THE Soviet Union could have been a founding member of the IMF and the World Bank when these were being negotiated and created at a 1944 conference in Bretton Woods, N.H. The Soviets participated actively in the talks. The United States sought membership for its wartime ally in the new international institutions, offering the Soviet Union 13 percent of the voting shares. However, Joseph Stalin refused the offer, a decision foreshadowing the cold war.
``It's a pity that Moscow took a negative decision then,'' Ernest Obminsky told a Soviet publication in an August interview. Mr. Obminsky directs the international economic relations department of the Soviet ministry for foreign affairs.
Instead, Soviet officials and press for decades portrayed the IMF and the Bank as agents of imperialism - ``some kinds of monsters,'' as the reporter quizzing Obminisky put it.
Had the Soviet Union joined in 1944, it would have been third in the IMF pecking order after the US and Britain. Should it join in the 1990s, under the standard formula for setting the quota and voting power of a new member, the Soviet Union could expect a quota of about 6 percent, according to an analysis by Richard Feinberg of the Overseas Development Council in Washington. That would give the Soviet Union enough votes to be No. 2 or 3 in the Fund, and qualify it for a seat on the Fund's executive board.