Estonia Says It Is Prepared to Pay for Independence

ESTONIA is prepared to pay up to $1 billion to the Soviet Union for its independence, the foreign minister of the Baltic republic said in a Swedish newspaper article published May 28. "If we have to buy our freedom, we are prepared to do so," Lennart Meri told the daily Dagens Nyheter.

The newspaper said a document from the Soviet central planning authority Gosplan, dated May 8 and presented to all 15 Soviet republics a week later, outlined two different paths for republics that want to break away from Moscow.

One was a five-year constitutional process under which Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has said all republics are free to leave the union.

The other path, which the newspaper said had not previously been made public, involved economic compensation to Moscow for Soviet state property and contributions to the payment of the Soviet internal and external national debt.

Mr. Meri, who stopped in Sweden after a week's visit to the United States, estimated it would cost Estonia "a bit less than a billion dollars" to buy independence.

Asked how the republic would come up with the money, Meri said, "We must work harder. But it is better than fighting with tanks against tanks, especially if you don't have any tanks."

Dagens Nyheter said Estonia was expected to offer Moscow negotiations about hard-currency compensation in exchange for a recognition of its independence.

Estonia had a brief period of independence between the two world wars before being incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 with Latvia and Lithuania.

Nationalist groups from six Soviet republics - Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Moldavia - said Sunday they had agreed to join forces to campaign for independence. The six declined last month to join nine other Soviet republics, which agreed in principle on a new union treaty.

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