MOSCOW - After a bitter winter of estrangement from
his comrades in changing Soviet society, President
Mikhail S. Gorbachev has signaled a readiness to come
in from the cold.
In a series of gestures since his meeting with Boris
N. Yeltsin, the head of the Russian Republic, and
leaders of eight other republics last month, the Soviet
president has reached out anew to liberal advocates
of change at home and Western leaders abroad.
Sitting Tuesday in the same hall with Mr. Yeltsin
at a tribute to Andrei D. Sakharov, the former dissident
leader now hallowed in the Soviet Union as a prophet
of democracy, Mr. Gorbachev seemed once again among
his own - or at least almost.
A day earlier, the Supreme Soviet had finally approved
a law giving citizens the right to emigrate and travel
Before that, Mr. Gorbachev had held amicable talks
with President George Bush, and the Kremlin had softened
its stance on arms controls. Several former associates
had rejoined his team, and the tone of official pronouncements
had become markedly softer.
The most auspicious of the new developments was Mr.
Gorbachev's endorsement of an effort by Grigori A.
Yavlinski, considered by many to be the most creative
of the liberal economists shunted aside last fall,
to launch a joint program of action with major Western
governments to put the Soviet Union firmly on a track
toward democracy and free enterprise.
Mr. Yavlinski, 39, encamped with a team of eight
young associates at Harvard University this week to
draft a program that he hopes Mr. Bush and Gorbachev
will approve and present to the Group of Seven industrialized
democracies at their summit meeting in London in July.
In a conversation on the eve of his departure, Mr.
Yavlinski said he had been meeting almost daily with
Mr. Gorbachev and his aides in recent weeks to discuss
both the approach to the West and a plan for domestic
political action drafted by Mr. Yavlinski's research
Mr. Yavlinski had been the prime architect of the
"500 days" program of radical change that
Mr. Gorbachev rejected in the fall, marking the beginning
of Mr. Gorbachev's shift to the political right and
an attempt by embattled Communist institutions to
"come out of the trenches."
In intervening months, Mr. Yavlinski served as an
adviser to Mr. Yeltsin and Nursultan A. Nazarbayev,
the president of Kazakhstan, and he advised both to
seek the reconciliation that took place at the Nine-plus-One
conference, as the conciliatory meeting between Mr.
Gorbachev and the presidents of nine of the 15 republics
has come to be known.
Asked why Mr. Gorbachev was now listening to him,
Mr. Yavlinski replied: "Because I'm giving him
a program. I don't give him answers. What I offer
is a logical plan of action."
Mr. Yavlinski insisted that money was not the critical
"The question of money in this program plays
an important, but not the major role," he wrote
in the government daily lzvestia. "Everything
will be determined by the logic of the transformation.
The money will fulfill the function of a shock absorber
of social costs and shocks."
For Mr. Yavlinski, the real goal was to make the
West an active partner in reintegrating the Soviet
Union into the global economy and community.
Nonetheless, money was most likely to be the sticking
point among the Western powers, however sympathetic
they might be to the greater goal. With the United
States in recession, Germany facing huge bills for
its new east, and bills from the Gulf war still coming
in, the notion of pumping billions into the Soviet
Union met with little enthusiasm.
Yet, in Moscow, at least, there was a sense that
things had reached a fateful point, that something
had to give. It was perhaps this foreboding, more
than any single event, that prompted Mr. Gorbachev
to resume the course on which he originally set out
six years ago.
Western visitors to Moscow often suspect that grand
political strategies govern the maneuvers of the major
players, that ambitions and fixed goals shape the
political conflicts and pacts. From within, however,
the impression is increasingly that events are being
guided by improvisation, by desperation.
According to people who were close to him at the
time, Mr. Gorbachev rejected the "500 day"
plan largely because he did not believe that such
radical medicine was inescapable.
A master politician and compromiser, he was convinced
that some balance could be struck between the free
market of the advocates of change and the social welfare
of the Communists.
In the ensuing months, however, the economy and the
society slipped inexorably toward disaster. The very
levers of control slid from the hand of the government
as republics ceased sending their levies, as miners
walked off the job, as republics asserted their sovereignty.
The economy lumbered on through sheer inertia even
as the ruble lost its meaning. Attempts to maintain
control through force proved disastrous as the bloodshed
in Lithuania brought down the wrath of the world.
Misguided attempts at economic change, in the absence
of any popular support, only brought ridicule down
on the new prime minister, Valentin S. Pavlov.
Mr. Gorbachev came under assault from both left and
right. Mr. Yeltsin joined coal miners in demanding
his resignation for stalling on change, while the
right wing demanded his hide for failing to crack
The event that seemed to drive home the crisis was
the Kremlin's attempt to block a rally of democrats
by sending 50,000 troops into the streets of Moscow.
This was no national uprising, no tribal clash, but
young conscripts confronting their neighbors. For
both the "democrats" and the "center,"
it was a glimpse of the abyss that lay ahead.
The retreat by both sides that followed seemed to
bring a tangible sigh of relief. Siberian coal mines
were transferred to Russia's jurisdiction and resumed
work. The sniping at Mr. Gorbachev dropped off. Most
republican leaders signed on to economic changes.
To Mr. Yavlinski, the conditions seemed right at
last to undertake what he firmly believed was the
only path to salvation, a joint effort with the West
to guide the Soviet Union back into the fold.
"We must note that conditions conducive to cooperation
and large-scale programs, both within our country
and abroad, arise infrequently," he wrote. "Do
we have the right to let slip a moment in which action