachev adviser and member of the National Security Council, seeks to allay the concerns of Bush and other Western leaders by committing the Soviet Union to a precise, fixed reform agenda that leads to the virtual dismantling of the state economic machine and the institution of market principles.
By joining the signatures of both Gorbachev adviser Primakov and Yavlinsky--a political ally of the Russian Federation's radical president, Boris N. Yeltsin--the program offers the crucial guarantee of support from the Soviet Union's two most powerful leaders.
Yavlinsky and Primakov recommend that the program's fine points be discussed at the so-called Group of Seven summit, to be held in London in July. The summit includes the United States and the world's six other big industrial democracies: Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Canada.
There is no time to waste, the Soviets say.
"It's hard to predict what will happen in our country if this moment is missed," Yavlinsky and Primakov wrote in their proposal, excerpts of which were printed in the liberal weekly Moscow News.
Signs have multiplied of late that the Soviet Union and the West are groping toward some sort of agreement to help salvage Gorbachev's leadership.
Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov, who once accused Western bankers of attempting to wreck his country's economy, mysteriously said last week that "a sort of Marshall Plan" was being hammered out for his country.
In Washington, Bush disclosed that he had received a request from the Soviet Union that Gorbachev be allowed to attend the Group of Seven summit and said he would consult with leaders of the six other nations.
It was the Group of Seven's meeting last year that launched a major study of the Soviet economy and what the West could do to stave off its collapse. The conclusion reached by the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions was that the Soviets must carry out their own sweeping market reforms before massive outside financial aid could be of much use.