July 12, 1990 | Backgrounder on Russia
'I 776 July 12,1990 PROMOTING THE PEACEFUL DEZOLONIZA'TION OF THE SOVIET UNI ON INTRODUCTION As East European communist regimes fell in the revolutions of 1989, Soviet control over the region was swept away. Most of these countries now have elected democratic governments and are moving toward market economies and close ties with t h e West. 33uilding on these dramatic breakthroughs, the United States and its European allies are trying to consolidate the West's gains and to preserve stability in Europe. Yet an even greater upheaval is looming in the Soviet Union it self, brought about by the same processes that transformed Eastern Europe. Help ing to ensure that these changes occur peacefully is an urgent priority for both the U.S. and the West as a whole.
The Soviet Union is beset by a staggering array of problems. Not only is the aut hority of the existing political system eroding rapidly, but the economy has begun a rapid downward slide. Of all the challenges facing the Soviet leadership however, the most ominous are the growing calls for independence by the non Russian nationalities . For these demands threaten not simply to transform the Soviet Union, but to end its existence.
Real Name. The Soviet nationalities problem frequently is misunderstood in the West because it is not called by its real name It is not mainly a problem of cla sh ing ethnic groups, although the prospect for widespread conflict does exist, as be tween Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis. Nor is it primarily a desire for greater autonomy in an overly-centralized state. It is a problem of decoloniza 1 This is the second in a series of Heritage Foundation studies on the Soviet ~tionalities crisis. Preceding it was Backpunder No. 762 How America Can Help Baltic Independence March 29,1990 A forthcoming paper will examine the problem of the Muslim republics.
EU ROPE Including the European republics of the Soviet Union tion, of the non-Russian nationalities seeking independence from the Russian dominated Soviet Union like all European empires in the modem era, the forces of decolonization have finally caught up w i th it.This process is most advanced in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which already have elected democratic govern ments and embarked upon the path to independence. Yet, despite their prominence in the Westem press, the Baltics ar e but the tip of an iceberg. The The Soviet Union is not a nation, but an empire masquerading as a nation. And 2same desire for freedom exists in all of the other non-Russian republics in the European portion of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Byelorussia, Geor g ia, Moldavia and Ukraine? And the demand for freedom is rapidly gaining strength in each Momentous Consequences. The consequences and implications of Soviet decolonization for the U.S. and the West are momentous. A successful and peace ful breakaway of th e non-Russian European republics from the U.S.S.R. could result in a string of democratic states stretching from Estonia in the north to Ar menia in the south, all eager to become market economies and participate in the affairs of Europe and the world. Sim ilar demands for greater freedom are also at work in the Muslim republics in Central Asia and Azerbaijan.
Further, the threat of Soviet military power, which continues to pose the only real threat to European security, would be reduced significantly if not eliminated altogether, by the independence of these republics. Together the non-Russian republics of the European U.S.S.R. account for one-third of the Soviet population and over one-third of its industry. Equally important, their independence would push the borders of Russia back from Europe several hundred miles to where they were before the early 18th Century conquests of Peter the Great.
There are great dangers in Soviet decolonization, however, especially if it be comes violent. Not only could there be widespread loss of life should the Soviet authorities decide to suppress the independence movements with force, but any fighting risks instability and unpredictable actions by the Soviet military, which at 4.5 million men is still the world's largest. M ost alarming of all is the prospect of a loss of central control over the Soviet Union's vast nuclear arsenal Western Fears. Events in the Soviet Union are moving more quickly than most Western policy makers appear to realize, and the West risks playing a marginal role in the events in the Soviet Union. Many Western policy makers would prefer to do nothing out of fear of provoking unrest or because they believe mistakenly that the West has little or no influence over events inside the Soviet Union.
But Sov iet decolonization is moving forward whether or not the West is ready for it.The U.S. and the West as a whole have vital interests at stake and should use their significant influence to push this process toward a peaceful and negotiated path. The West's i naction merely abandons its interests to fate. Worse, it may con tribute to the very instability it seeks to avoid by persuading Soviet hardliners that a military crackdown on the independence movements will be met with Western indifference.
To establish i ts policy toward Soviet decolonization on a stable and clearly un derstood foundation, U.S. policy must be based on a set of sound principles 2 Although common American usage place "the" before Ukraine, Ukrainians assert that this derives from Moscow's cl a im that Ukraine is a region of Russia, not a nation unto itself 3 This nuclear arsenal includes not only missiles capable of reaching the United States but also short-range battlefield weapons.The Soviet military may have begun withdrawing some of the lat ter from the non-Russian areas.
See The Wall Stwet Journal, June 22,1990.
Principle #1: The U.S. strongly supports a peaceful resolution of the problem of Soviet decolonization and will not assist or support the use of force by any group in the Soviet Uni on, although it understands sympathetically the need for self defense representatives of the republics to determine the future relations of these states with the Soviet Union and to respect the wishes of the populations as expressed through free and fair e lections Principle #3: U.S. support for any nationalist organization in the Soviet Union is conditioned on its adherence to democratic values and respect for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities Principle #4: The U.S. supports the removal of poli t ical and economic barriers between the peoples of Europe, including the Russians, and will work with its European allies toward this end decolonization nor does it seek to exploit the matter to threaten the security of the Soviet Union process of decoloni z ation to proceed peacefully Principle #2: The U.S; urges Moscow to negotiate with democratically-elected Principle #5: The U.S. seeks no unilateral gain in the matter of Soviet Principle #6: The U.S. will reward Moscow appropriately for allowing the Trans lating these principles into policy, the Bush Administration should Warn Moscow against the use of force against the national movements.
Soviet hard-liners may be tempted to use force to suppress the nationalist chal 1enge.The U.S. must make clear that thi s course will inevitably result in a worsen ing of U.S.-Soviet relations Include those European republics of the Soviet Union which have elected democratic governments in U.S. assistance packages intended for Eastern Europe. Emerging from decades of Sovie t rule, the European republics of the Soviet Union face staggering economic, social, and ecological problems. U.S. assis tance, especially in the form of technical expertise, will help these republics tackle each of these problems and accelerate the essent i al task of creating market economies Ask Congress to exchange parliamentary groups with each of the democratically elected governments. Congress can offer important symbolic sup port, as well as needed technical-assistance and eveitise regarding parliamen t ary democracy, by exchanging parliamentary groups with democratically elected governments Establish relations with each of the European republics of the Soviet Union. Article 80 of the Soviet constitution gives every Soviet republic the right to establish relations with foreign countries and international organizations. The U.S should establish direct relations with each republic that requests it, even if that republic is not moving toward independence. This need not, however, imply offi cial U.S. recognit ion of independence.
I 4 4 4 Press for the inclusion of Soviet decolonization on the agenda at the forthcoming meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe CSCE CSCE, which includes every European country plus the U.S. and Canada is meeting this November to discuss the far-reaching political, security, and economic changes in Europe. The agenda should include the many problems posed by Soviet decolonization, and the European republics of the Soviet Union should be invited to attend cow for peaceful change an d to integrate the new republics into Europe. The populations of each of these republics regard themselves as European and are eager to establish close ties with Europe. The European states can provide impor tant political and economic support by removing t rade barriers and by including these republics in such organizations as the Council of Europe 4 4 Encourage Americas European allies to use their influence to press Mos THE IMPERIALCRISIS Although it is formally a voluntary federation of fifteen sovereign republics, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is in fact the last of Europes colonial empires.
It is the descendent of the Russian empire, an amalgam of conquered peoples amassed over several centuries of military expansion charcterized best by none other thanVladimir Lenin himself, the founder of the Soviet state, who termed it a prisonhouse of nationalities. It remains the most apt description of the Soviet Union today. For despite decades of often savage repression by Moscow and strenuous efforts t o obliterate the identities of the separate nationalities, the Soviet empire now is convulsed by the forces of national self-determination.This process of decolonization is not unique to the Soviet Union; it has been the fate of all the European colonial e mpires, including those of Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal.The Soviet case differs only because it has been delayed so long Short-Lived Freedom. Far from a new development, this is the second time the Russian empire has been threat e ned with decolonization. With the collapse of central authority following the Bolshevik coup in November 1917 and the ensuing civil war, each of the major nationalities quickly broke away from the empire. Es tonia, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Pol and, and Ukraine, as well as Muslim Central &ia and other areas, declared their independence in the first half of 1918.
Although Finland and Poland successfully defended their freedom, the others eventually were reconquered by the Red Army: Ukraine in 1919, Georgia in 1921 and Central Asia by 19
22. In fact, the major accomplishment of the Bolsheviks was their reconstitution of the Russian Empire, albeit under the new name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Bolsheviks empire, however, is now falling apart. Although much of the Wests attention has been focused on the Baltic states moves toward inde pendence, especially in Lithuania, these republics represent only the leading edge of a much broader phenomenon embracing all the non-Russian natio n alities in the European portion of the Soviet Union The multi-ethnic and repressive character of the Russian empire was 5 THE EUROPEAN REPUBLICS OF THE SOVIET UNION BASIC DATA All population tipes are as of 1987 An "en symbol indicates that this group com p rises the majority in the republic. A blank indicates less than 1% composition In each of these republics, Mikhail Gorbachev's relaxation of political controls over Soviet society has combined with popular dissatisfaction with Soviet rule to produce a rap i d growth of nationalist sentiment and pro-independence organiza tions. In several republics, such as the Baltic states and Moldavia, the democratic forces control the government and have begun to take steps to move away from Moscow; in others, such as Ukr a ine, the communist party remains in control but faces an increasing challenge from the nationalist forces Ukraine The rapid rise of independence forces in Ukraine over the past year has been one of the most significant developments in the Soviet Union. Wi t h over 50 mil lion people, its population is second only to the Russian republic's 145 million. Its agricultural and industrial output comprise one-third and one-fifth of the Soviet total, respectively.The loss of this republic would be a severe blow to S oviet power. Not only would an independent Ukraine create an enormous buffer be tween Russia and the rest of Europe, it could possibly become a rival power.
Forced Russification. Because of its economic and strategic importance, Uk raine always has been su bject to tight control by Moscow. Ever since Ukraine's in corporation into the Russian Empire by Catherine the Great in the late 18th Cen tury, Ukrainian nationalism has been regarded with great hostility by Russian and Soviet leaders, who have attempted to suppress Ukraine's separate identity through such methods as forcing commerce and education to be conducted in Rus sian instead of the Ukrainian language.
Ukrainian independence was reestablished on January 22,1918, when inde pendence forces proclaimed the establishment of a separate state.This freedom 6 was short-lived. By the end of 1919, the Red Army had conquered the country and imposed rule from Moscow.
Strong resistance to the Soviet regime remained. Ukrainian guerrilla groups most prominently the Ukrainian Insurgent Army known by its Ukrainian acronym UPA which arose in 1941 to fight the invading Nazis, mounted exten sive armed resistance to the return of Soviet rule after World War 11, by some es timates inflicting over 100,000 casualties on the Soviet army. Although largely crushed by 1948, scattered fighting continued into the 1950s There are a number of nationalist organizations pressing for Ukrainian inde pendence.The most important is the Popular Movement for Restructuring in Uk raine, bette r known as Rukh (Ukrainian for Movement Founded on Septem ber 8-9,1989, as an umbrella organization for a variety of ecological and cultural groups such as the Ukrainian Writers Union, Rukh is transforming itself rapidly into a political force dedicated to independence. Among the political organiza tions under its umbrella is the Ukrainian Republican Party, formerly the Uk rainian Helsinki Union, led by Levko Lukyanenko, a long-time dissident and human rights activist Impressive Victory. The Democratic Bloc , an alliance between Rukh and other democratic organizations such as the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, captured 27 per cent of the seats in the March 4,1990, elections for the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet or parliament.This victory was especially impressive becau s e the Bloc was able to field candidates in only 40 percent of the electoral districts and had to battle against harassment and intimidation from the communist party. Although Rukhs greatest strength lies in the strongly nationalist western Ukraine, where i t easily won control of the city council of Lvov on March 4, it also captured control of the city council in the capital, Kiev, where nationalist groups have been less active. Its success in these elections emboldened Rukh on March 6 to adopt as its forma l goal the creation of an independent and democratic Ukraine Rukh is in favor of pursuing independence through existing organizations such as the Supreme Soviet, but other groups believe this approach to be ineffective.
One such group is the Ukrainian Nati onal Party (UNP led by Hrihoriy Prikhod ko, a former colonel in the Soviet army. Prikhodko told officials fromThe Heritage Foundation who visited Ukraine in May that independence for Ukraine will require gaining control over its own armed forces. Other gr oups, including those still associated with the UPA, advocate the creation of independent armed forces to expel the Soviets by force.
The rapid growth of nationalist sentiment and organizations have forced the hard-line Ukrainian Communist Party to take a more nationalist stance in an ef fort to salvage its sagging popularity. On April 3,1990, for example, the Ukrainian Communist Partys Central Committee called for sovereignty for Ukraine, al though within the Soviet Union. Legislation to that effect has b e en introduced in the communist-dominated Supreme Soviet. The communist-controlled Ukrainian government defied Moscow on May 24 by criticizing the Soviet governments.un popular economic reform plan and declaring that it would not be allowed to take effect i n Ukraine. And on June 25, Volodymyr Ivashko, the current Chairman 7 (President) of the Supreme Soviet and former Ukrainian Communist Party boss stated that Ukrainians in the Soviet army should not be stationed outside of Uk raine, declaring that they hav e nothing to die for in Azerbaijan Government Crackdown. Even as they adopt much of the ~tionali~ts platform the communist authorities continue to battle against them. On April 17, the Uk rainian Communist Party and government denounced growing nationalism in Uk raine, especially calls for independence. Rukh leaders also revealed on April 29 that the communist party and government had begun a campaign to crack down on Rukh by firing its members from their jobs and also restricting the power of local governm ents that Rukh controls.
Despite these measures, the independence forces continue to gather strength.
The balance of forces within the Supreme Soviet continues to shift in favor of the nationalists with signs that the communist bloc is suffering severe di visions.Twelve members of the Democratic Platform of the Ukrainian Communist Party an nounced on June 18 that they had decided to cooperate with the nationalist opposi tion.
Members of the Rukh leadership, including the Chairman of the Executive Council, Mihailo Horyn, told Heritage Foundation officials in May that Ukraines independence probably would come about through cooperation with the other nationalist movements in the Soviet Union, especially those in the Russian republic. He said that he expected i ndependence to be achieved within two years during which time Rukh and the democratic forces would take power through new elections. How said that eventually the authority of the Soviet government would extend no further than the Kremlin compound, compari ng it toVatican City.
Byelorussia sian. Byelorussia has always been overshadowed by more powerful neighbors and has been ruled by a succession of Lithuanians, Poles, and Russians. Byelorussia declared independence from Russia on March 25,1918, but was unable to defend its free d om from the Red Army separate Byelorussian national identity and has vigorously pursued a policy of Rus sification. For example, while 80 percent of the republics population identifies Byelorussian as its native language, only 14 percent of the school chi l dren attend schools where the language of instruction is Byelorussian, the remainder being taught in Russian 5 Like Ukrainians, Byelorussians are a Slavic people, with a language close to Rus As in Ukraine, the Soviet regime has attempted to suppress any s ign of a 4 The Soviet military has occupied large areas of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, including its capital, Baku, in an effort to quell ethnic unrest and to suppress the independence movement there 5 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Report on the USSR, June 8,1990 6 Report on the USSR, March 17,1989 8 Despite this, there has been a strong revival of Byelorussian nationalism in recent years. The Byelorussian Popular Front known as Adradzhen ne (Renewal was founded on June 24-25,19
89. Headed by Cha irman Zyanon Paznyak, an anthropologist, this organization has promoted a revival of the national culture, in cluding demands for making Byelorussian the sole official language in the republic and its greater use in the schools and media Grim Past. Nation a lism has been spurred by a growing awareness of the conse quences of Soviet rule. Most prominent has been the outrage over the April 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, which, although situated in Uk raine, had its most serious impact in Byelorussia. In addition, the Popular Front has been active in publicizing the discovery of a mass grave at Kuropaty, near the capital of Minsk, in which an estimated 100,OOO people executed by Stalins secret police are buried.
Notwithstanding the rise of the Popular Front, Byelorussia remains in the grip of a hard-line communist party.The founding congress of the Popular Front had to be held in neighboring Lithuania because Byelorussian officials prevented it from convening in the capital, Minsk. In the e lections to the Byelorussian Supreme Soviet on May 4,1990, the communist party apparatus used its control over the police, media, and economic enterprises to campaign against the democratic for ces, refusing even to register the Popular Front as a legal o rganization.
Although the communist party and government continue to back Moscows hard-line position against the nationalists, the Popular Front supports inde pendence for Byelorussia and has been joined by new groups, such as the Associa tion for an Indep endent Byelorussia. On April 22, Popular Front leader Paznyak called for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, and Ukraine to form an associa tion of independent states with B elorussia to defend themselves against both communism and Russian power.
Moldav ia seized Moldavia from Romania on June 28,1940, as part of the booty from the August 23,1939, Hitler-Stalin Pact, which also gave Moscow the Baltic states and western Ukraine.Two-thirds of its population are ethnic Romanians and speak a dialect of Romani a n; the rest are primarily Ukrainian and Russian. Despite the regions close ties to Romania, the Soviet regime has promoted the myth of a separate Moldavian nationality and tried to sever most of Moldavias ties with RoinBnia.These efforts have included imp osing a Cyrillic (or Russian) alphabet on the language in place of the traditional Latin alphabet also used in Romania.
Nevertheless, nationalism has reemerged strongly in Moldavia. Among the several nationalist groups, the most important is the Moldavian Popular Front founded in May 19
89. An umbrella group of several nationalist organizations, it 7 Another republic undergoing nationalist ferment is Moldavia. The Soviet Union 7 RFE/RL Dui& RepH No. 78, Apd 23,1990 9 now controls the government in the capi tal of Kishinev following its victory in the March 25 elections for the Moldavian Supreme Soviet. Popular Front leader Ion Khadyrke stated on June 30 that the Fronts highest goal mrst be the creation of an independent state, the Romanian Republic of Moldo va.
Proclaiming Sovereignty. The new Supreme Soviet already has taken great strides toward independence. On June 23, it proclaimed Moldavias sovereignty giving Moldavian law precedence over that of the Soviet Union. It also claimed control over Moldavias n atural resources, including land, and announced its inten tion to seek membership in the United Nations. And on June 28, the Supreme Soviet marked the 50th anniversary of the Soviet takeover by declaring that the Soviet annexation was the product of a con s piracy between the USSR and Hit lerite Germany.g Moldavias parliament, however, has stopped short of proclaiming full inde pendence. But given the close ethnic and cultural ties between the two states, the Moldavian government likely will establish ever-c l oser ties to Romania, possibly eventually reuniting with it. For example, the Supreme Soviet adopted Romanias national flag as its own on April 27, and on June 5 changed the republics name from Moldavia to the traditional Romanian designation, Moldova. Te n s of thousands of Moldavian demonstrators linked hands with their Romanian counter parts in a June 24 demonstration of solidarity across the bridge over the Prut River separating the two states. Several of the demonstrators denounced the 1940 Soviet annex ation, and signs with the slogan one nation were displayed.
Georgia Georgia, in the southern Soviet Union and bordered by the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, has an ancient history. Fiercely independent but surrounded by such powerful neighbors as th eTurks and Persians, Georgia became part of the Russian empire in 1801 when Russian forces were called in by the government to help defend against a threat from Persia, and then stayed pendence from the Russian Empire on May 26,19
18. It remained free for three years until conquered by the Bolsheviks in February 19
21. Although Josef Stalin was a Georgian, the country suffered greatly from his rule. Forced collectivization of agriculture was as brutal here as elsewhere in the Soviet Union, and much of the intelligentsia and religious leadership were shot or sent to labor camps.
Soviet rule and has grown rapidly during Gorbachevs political 1iberalization.The emergence of national resistance to Moscow was greatly accelerated following a brutal attack by Sov iet forces on a group of unarmed, peaceful demonstrators on April 9,1989, in the capital,Tbilisi. Women and children were singled out for at Led by a Social Democratic (Menshevik) government, Georgia declared its inde Brutal Attack Nevertheless, Georgian n ationalism-remained strong even under 8 RFE/RL Dui& Report, No. 12A, July 2,1990 9 RFE/RL Dui& Report, No. 123, June 29,1990 10 Washington Ties, June 25,1990 10 tack with sharpened shovels and poison gas, and nineteen were killed. This inci dent has been a catalyst for the rapid growth and consolidation of the nationalists influence and has severely eroded any remaining support for the local communist Party The nationalist parties have strong support from the population, but they are hampered by dissension . The two most important umbrella organizations, the Na tional Forum and the Round Table, agree on the establishment of a democratic and independent Georgia, but they differ sharply over such issues as the path to in dependence and the future status of the ethnic minorities within Georgia, such as the Abkhazians, Azerbaijanis, and Ossetians.
The National Forum, led by Georgi Chanturia, advocates boycotting the 00 tober 28 elections for the Georgian Supreme Soviet. In its place, the National Forum wants to e lect an independent National Congress on September 30 to prepare Georgia for independence. Round Table leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a long-time dissident and leader of the Georgian Helsinki Watch Group, opposes the creation of such an alternative parliament because he believes that it will be powerless. Other major nationalist groups include the Social Democrats and the Popular Front. These are prepared to work within existing institutions such as the Georgian Supreme Soviet to move toward independence Suppo r t for Lithuania. The Supreme Soviet bowed to popular protests and on March 20 postponed elections for a new parliament from March 25 to October 28 to provide more time for the democratic opposition to organize. These elections likely will give control of t he Supreme Soviet to pro-independence forces, yet the present communist-controlled legislature already has attempted to regain some of its authority by adopting a more nationalist position. On March 9, it declared Georgias 1921 annexation by Moscow an int e rnational crime. It passed a resolu tion asserting Georgias sovereignty on June 23 and established a commission to examine the steps needed for its implementation. It has also expressed support for Lithuanias bid for independence, voting on June 20 to def y MOSCOWS economic blockade of that break-away republic?
Although the road remains uncertain, the nationalist forces are committed to achieving independence within a year. National Forum leaders told Heritage Foundation officials in May that Soviet civil power in Georgia largely has ceased to exist and that the ir main objective is to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces following the election of a National Congress.They wish to proceed peacefully but they stated that they accept that Soviet forces may have to be driven out.
Armenia national origins date back at least 2,500 years. Its independence has always been precarious because it has been surrounded by powerful and often hostile neigh bors, from the ancient Romans to modem-day Azerbaijan. Consequently, it has Like neighboring Georgia, Armenia is one of th e oldest countries in Europe. Its 11 RFE,5U Duily Repotf, No. 117, June 21,1990 11 had a tragic history, including the slaughter of the Armenian population by the Ot toman Empire during World War I. The Armenian republic declared its inde pendence from Rus sia on May 28,1918, but was reconquered in December 1920.
Armenian national identity always has been very strong, even under the Soviet regime. Nevertheless, many Armenians have accepted Soviet rule because it was perceived as providing some protection aga inst potential threats fromTurkey Iran, and Azerbaijan ly by Soviet actions in Nagorno-Karabakh, a small Armenian-populated enclave within the neighboring Muslim republic of Azerbaijan. Armenia has demanded that this territory be transferred to Armenia, b ut Azerbaijan refuses to relinquish control The result has been an outbreak of ethnic violence in both republics, in cluding continuing heavy fighting along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Moscow is perceived in Armenia as favoring Azerbaijan in this dispute.
Reasons: Soviet authorities confirmed Azerbaijani control over the disputed ter ritory in November 19
89. Further, Soviet officials have refused to lift the Azer baijani-imposed blockade of the rail lines into Armenia, which has produced an economic crisis in the republic Defying Moscow. This failure to support Armenian claims has led to the rapid growth of overtly anti-Soviet sentiment, including Red Army clashes with armed groups of Armenians. Several nationalist organizations now call for indepen d ence from the Soviet Union; the most important is the Armenian Pan-National Move ment (ANM Other organizations calling for an end to Soviet rule include the Paruyr Hayrikyan Society, led by its namesake who was expelled from the Soviet Union two years ago but who was elected from exile to the Supreme Soviet in the May 20 elections.
Defiance of Soviet authority continues to grow, along with violence. A crowd of Armenians tried to storm and burn KGB headquarters in the capital of Yerevan on April 14,1990.The situation further deteriorated on May 27-28, when 22 Ar menians were killed in clashes between Armenian nationalists and Soviet forces in the city. Widespread disillusionment with the Soviet authorities in Moscow led to a significant boycotting of the Ma y 20 elections for the Supreme Soviet, in which less than 50 percent of the electorate voted Nevertheless, nationalist forces led by the ANM have taken control of the Supreme Soviet in Armenia. ANM leader LevonTer-Petrossyan announced on June 6 that his or g cinization would form a coalition government with the com munist party. He also proposed establishing direct links with the Russian republic led by Boris Yeltsin, bypassing Gorbachev and the Soviet government.13 This acceptance, however, has been greatly u ndermined in recent years, especial 12 Report on the USSR, June 8,1990. l3 RFE/RLDuify Report, N0.108, June 7,1990 12 THE SOVIET SOLUTION A NEW TREATY OF UNION Faced with a growing nationalist revolt, the Soviet regime has proposed replac ing the highly c e ntralized Soviet system with a newTreaty of Union in which the various republics would enjoy much greater autonomy This autonomy reportedly would include control over most of their own domestic affairs, such as education and much of the economy, with Mosc o w retaining control over foreign and defense policies. Gorbachev presented this new plan on June 12 to the Federation Council, a new body of undetermined responsibilities composed of himself and the presidents of the fifteen union republics.14 Gorbachevs p lan, and others like it, are unlikely to solve the problem of Soviet decolorization. The Soviet Union in theory already is a voluntary federation in which the republics possess a broad array of rights, yet Moscow has never allowed these to be exercised. T here is no reason to believe a new constitution with new rights would be any more respected by Soviet authorities.
Further, almost none of the officials and organizations likely to be involved in drafting and ratifying a new Treaty of Union including Gorba chev and the Soviet parliament as well as their republican counterparts -have been democratically elected. Thus, they lack legitimacy Only Acceptable Arrangement. But most important, there is no reason to believe that limited autonomy would be preferable t o outright independence in any of the republics. In fact, nationalist leaders in the Baltic states, Ukraine, Geor gia, and elsewhere have told The Heritage Foundation that no arrangement short of independence would be acceptable. Ivan Drach, Chairman of R UM, publicly declared on March 6 that the organization will stand for the independence of Uk raine, for its political and social sovereign& And at this stage the only way to achieve this is to leave the Soviet Union.
Even those who say they are willing to continue some tie with the Soviet Union describe this relationship in terms indistinguishable from independence. Ion Khadirke, for example, Chairman of the Moldavian Popular Front and Vice Presi dent of the Supreme Soviet, stated that he supports Gorbache v s proposal but views it as leading to a union of independent states, not a federation or con- federation l6 Thus, the Soviet regime either will have to impose a new treaty, by force or with the cooperation-of-unelected communist officialsin me republics, or it will have to grant the peoples the freedom to decide for themselves, in which case all likely will choose independence, as they did in 19
18. The former option only would make the present situation worse; the latter would mean the end of the Soviet U nion 14 RFE/RL Duily Report, No. 112, June l3,1990 15 REF/RL. Daily Report, No. 47, March 7,1990 16 Financial Tunes, June 25,1990 13 The end of the Soviet Union would not mean the end of relations between its former republics, however. Nationalist leaders in Estonia, Georgia, Laha Lithuania, and Ukraine have assured Heritage Foundation officials that they place great importance on good relations with their neighbors and with Moscow, but as independent states. Of greater importance to them, however, is esta blishment of close ties with Europe, of which they consider their republics an integral part. A Soviet connection is merely an unnecessary and costly burden.
Cooperative planning for the post-Soviet era already has begun in these republics. When representa tives of the Popular Fronts of Armenia, Azerbaijan Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgia Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan met in Kiev on May 5-6, they formed a Union of Democratic Forces with a goal to guarantee the peaceful secession of republics from t he USSR by negotiation with the Soviet government and to create structures to facilitate mutual cooperation between the republics after the fall of the empire.17 WHATTHE WEST CAN DO Given the enormous stakes involved, the U.S. and the West as a whole have vital interests in ensuring that Soviet decolonization proceeds peacefully. The pace of events in the Soviet Union over the next year easily could match those of the East European revolutions in 1989 nationalists expectations and encouraging them to take greater risks or by provok ing Moscow into a crackdown on the nationalist forces, is a legitimate one. Chaos in the Soviet Union is not in the Wests interests, and promises of support that will not be forthcoming are sure to be counterproductive.
But the g rowing instability in the Soviet Union is not caused by these republics struggle for independence but rather from the Soviet denial of freedom. Stability for these areas, as well as the rest of Europe, will be possible only after these republics have been allowed freely to choose their future.
Reduced Threat. Concern for stability may obscure the fact that the preserva tion of the Soviet Union in its current state clearly is not in the Wests interests.
The enormous amount of attention that has been focused on the potential threat to European stability from a united Germany has obscured the fact that the Soviet Union has been the only serious threat to Europe over the past four decades, and likely will b e the only plausible threat for the foreseeable future. A successful decolonization of the Soviet Union not only would remove the major sources of in stability inside the Soviet Union but also deny Moscow control over the resources in the non-Russian repub lics needed to pose a credible threat to Europe.
While U.S. and Western influence is limited, it can play an important role none theless. Moscows need for economic assistance and the nationalists desire for The Western fear of inadvertently causing instabi lity, either by raising the 17 Report on the USSR, May 25,1990 14 foreign recognition give the West valuable tools for influencing both sides. Al though the West cannot stop, and should not accelerate, the process of Soviet decolonization, it can influenc e the direction in which it evolves. Given the alterna tives of a violent or a peaceful process of decolonization, the Wests interests argue strongly for using whatever influence it possesses to help push it in a peace ful direction U.S. POLICY FOR PROMOTI N G A PEACEFUL DECOLONIZATION OF THE U.S.S.R The U.S. should promote the peaceful decolonization of the Soviet Union by en couraging both Moscow and the republics seeking independence to begin negotia tions aimed at a mutually acceptable solution.The aim of U.S. policy should be to help bring about a new democratic order in which the rights and security of all nationalities, including the Russians, are respected To be effective, U.S. policies should rest on a foundation of six principles Principle #1: The U. S . strongly supports a peaceful resolution of the problem of Soviet decolonization and will not assist or support the use of force by any group in the Soviet Union, although it understands sympathetically the need for self defense Principle #2: The U.S. ur g es Moscow to negotiate with democratically-elected representatives of the republics to determine their future relations with the Soviet Union and to respect the wishes of the populations as expressed through free and fair elections Principle #3: U.S. supp o rt for any national organization in the Soviet Union is conditioned on its adherence to democratic values and respect for the rights of eth nic and religious minorities Principle #4: The U.S. supports the removal of political and economic barriers between the peoples of Europe, including the Russians, and will work with its European allies toward this end decolonization nor does it seek to exploit the matter to threaten the security of the Soviet Union Principle #5: The U.S. seeks no unilateral gain in the matter of Soviet Principle #6: The U.S. will reward Moscow appropriately for allowing the To translate these principles into policy, the U.S. should Warn Moscow against the use of force against the national movements.
The most likely instigator of violenc e is Moscow. Gorbachev has already demonstrated that he is prepared to use force in Lithuania.The U.S. must make clear to Moscow that the use of force against the national movements inevitably will lead to a worsening of U.S.-Soviet relations and will blo c k the Soviet governments efforts to improve its economy by increasing its ties with the West process of decoloihtion to proceed peacefully 15 At the same time, the U.S. should refuse to deal with any of the nationalist groups which engage in violence. Sev e ral organizations in these republics have begun planning for armed resistance to the Soviet Union. The U.S. position must be that, although it recognizes that there may be a need for legitimate self defense, it will in no way support actions leading to ar med conflict.
The U.S. must be especially careful not to automatically accept Moscows ex planations that its use of force may be necessary to restore order when fighting breaks out between ethnic groups. Nationalist leaders in Georgia told officials of The Heritage Foundation in May that many of the clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis have been manipulated by the Soviet government to provide pretexts for cracking down on the independence movements in those republics and that Moscow was also attempti n g to create conflict in Georgia among the eth nic minorities. Only in those cases in which the U.S. can verify independently that local authorities cannot control the outbreak of violence, that loss of life has oc curred or is immediately threatened, and w here Soviet intervention is not aimed against nationalist movements pursuing peaceful change, should it accept Soviet explanations of the need to intervene Include the European republics of the Soviet Union which have elected democratic governments in the U.S. assistance package for Eastern Europe. The SEED (Support for East European Democracy) Act of 1989, which was passed in November 1989 to help Poland and Hungary, may be expanded this year in a bill dubbed SEED II to include the rest of Eastern Europe. The Soviet Unions European republics, including the Baltic republics, are the true eastern Europe and should be eligible for assistance once they have installed democratically elected governments.
SEED II would make them eligible for loans to private entrepreneurs, give their governments access to foreign credit, and provide them the technical assistance to clean their environment, improve their farm economy, and launch small busi nesses.
These countries will best be helped, however, not through foreign ai d, but by quickly establishing market economies. One of the major obstacles to this is the lack of experience and expertise with business and free markets. The U.S. can play an important role in helping to establish centers for business education and mana g erial expertise.The U.S. and especially the Europeans can also help by removing trade barriers to these countries as they become independent Ask Congress to exchange parliamentary groups with democratically elected legislatures. Parliamentary democracy is a new phenomenon in most of these republics and their systems likely will remain fragile for some time. Once they have elected legislatures democratically, Congress should exchange par liamentary groups with them to provide needed expertise on the establi shment and operations of legislative bodies and their role in establishing the rule of law.
U.S. delegations could help train lawmakers and their staffs about parliamentary procedures, committee organization, legislative oversight of executive agencies and competition and cooperation among the parties. With such exchanges, Con gress would also provide important symbolic support to struggling democracies 16 Establish relations with each of the European republics of the Soviet Union Given the growing importa n ce of the European republics of the Soviet Union, the U.S. should establish direct relations with their governments, whether or not they are committed to independence. Such ties are permitted under Article 80 of the current Soviet constitution, which stat e s that A Union Republic has the right to enter into relations with other states, conclude treaties with them, ex change diplomatic and consular representatives, and take part in the work of inter national organizations In the past, Moscow forbade such con tacts, but its new policy of greater respect for the rights of the republics should be put to the test.
There is a precedent: Byelorussia and Ukraine have been members of the United Nations since 1945.
Opening relations with these republics need not imply official U.S. recognition of independence. However, should a democratically elected government come to power in any of these republics and declare independence, the President should grant it diplomatic recognition, provided doing so advances U.S. interes t s and does not contribute to violence within the Soviet Union.The U.S. has never recog nized the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union, but none of the other republics voluntarily joined the Soviet Union all were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union.Thus, the U.S. should look sympathetically upon the reassertion of their independence Put Soviet decolonization on the agenda at the forthcoming CSCE con ference Begun in the early 197Os, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe ( C SCE) is a forum for discussing human rights, security, and economic cooperation. It includes all the countries of Europe, plus the U.S. and Canada. At Moscows insistence, the next session will be held this autumn and will address the consequences of the d r amatic changes in Europe over the past year and their im pact on European security To exclude Soviet decolonization from the agenda of this session would be to omit the most pressing question facing Europe. At CSCE, the political, economic and security co n sequences of Soviet decolonization should be discussed.-10 The legitimate concerns of the Soviet Union and the republics as well as those of Western and Eastern Europe and the US, can be examined and cooperative solu tions crafted which will allow the sel f -determination of the nationalities to proceed peacefully. Here the West can play an important role by reassuring Mos cow regarding its security and by offering the Soviet Union and the republics economic cooperation if decolonization proceeds peacefully.
Representatives of the governments of the European republics of the Soviet Union should be invited to attend the CSCE meeting. These should include not only the Baltic states, whose annexation by the Soviet Union has never been recog nized by the U.S. and most Western countries, but the other European republics as well. The Soviet government has no legal basis to object because Article 80 of the Soviet Constitution gives all Soviet republics the right to conduct their foreign affairs, including the right t o take part in the work of international organizations Encourage Americas European allies to use their influence to press Mos cow for peaceful change and to integrate the new republics into Europe. Although 17 the West European governments may be reluctan t to become involved in Soviet decolonization, preferring to let the U.S. take the lead, the U.S. should press its West European allies to join in a common approach to the problem. The U.S should also invite the new democracies of Eastern Europe to coopera t e. Govern ment officials in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland have demonstrated their support for the Baltic states moves toward independence and may welcome the opportunity to promote peaceful change in the Soviet Union in conjunction with the West teg r ating the European republics of the Soviet Union into Europe, should these become independent. The populations in each of these republics consider their countries to be integral parts of Europe and are eager to reestablish close politi cal, economic, and cultural ties with it.
These measures could include the lowering of trade barriers and extension of the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development EBRD a new organization established by the West to provide economic assis tance to Ea stern Europe Also the U.S. should encourage the Europeans to admit these republics into European and regional organizations like the Council of Europe, established in 1948 as an organization of European parliamentary democracies The U.S. should also encou r age its European allies to adopt policies aimed at in CONCLUSION The Soviet Union is the last of the European colonial empires. It has ,managed so far to avoid the fate of the British, French, Portuguese, and other empires be cause of its repressive chara c ter and its enormous military power. But this may be coming to an end. The long-suppressed nationalist forces of the European republics of the U.S.S.R. are gaining strength rapidly and are moving quickly toward independence. It is unlikely that this proce s s can be stopped. A massive use of force by the Soviet military may slow it down temporarily, but only at great cost in life and risk to international stability.The only real question is whether the republics march toward independence will proceed peacefu lly or violently.
New Democracies. For the West, Soviet decolonization holds both great oppor tunities and great risks. A successful decolonization would mean the emergence of a broad band of new democracies extending from Estonia in the north to Armenia i n the south, possibly including even a democratic Russia, all eager to join the in ternational economy and take their place in Europe and the world. It would also mean a significant reduction in, and possible elimination of, the Soviet threat to Europe.
A n unsuccessful decolonization, especially one involving a massive use of the Soviet military, likely would create extended conflict and instability and threaten U.S. and Western interests in Europe and elsewhere. It would also raise the prospect of a loss of control over the Soviet. Unions nuclear arsenal occurs peacefully, as does the West as a whole.To help push this process in a High Stakes. The U.S. has vital interests in ensuring that Soviet decolonization 18 peaceful direction, the Bush Administratio n should warn Moscow against using force against the nationalist movements, include those republics which elect democratic governments in U.S. assistance programs for Eastern Europe, ask Con gress to exchange parliamentary groups with the democratically el e cted legisla tures, establish relations with those Soviet republics which request them, press for inclusion of these republics and the topic of Soviet decolonization at the CSCE conference, and encourage Americas allies to use their influence to press Mos cow for peaceful change.
The East European revolutions of 1989 dramatically transformed the situation in Europe in favor of the West.The sudden rollback of Soviet power has produced a belief that the threat from the Soviet Union is largely over. Yet, the real danger is only now b e ginning, for the events in Eastern Europe were but a prelude to the far more significant and dangerous revolutions underway in the Soviet Union. The stakes are too high for the West to stand on the sidelines and hope for the best, as happened in Eastern E urope, for there is no guarantee that events will unfold as favorably. The victory of democracy and of free enterprise will only be secure once the peoples of the Sokiet Union are free as well.
Douglas Seay Policy Analyst 19