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SPECIAL EDITION: CRISIS IN THE KREMLIM : Global View : Waking Up to a World Without Gorbachev : * The Kremlin coup has also doomed the spirit of cooperation with Washington on a variety of global issues, U.S. experts say.

August 20, 1991|ROBIN WRIGHT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Just three weeks after George Bush and Mikhail S. Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Moscow with pens crafted from scrapped superpower missiles, the very premise on which that benchmark accord was signed has been sabotaged.

"The new world order is gone," concludes Blair Ruble, director of the Kennan Institute at Washington's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

On a host of issues ranging from arms control to regional peace efforts, the spirit of cooperation between Moscow and Washington has probably been set back years by Gorbachev's abrupt ouster in an apparent rightist putsch, according to U.S. analysts. The hard-liners who replaced him are unlikely to collaborate readily with the West, they say.

"It basically means that the deck is reshuffled," says Michael Beschloss, a Soviet expert and author of "The Crisis Years."

He adds: "It does not necessarily mean the end of collective security. But it does mean an end to the assumption that the Soviet Union is going to be a part of that system."

And, without the East's participation with the West, progress in defusing many of the world's major flash points will lack the vital dynamics that have until now propelled it so effectively.

Despite the ouster of Gorbachev, Soviet specialists in the United States do not foresee a return to the tensions of the Cold War. Much of what Gorbachev has done, particularly on earlier arms treaties and in neighboring Eastern Europe, cannot be undone.

"They can't rebuild the (Berlin) Wall," says a U.S. official. The tearing down of the Wall in 1989 symbolized the democratic wave that swept Eastern Europe.

"The unification of Germany is a fait accompli ," adds Jerry Hough, a Soviet specialist at Duke University and the Brookings Institution.

Moscow also simply can't afford to inject new funds into arms development programs or to return troops to Europe.

Instead, analysts predict a period of stagnation on bilateral and global issues over the next six months as hard-liners on the new Soviet ruling "Emergency Committee" focus on domestic problems, especially the tattered economy and the political rebellion in several Soviet republics.

"The leaders of the coup will be so preoccupied with internal order that they will have no time to interfere with foreign policy matters--that is the best we can hope for," Ruble says.

But the impact may be just as severe as would be a return to the Cold War.

After a two-year period of whirlwind change, the world may effectively be heading into a big freeze as the Soviet drama plays out at home and robs the United States and its Western allies of the partner they need to sustain the momentum on joint efforts.

"Most of the people who are involved in this coup are people who had been opposed to Gorbachev's initiative in the Mideast and Eastern Europe--people who have been dragging their feet and obstructing arms control," Ruble adds. "I don't see anything good coming out of this, for the Soviet Union or for anyone else."

ARMS CONTROL

The fate of the recently signed START accord reflects the dangers of a freeze on the new world order and how it may play out.

"The temporary emergency measures in no means affect international commitments assumed by the Soviet Union under existing treaties and agreements," Acting Soviet President Gennady I. Yanayev pledged in a message to heads of state and the United Nations within hours of the coup.

But the treaty must be ratified by the Supreme Soviet--as well as by the U.S. Senate--before it goes into effect. And U.S. analysts predict that it may be put in limbo if Moscow's new rulers do not put it up for a vote or if the Supreme Soviet refuses to vote on it.

A treaty that Gorbachev signed last November at the Paris summit of the 35-nation Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe may also go into a de facto freeze. The treaty drastically cuts the numbers of tanks and troops from the East and West confronting each other in Europe.

The coup leaders "can't roll back to the past, but they can make agreements more difficult," said Charles William Maynes, a Soviet expert and editor of Foreign Policy magazine. "The Soviet Union has been pressing the East Europeans to sign peace and friendship accords to preclude membership in an anti-Soviet alliance. The East Europeans have so far been reluctant."

Before removing the remaining Soviet troops--including about 225,000 in what was once East Germany and about 32,000 in Poland--the Soviets "may now press harder in a way that will complicate all other bilateral issues," he says.

Several experts also are voicing general skepticism about Yanayev's promise to honor treaties. "These people (involved in the coup) have never seen an arms control agreement that they've liked. They perpetually try to violate agreements on the edges," Ruble says.

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