How to Fit the Soviet Union into the New World Order?

June 03, 1991|By WILLIAM PFAFF

THE HAGUE. — The question of aid for the Soviet Union -- or of inviting Mikhail Gorbachev to the Group of Seven meeting in July to ask for aid -- is much less complicated than that of the Soviet Union's security relationship to the rest of Europe.

Aid bears on the security issue, of course. A Soviet Union in economic as well as political revolution jeopardizes the security of its neighbors. An insecure Soviet Union, believing itself menaced, will look for security remedies which the Western countries as well as the U.S.S.R.'s neighbors will consider threatening.

Romania recently agreed to a security treaty with Moscow in which Bucharest agreed not to enter security relationships which the Soviet Union could interpret as potentially hostile. Czechoslovakia has explicitly refused the same agreement. Hungary and Poland will not accept it. The agreement is thought by them, as by Washington, a limit on the sovereignty of the state which signs it -- a new and gentler version of the Brezhnev Doctrine, adapted to the new world order.

The Soviet Union sees matters differently. For many months there has been talk in the West, and in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, about NATO's extending security guarantees to Eastern Europe. In Soviet eyes this means extending the West's military power right up to the Soviet border. That Moscow would react against this is obvious.

The prospect reverberates in the most sensitive sectors of Soviet life, among military men who see in it an undisguised Western claim to victory over the Soviet army and all that army has accomplished since 1940, and among those conservative forces in Soviet society already distressed by the upheavals Mikhail Gorbachev has provoked.

The ''Romanian Clause,'' meant to be included in agreements with all the East European countries, is the Soviet leadership's attempt to deal with these internal pressures as well as with the strategic problem the Soviet Union confronts, which is real enough. It would create a ''cordon sanitaire'' of states which, while no longer allied with Moscow, would have undertaken not to ally themselves with the West.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the East Europeans fear. They have no desire to live in a strategic limbo between East and West, their own security dependent upon the good will of both. They certainly do not wish this while the Soviet revolution rolls and no one can know where it will end. One way it could end, clearly, is with a belligerent and revisionist, even ''revanchist,'' government back in power in Moscow. The East Europeans want protection.

There is an evident trade-off here. Good western relations with Moscow, with aid for Russia, can be interpreted in the East European states as isolating them. Their security obsession, their ''destructive nationalism,'' "neutralization" even if that is not the intention. They are not in the least neutral.

Foreign policy has become a domestic issue in the Soviet Union, which never before was the case. The rigidities of the Cold War, with Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and half of Germany, allowed the Soviet people to assume that national security was assured. Today their internal and external security both seem threatened. This is very destabilizing.

The evolution of the Western policy debate on European security has yet to offer a responsible role to the Soviet Union. It isolates the U.S.S.R., although this is not meant. That cannot be a good idea.

There is a fundamental geopolitical tension between Russia and the West, quite apart from the ideological rivalry of the past eight decades. It is caused by discrepancies in power and wealth between Russia and Western Europe. It is a result of the cultural tension which has always existed between Byzantine Europe, and specifically Russia -- which possesses a tradition of messianic thinking, of Holy Russia as bearer of mankind's redemption -- and the West.

Equally, there is conflict between the anarchic individualism of the West, and the capitalism which is its product, and a certain communalism or collectivism that was part of the Russian tradition long before the arrival of Bolshevism. This Russian tradition remains an obstacle to market economic reform today.

A way must be found to enlist the Soviet Union in a positive role in a new security system. The need to do so is the best argument for trying to make the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe into a security system of some kind. Objectionable in other ways -- by the CSCE's present unanimity rule, for one thing -- this nonetheless seems a solution that accommodates both sides without placing Eastern Europe in an invidious situation.

A security system based on what has been accomplished thus far in the CSCE meetings should not, in principle, be incompatible with the separate new West European security arrangements now in preparation, or with NATO's reform. The advantage it offers is universality, and that would seem an indispensable quality for a new order which will reconcile rather than divide.

William Pfaff is a syndicated columnist.

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