Soviets urged to make change in 'orderly' way THE SOVIET CRISIS

September 05, 1991|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The United States, hoping to prevent the new Soviet revolution from degenerating into chaos, urged central authorities and republics yesterday to work out new power-sharing schemes in an "orderly, democratic" way free of threats or violence.

Secretary of State James A. Baker III also said he hoped that the Soviet nuclear arsenal would be kept under a central command authority, an apparent response to Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin's bid for his republic to share control of the nuclear button.

But in spelling out five principles that should guide the changes in the Soviet Union, the secretary of state stressed that the ultimate shape of things should be left to the Soviet "peoples," referring to the array of republics and their ethnic mixes.

He thus seemed to recognize that the United States' long-held preference for dealing with central authorities in Moscow has been overtaken by events and that the best it can hope for now is a controlled breakup.

"In the last two weeks, we've seen another revolution blowing with full force across the Soviet Union," Mr. Baker said at a news conference, adding that the Soviets must know "there can be no turning away from democratic principles and tolerance if they truly hope to . . . join the democratic commonwealth of nations."

"We will help them move along that path of political and economic freedom," he said.

Mr. Baker announced he will go to Moscow next week to meet with a number of leaders in the central government and republics as well as to attend a human rights meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He also wants to visit the three Baltic republics with which the United States is formally reopening diplomatic relations.

will press the republic leaders to abide by democratic principles and international law in sorting out their new governments and relations among them. He also will push for accelerated free-market reforms and conversion of defense industries to civilian uses, and try to ensure not only the continued safety of Soviet nuclear weapons but also Soviet adherence to treaty commitments.

In addition to recently signed conventional and long-range nuclear weapons pacts, these include debt-repayment obligations undertaken when the Kremlin ruled the country.

On another aspect of the Soviet upheaval, Mr. Baker said, "The Soviet political revolution must now be matched by an economic revolution," referring to a convertible currency, private property and other aspects of a free-market system.

He also wants to advance prospects for a Middle East peace conference co-sponsored by the Soviets and to prod the Soviets to relinquish four islands seized by the Soviet army from Japan at the end of World War II.

U.S. officials, realizing there is little the United States can do to guide the transformation in the Soviet Union, have said in recent days that the administration hoped to use Mr. Baker's coming trip to influence the process so it will move forward free of border shutdowns and seizures of territory.

Mr. Baker asserted yesterday that if five essential principles are followed, the Soviet Union can avoid the kind of violent upheavals now occurring in Yugoslavia. The principles are:

* The Soviet peoples must decide their future themselves peacefully and in a manner consistent "with democratic values and practices."

* Existing external and internal borders should be respected and only changed by peaceful and consensual means.

* Change should occur peacefully and "only through democratic processes, especially the processes of elections."

* Human rights should be safeguarded, with respect for the individual and equal treatment for minorities.

* Respect for international law.

Although schedules haven't been worked out, Mr. Baker is expected to see Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Russian President Yeltsin, along with their foreign ministers and a range of other officials.

Mr. Baker plans to go from the Soviet Union to the Middle East to flesh out assurances for Israel, Arab states and Palestinians on the U.S. approach to an overall peace settlement. He said he may get an answer from Palestinians on their participation even though the Palestine Liberation Organization's governing body won't have met by then.

Mr. Baker indicated that he wanted Congress to move slowly in meeting Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees to settle Soviet immigrants, saying that "we want to deal with those issues in a way that does not undercut" prospects for direct peace negotiations.

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