The path of transformation that the leaders of the
Soviet Union can
choose depends critically on the extent of Western
assistance is critically dependent on the path of
reform the Soviet
Union is prepared to undertake.
Therefore, rather than each side waiting for the
other to take the first
step, the governments of the Soviet Union and the
West should jointly
develop a common program of what each would do if
the other meets
To this end, we are currently co-charging a joint
working group of
American and Soviet policy advisers that is devising
a plan for Western
cooperation in the Soviet transformation to democracy
in a market
economy. The group has been meeting at Harvard and
in Washington, and we
will deliver a “white paper” outlining our plan to
the leaders of the
Soviet Union, the United States and the other Western
economic powers in
the near future.
Such a joint program must consist of initiatives
that the Soviet
governments – the Union and the republics – would
take to move rapidly
to a free-market economy as the essential foundation
democracy. And it must also consist of actions that
the United States
and its allies would take – including significant
economic aid and
expert and technical assistance – to motivate, enable
these Soviet initiatives.
But even if the leaders of the Soviet governments
choose the necessary
but very difficult program of market transformation
reform, will they be able to implement it politically?
Are the odds good
enough to deserve the West’s active engagement?
For the answer to this question to be a confident
“yes,” the Soviet
governments must enter into a democratic political
compact with their
own people. Only then can they demonstrate to the
West that they have a
sufficient mandate to absorb the immense political
costs associated with
the dislocations of unemployment and the price increases
inevitably accompany reform.
The best evidence on this score is what the Soviet
leaders have already
A remarkable agreement on April 23 between President
Gorbachev and the presidents of nine Soviet republics
essential commitments that, if undertaken, should
meet every reasonable
First, the agreement recognizes power-sharing among
that propose to voluntary join together to create
a new federal
Second, it explicitly recognizes the right of current
republics in the
Soviet Union to join the new union or opt out.
A third provision guarantees the human rights of
individuals in the
territories of the Soviet Union, whatever their national,
In negotiations on the “nine-plus-one” agreement,
guarantee was more than a rhetorical affirmation.
Specific rights of
conscience, speech, religion, political association,
immigration were reaffirmed.
Fourth, the agreement establishes a framework for
of a new Union Treaty among those republics that choose
followed by creation of a new constitution.
Negotiations on this new Union Treaty have preceded
apace – defining the
powers that the republics will assign voluntarily
to the new federal
government and the larger number of powers that they
will not, the
division of natural resources between the republics
and the union,
division of the existing national debt, and so on.
Fifth and finally, the “nine-plus-one” agreement
sets a timetable for
democratic elections to the new Parliament and other
including the presidency. The goal is to achieve this
within one year’s
If this new political entity is prepared to decisively
Soviet Union into a market economy, the West must
respond just as
dramatically with the substantial assistance required
to make the
The United States and its allies have a fundamental
interest in avoiding
violent disintegration of the present Soviet Union.
No event in the
postwar period would pose such high and uncontrollable
risks of chaos,
civil war and nuclear war.
If there is a realistic program of action the Soviet
Union can undertake
– with significant Western cooperation – that could
avoid this violent
outcome, a failure of the West to act would be a historic
its values and interests.
Grigory Yavlinsky, a former deputy prime minister
of the Russian
Republic, is an adviser to Soviet President Mikhail
Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Graham Allison is
a professor and the
former dean of Harvard’s John F.Kennedy’s School of