Washington — In the face of one of the largest natural disasters in the Soviet Union this century, the world has responded with an outpouring of money, supplies, and expert assistance. For the first time since World War II, the Soviets have accepted large-scale aid from the outside world - from communist and noncommunist nations alike.
``The tremendous outpouring of aid to the men, women, and children affected by the disaster from the American people, and people around the globe, clearly demonstrates that generosity transcends political and geographic frontiers,'' said Richard Schubert, president of the American Red Cross.
Even South Korea and the Vatican, which do not have formal relations with the Soviet Union, have offered money and materiel aid.
Israel, another nation without formal Soviet ties, has already sent 18 tons of medical supplies, according to Jerusalem Radio. A relief flight from Pakistan, whose relations with the Soviets are poor, has reportedly also arrived in Armenia, according to an official American source.
As survivors continued to be rescued from the rubble yesterday, medical supplies, rescue teams, and dogs trained to sniff out survivors began arriving from around the world. The first planeloads of American relief supplies left Saturday for Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Many of the rescue workers, from the US and abroad, have experience from the Mexico City earthquake of 1985.
The international response for Armenia also includes:
Two French rescue teams, one of 180 workers, including 20 doctors, and another of 200 rescue and relief specialists. The first team brought 21 search dogs.
A West German Red Cross plane carrying relief supplies and dogs.
Two planeloads from Italy, one carrying a 15-person rescue team and a second with equipment for relief efforts.
A Cuban donation of 32 tons of supplies, including blood.
Tents from Poland.
A British team of firefighters and doctors. The firefighters brought with them heat-sensitive devices for locating people trapped in wreckage.
Thirty-seven rescue workers with dogs and supplies from Switzerland.
Several dozen Indian medical specialists.
In addition to aid provided by governments, private groups in dozens of countries are raising money and gathering supplies.
A two-person assessment team from the United Nations Disaster Relief Organization is working with Soviet officials to coordinate the international relief effort. Philippe Boull'e, UNDRO's representative in New York, cautions that the influx of foreigners trying to help could, without coordination, only add to the confusion.
American officials here cite the Soviets' cooperation in helping them determine how the US can be of most assistance. ``The Soviets are being very specific about what they need,'' says Tim O'Leary, a spokesman at the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
The phone has been ringing off the hook at the Soviet Embassy since news of last Wednesday's earthquake reached the US. Armenian-Americans have been calling for news of loved ones. Americans wishing to go to the scene to help have been calling.
Yevgeny Kutovoy, a minister-counselor at the embassy, said Friday the mission is looking into adding another phone line to handle the calls. The embassy has also opened a special account at the Riggs National Bank in Washington for earthquake-relief donations.
The tragedy has boosted the Soviet Union's already improving image in the world, says Prof. Marshall Goldman of Harvard University's Russian Research Center. ``Instead of looking like a bully, the Soviet Union looks like someone who needs help,'' Professor Goldman says.