Bush hails purge as bringing Moscow in line with U.S. goals

August 24, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Sun Staff Correspondent

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- President Bush praised yesterday's purge of Communist hard-liners from the Soviet government and the new power-sharing arrangement between Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Boris N. Yeltsin as moving in the direction he had hoped for.

"The changes appear to be coming toward the objectives we wanted," Mr. Bush told reporters as he began an afternoon on the links with golfer Arnold Palmer.

"The [Soviet] people appear to be moving toward objectives of United States foreign policy -- and in the process toward democracy, freedom, self-determination, all these things."

The White House was conspicuously mute on the degree to which the Russian president, Mr. Yeltsin, is now in control in the Soviet Union, but there was private betting within administration ranks that Mr. Gorbachev might also choose to retire from the government before long.

Mr. Bush refused to comment specifically on any of the personnel changes made yesterday. But several of those changes were in line with suggestions made Thursday by key members of his administration.

Most notable was the replacement of Gen. Mikhail A. Moiseyev, named defense minister Thursday, by Col. Gen. Yevgeny I. Shaposhnikov, a move advocated Thursday by a top administration official in a background session with reporters here.

As commander of the Soviet air forces, General Shaposhnikov had refused to take part in the coup against Mr. Gorbachev, while General Moiseyev is believed by U.S. officials to have cooperated in the effort.

Mr. Bush declined to criticize Mr. Gorbachev's continued defense of the Communist Party, noting: "There are many reformers that have stayed in the party. . . .

"I think what's more important than labels is what kind of performance we see from now on."

The president said he thought the pace of Soviet reforms would "clearly" move faster now.

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