The ISCIP Analyst
Behind the Breaking News
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Fog Ahead: The New Soviet Union Treaty
After the phrase "market economy," the term "union treaty" probably is the second most popular term in the lexicon of Soviet politicians. And among these I number not only Gorbachev and his "team," but also the politicians who are currently sitting in the union republic and autonomous republic parliaments, with the possible exception of the Baltic republics. Consequently, the question of the conclusion of a new union treaty is acknowledged to be the second most important problem in a huge mountain of intractable problems, each of which demands immediate attention. However, despite all the emphasis being given to it and the professional optimism that the government is displaying during the process of preparing the document, no one should believe in a rapid birth of this "problem child." Relations between the various union republics are a tangled skeineveryone pulls at his own end, and the result is only an even worse-ravelled knot. So that apart from our usual obtuseness I don't see any other reason for the optimism in official quarters. Just judge for yourselves.
In Moscow, the month of August was notable for the consultations that took place between the USSR Supreme Soviet and representatives of the union republics on this vexed question. On the last day of summer Gorbachev said at a press conference that the work on producing a new union treaty was entering a new phase. One wonders what phase it had been in until then. Alas, there is little to comfort one. It is a no-win situation.
Which Republics Will Remain?
Nationality relations are not my special field. Accordingly I write as an ordinary citizen of this country who has become an involuntary witness to the war going on in the Transcaucasus. A war to which, to speak frankly, I can foresee no end. The government and the parliamentarians, as well as the specialists of interethnic relations, are contending with one another to find solutions, but in my opinion they are just throwing dust in everyone's eyes. The Nagorny Karabakh problem, for instance, is not so much a problem of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, as a problem of the Soviet Union as a whole. I am willing to bet a hundred dollars to a ruble that you will not find a single republic in the USSR that does not have a territorial question to raise. If the Karabakh problem were to be resolved in the way that the Armenians want, a precedent would automatically be created for unending feuds and even wars between the "fraternal" republics.
Is A Union Treaty Possible?
I visited Moldavia a year ago, and even at that time the degree of fear felt by the non-Moldavian population struck me as extraordinarily acute. Since then, unfortunately, nothing has changed for the better, in fact everything is steadily going downhill, so that it is not difficult to imagine the state the population is in at the present time. What is more, the same situation exists in virtually all the national republics. At the lowest estimate, in the Soviet Union there are 60 million people living outside the borders of their own national states. Almost all of these people feel nothing but dread at the prospect of independence for the national republics of the USSR and what it will bring for themselves and their loved ones. For this reason there are all the demands for reliable guarantees in the future union treaty regarding the future status of non-indigenous inhabitants. But who can provide such guarantees?
The Low Level of Culture
The last few years an expression has become common in our country: "Before you can unite, you need to divide things up." In other words, first of all a divorce, and then a wedding between the same partners, or a kind of divorce-marriage process which is the opposite of the marriage-divorce sequence normal everywhere else in the world. To continue with marital terminology, what we are seeing now is a process whereby the future happy spouses, i.e., the partners in the future union treaty, divorce and divide up the property they have jointly acquired. The questions remain, "How to divide everything up? What is to be split up? And who gets what?" Moreover, however upbeat the claims of the policy makers may be, there is no agreement between the future consorts, only endless discussions.
Everything that I have referred to so far is still only the tip of the iceberg. There are such a number of vast problems contained in the phrase "union treaty" that, quite frankly, one can only be amazed that there are people who are willing to try to move this mountain. The sole thing that everyone is agreed upon is the need to undertake the task. The only way out that people perceive is the exit from the USSR, but admittedly for many peoples this is no way out at all...
Prosperity and National Antagonisms
I am certain that there is much truth in these words. If we are ever successful in creating on the ruins of the former Soviet "economy" something resembling the normal economic relations that exist in the civilized world, and in setting up market connections, such as are already being established among some republics, these links will suggest the future form and content of a new union treaty. It is necessary first of all to feed and clothe people, and to house them in decent conditions.
The West and Soviet Disintegration
In Russia many view a new union treaty as something that cannot possibly be achieved in the near future. In the meantime, people see only fog ahead.
Copyright ISCIP 1990