ONLY five weeks ago, President Bush was in the Soviet Ukraine, warning against "suicidal nationalism" and applauding Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's plan to revitalize the Soviet Union.Today, one political earthquake later, the United States is seeking to inject a sense of order into its dealings with what is now sometimes called "the former Soviet Union." Though the Bush administration maintains a special admiration for President Gorbachev, the recent upheaval has forced an acceleration of the administration's year-long strategy of diversifying its relations with pro-reform leaders in a variety of Soviet republics. And it has forced a flexibility in dealing with the fluid situation. Secretary of State James Baker III will travel to Moscow next week to attend a long-scheduled international human-rights conference. The trip also gives him an opportunity to assess the scene himself as well as explain in person the five principles that will guide the US approach to the dissolution of the USSR - and to recommend that the Soviet republics (excluding the Baltics) follow the same guidelines as they re-configure their relationships with one another and with the central authority. In a press conference Wednesday, Mr. Baker said that "if the developments in the Soviet Union proceed in accordance with the five principles ... we will continue to work toward cooperation with the Soviet Union and with the republics thereof." In making that statement, Baker is dangling a carrot in front of the Soviets: emergency humanitarian aid if needed, longer-term economic assistance, and technical aid in setting up long-term restructuring.
Conditions for aid The five principles Baker outlined are: 1. That the future of the Soviet Union is for the Soviet peoples to determine themselves peacefully and democratically, and in accordance with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. 2. That existing Soviet borders within the union and with other countries be respected. "Any change of borders should occur only legitimately by peaceful and consensual means," Baker said. Though some Soviet borders were arbitrarily determined and artificially divide certain ethnic groups, US analysts agree that for the sake of stability all borders should be treated as inviolate at least for now. 3. Support for democracy, the rule of law and "peaceful change only through orderly democratic processes, especially the processes of elections." 4. The safeguarding of human rights, including equal treatment of minorities. 5. That international law and obligations be respected. "One of the most important steps," the secretary of state added, "is to clarify the precise interrelationship both among the various republics and between the republics and the center." The question of republics' relations is an internal Soviet matter, Baker stressed, though he allowed that on the question of nuclear weapons, it "would be probably on balance best" if they "ended up under one central command authority." Baker brings to Moscow a four-part agenda. Part 1 is to convey the five principles. Part 2, he says, is to consult with leaders on longer-term economic reform and short-term humanitarian needs. Even if the country remains politically disorganized by winter, when food shortages could become acute, the US would be able to provide emergency food and medical aid, says a senior administration official. But, the official adds, to provide longer-term aid toward structural economic reform will be difficult without a clear political framework. Baker said he would be meeting with Soviet Prime Minister Ivan Silayev and members of his economic commission to "urge rapid development of a new comprehensive economic adjustment," including consultation with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other international economic institutions. The remark indicated that the US believes the central Soviet government in Moscow will continue to play a key role in at least refereeing how the Soviet republics manage their economic ties.
Middle East, Japan The third point in Baker's agenda will be Soviet foreign policy. The US is seizing the opportunity of the new Soviet reality to get help in convening a Middle East peace conference and to settle the question of the so-called Northern Territories, four Japanese islands seized by the Soviets at the end of World War II. Baker also said he intended to raise "two vestiges of old thinking Cuba and Afghanistan. Point 4 involves Soviet security policy. Five weeks ago Bush and Gorbachev signed a landmark treaty providing for deep cuts in strategic nuclear weapons. Now the question is whether the US needs to get signed agreements from each of the constituent Soviet republics (or whatever emerges in the new political arrangement) promising compliance with such arms treaties.