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Soviets Assail, Jeopardize Bid for Western Aid

June 18, 1991|MICHAEL PARKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOSCOW — The proposal to underwrite the Soviet Union's transition to a free-market economy with massive Western assistance came under scathing attack from Soviet lawmakers here Monday, putting the whole initiative in jeopardy.

Although the project has the support of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, even his prime minister criticized the concept of the "Grand Bargain," saying that the United States and other Western countries are unlikely to provide tens of billions of dollars each year in aid to the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov, outlining his own austerity program to the Supreme Soviet, the country's legislature, scoffed at the six-year plan drawn up by Soviet and U.S. economists that would finance Soviet economic reforms with Western assistance, in effect a bargain intended to end state socialism here.

"To give money to the Soviet Union, you have to go to Congress (in the United States) and convince the legislators and the taxpayers they represent that the Soviets must be given substantial aid, free of charge, just for the beauty of it," Pavlov said. "Let me tell you, this is not as simple as it sounds.

"What's more, should that happen, we will have to join the waiting line there after Israel, the Arabs and so forth. Those who are willing may stand there, but without me."

Demanding broad emergency powers to rule the economy by decree in the name of "stabilization," Pavlov appeared, further, to have broken with Gorbachev on not only economic strategy but also on who sets and implements policy in the Soviet government.

Had he discussed his request for additional powers with the president? Pavlov was asked by the deputies. "Quite simply--no," he replied.

The lawmakers' anger over the proposed aid-for-reform program, which they see as subordinating the Soviet Union to foreign powers and Western bankers, quickly solidified support for Pavlov.

"Now that we witness complete discord in the top echelons of power," said Col. Viktor Alksnis, a leader of the conservative Soyuz group, "when we witness a conflict between the president and the Supreme Soviet and between the president and the prime minister, we must make our choice and give full support to the Cabinet (under Pavlov)."

Together, the developments dramatically undercut the appeal that Gorbachev will make to leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized democracies at their summit meeting in London next month.

Gorbachev plans to argue for greater "cooperation," a word he prefers to assistance, as the Soviet Union integrates itself into the world economy, ending the decades of autarky that protected Soviet socialism from economic realities. The program drafted by American and Soviet economists was expected to be an important element in his presentation.

The virtual rebellion Monday in the Supreme Soviet, however, put in real peril his ability to win legislative approval for the tough measures on which the West would insist in return for aid that some U.S. economists have calculated at $20 billion to $30 billion a year.

Pavlov, clearly bitter that Gorbachev preferred the radical plan to his austerity program, said mockingly that the formula might be fine for Harvard University, where it was drafted over the past three weeks, but that it is incapable of pulling the Soviet Union out of its severe economic crisis.

"I know some gentlemen from Harvard University," Pavlov told the deputies, "and they simply do not know our life or understand our views. They have their own criteria and values. They have their own ideas on how people should work and live. It is all but impossible to explain to them why we can't bring ourselves to leave any potatoes or gravy on the plate . . . and I cannot let any of it be thrown away. They simply do not understand, and that's why there cannot be a joint program."

Members of the Supreme Soviet angrily denounced the still-unpublished proposal as demeaning and criticized its principal Soviet author, Grigory Yavlinsky, a radical, pro-market economist, as a charlatan whose proposals undermined public confidence in the government's efforts to pull the country out of its crisis.

"No sooner have we adopted the anti-crisis program aimed at stabilizing the economy . . . than Yavlinsky's shadow rises again and a rival program is being announced abroad," said Viktor G. Kucherenko, chairman of the legislature's planning and budget commission, recalling previous Yavlinsky proposals.

"Mythical loans are being suggested, and we know for sure that nothing good will come of it. Yet once again the trust in the governmental program is being eroded."

Anatoly N. Sayunin, the commission's deputy chairman, called the new program, worked out with Graham Allison and other economists at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, "another theoretical exercise by Yavlinsky, perhaps a source of some useful ideas but definitely not a practical, official program."

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