No end seems in sight to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The refusal this week of seven republics to form a new rump union under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's leadership is the kind of bad news that will benefit no one as a bitter winter sets in. It is impossible to think of any meaningful economic or societal overhaul in the former communist empire without determined cooperative efforts in the fields of foreign policy, nuclear armaments and finances.
The union treaty was intended to replace the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with a new Union of Sovereign States. A centralized Stalinist state would have been transformed into a loose confederation. But even this arrangement proved palatable to only seven of the 12 remaining Soviet republics -- Russia, Byelarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizia and Tadzhikistan. Ukraine boycotted the talks, along with Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldava.
Although the rejected union treaty will now be sent to the parliaments of various republics for further consideration, it is dead. Meanwhile, Armenia and Azerbaijan, two neighbors embittered by centuries of historical and religious hostility, are edging toward open warfare. Yesterday, their leaders agreed to go to Moscow for last-ditch negotiations, thereby confirming, however unintentionally, the importance of coordinated efforts in trying to resolve problems within the old Soviet empire.