LEVON Ter-Petrosyan, chairman of the Armenian Republic parliament, is known as an acute observer of the Soviet scene. The following are his views on current Soviet politics, excerpted from an interview in Yerevan on April 23. What possibility do you see that the right will convince [Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev to use force to keep the Soviet Union together?
I do not believe that at the present time it is possible to keep the union by force. Had the right wing and the center been convinced of such a possibility, they would have used it by now.
There may be some awkward attempt on the part of the military, the KGB, and others, but such attempts are condemned to failure. I do not believe Gorbachev himself would undertake such a course, because that would mean leaving aside all the rest of his policies. He would have to forgo both democratization and perestroika [restructuring]. Without these two policies, the country will fall into such an economic crisis that it will be unable to sustain the union.
Furthermore, in such a situation Gorbachev would also lose international support, which one has to say is his only capital at this present time. If he loses international credibility, he will be left with nothing.
What is the possibility of a coalition government between [Russian leader Boris] Yeltsin and the democrats and Gorbachev?
Gorbachev would accept such a compromise only for propaganda purposes. The conflicts are so deep that such a coalition or cooperation cannot be functional.
So how do they get out of the crisis?
There is only one way - the democratic forces must be stronger and the center must leave the scene.
The former system is no longer capable of governing. The center is condemned to destruction. It is no longer capable of reforming its function.
You have been attending the meetings of the Federation Council and have been watching Gorbachev over past months. Do you see any change in his capability ... to lead the Soviet Union?
My impression is that Mr. Gorbachev's main difficulty has been that he has not had a constructive program of reforms, of change.
And that made it possible for him to be thrown from one wall to the other. I must on the other hand appreciate the role he has played, that is the role of a balancer.
In this respect, his existence is extremely important. I feel that, in essence, he opposes confrontational situations and the use of force.
But in this regard, I must also point out the significance of Yeltsin. I believe that the largest role as a balancer is played by Yeltsin. Because if we didn't have Yeltsin with his strong democratic base, the pressure from the right would have forced Gorbachev into situations where he would have used force.
Effectively Yeltsin is helping Gorbachev so that he withstands the pressure from the right.