Soviets Assess Future of Union
Rapid reform plan includes elections, independence for republics, shakeup of KGB
APPEARING before the packed chamber of the Soviet parliament yesterday, a subdued but determined President Mikhail Gorbachev laid out a concise and radical reform program.After last week's aborted hard-line coup, Mr. Gorbachev appeared ready to move rapidly to implement the reforms which he admitted he had failed to carry out earlier. Gorbachev's seven-point agenda includes new national elections, de-facto recognition of those republics which seek independence from the union, reorganization of the KGB and transformation of the military into a professional force under civilian control, full privatization - including of land - and a rapid shift to a market economy. Gorbachev soberly held himself partly responsible for the coup, for failing to fundamentally change the intertwined structure of Communist Party and state power. "Because of compromise," he admitted, "no decisive economic reforms were carried out. There was no coordination and no accord with the democratic forces. The reactionary forces managed to draw us sometimes, though we had the same goals, to different sides of the barricades. "On my part," Gorbachev vowed, "there will no longer be any hesitation in carrying out decisive reforms, as long as I ... am president of the country. From now on, there will be no compromise with those with whom compromise is impossible." Gorbachev called for the signing of the new treaty of union between the republics as soon as possible but said that he agreed with republican leaders who are now seeking amendments to the existing draft. Given the new realities, including the declaration of independence by the Ukraine, the Soviet Union can no longer be a federation, but only a loose confederation, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told the parliament. Gorbachev indicated for the first time that he was ready to accept the independence of those republics, including the three Baltics, which don't wish to sign the treaty. As soon as the treaty is signed, he said, they can begin negotiations with those republics to settle issues such as the protection of the rights of minorities, settlement of those who wish to return to the union, and the status of military facilities on their territory. Gorbachev called for signing an economic treaty as soon as possible which would encompass all 15 current republics, providing a basis for future economic ties between the union and the newly independent republics. A new constitution is to be drafted after the union treaty is signed, but Gorbachev moved to reorganize the national government, based on agreement with the republican leaders, even before that happens. An emergency session of the Congress of Peoples Deputies, the senior legislative body, will convene Sept. 2, the parliament voted yesterday. At that meeting a new vice-president will be chosen and steps taken to dissolve the existing parliament, whose passivity in the face of the coup has tainted it.
Liberals in government The existing Security Council, an advisory body to the president, will take on a new role running the country. Its membership will be expanded to include republican leaders and prominent liberals such as former presidential aide Alexander Yakovlev, Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov. They will work with a new economic committee headed by Russian Prime Minister Ivan Silayev which will manage the economy. The parliament session was dominated by attacks on the body itself. Many charged the parliament with backing the coup and called for its dissolution. Gorbachev indirectly supported charges that party chairman Anatoli Lukyanov, a long-time associate, was behind the coup. When the parliament opened Monday, Mr. Lukyanov was not in his chair. But speaking to reporters outside in the hall, he continued to deny his involvement in the coup. "The coup would have been impossible if the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and its chairman would have decisively opposed it immediately as the Supreme Soviet of Russia did," Gorbachev said.
Reforming the military The Soviet leader called for constitutional control to be established over all activity of the armed forces and law enforcement bodies. Military reform should be accelerated and emphasis should be put on professionalism in the Army, he added. The KGB should be reorganized, including transferring the KGB's considerable armed forces to the control of the Defense Ministry. Gorbachev outlined a brief program of rapid economic reform, calling for all previous decisions to be reviewed. The program includes cutting the budget deficit, providing social protection for the unemployed during the transition to a market economy, getting food and energy supplies stabilized, rapidly establishing a convertible currency, and privatization. For the first time, Gorbachev declared that "land should be given to everyone who wants to work it." Finally Gorbachev proposed that preparations for new elections to all bodies, including the parliament and the presidency, begin immediately. In a last sober note, the Soviet leader declared that "everyone who took part in organizing and carrying out the coup has to get what he deserves. But we should not allow a witchhunt."
Republican leaders' views A stream of republican leaders followed him to the podium, begun by Russian parliament chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov. He warned there should be no euphoria, that "reactionary forces have not been crushed. Only their headquarters have been smashed. But the coup had a well-organized and deep structure. Now the reactionary forces are in a state of disorganization. While they are in this state, we should carry on decisive reforms." The Russian politician, speaking for the newly powerful government of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, proposed privatization of agriculture, private property without any restrictions, freeing enterprises from all government direction, controlling them only through taxes. Mr. Khasbulatov demanded a sharp cut in defense spending, at least 50 billion rubles this year (about a quarter of the official budget).