WASHINGTON -- The United States promised a package of measures to support Soviet "self-help" yesterday as President Bush made a new push to complete a long-range nuclear arms deal in time for a superpower summit by early July.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III laid out a series of economic and political reforms the Soviets must make if they are to transform their country into "a democratic and prosperous society."
And he warned against a "big bang" infusion of huge sums of aid, such as the Soviets seem to want, arguing that "these changes will take work over a long time."
But Mr. Baker, in an address yesterday to the NATO foreign ministers in Copenhagen, Denmark, used some of the strongest language of any U.S. official to date in pledging support to Moscow provided that the Soviets make the right economic and political moves.
"For our part, we do not intend to stand idly by if the Soviets come to grips with these questions of political and economic legitimacy. Perestroika could be the most important revolution of this century. All of us have a profound stake in its outcome," he said.
Mr. Bush prepared to gather his other top national security advisers yesterday to decide on new negotiating terms for a strategic arms accord before Mr. Baker's meeting in Geneva today with Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh.
Asked whether Mr. Baker would be able to set a summit date, Mr. Bush replied that "it depends a lot on what we do today and then on how those ideas are received by Mr. Bessmertnykh and on what they bring to the table."
The president said that "both sides are dealing in very good faith at this point, and both sides want to have a summit, and both sides obviously want to get a strategic arms agreement."
The White House hopes for a late-June summit in Moscow, although early July is possible.
Britain, meanwhile, has proposed that Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev meet with the leaders of seven industrialized democracies after their mid-July summit in London, virtually assuring his appearance.
President Bush had previously dropped his opposition to inviting Mr. Gorbachev, who wants to persuade Western leaders that Soviet reform plans justify their help for his collapsing economy.
The arrangement proposed by Britain, host of the Group of Seven meeting, would prevent Mr. Gorbachev from dominating the proceedings from the start, allowing the G-7 to work out a joint approach on Soviet aid.
Mr. Baker, speaking in Copenhagen, said, "The Soviets must find the will to open the way to a new future; they must start with self-help.
"If they do, we will support them. We can serve as a catalyst for both political and economic reform. Indeed, we are developing a package of supportive measures, which we hope to coordinate with [NATO partners] and others."
His remarks rebutted a warning delivered Wednesday by Mr. Gorbachev in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, in which the Soviet leader said it would be "futile and dangerous" to set conditions on aid and demand that the Soviet Union completely emulate the West.
Mr. Baker laid out a series of steps the Soviets must take, including embracing "a real market economy with private property, incentives, established and respected laws on exchange, competition, a sound currency and real prices."
He said the Soviets should move to free and fair elections, accommodate Baltic aspirations through dialogue and complete a union treaty allowing autonomy.