Before West Sends Aid, Moscow Must Learn to Help Itself.
MOSCOW needs to learn self-help before it should expect massive aid from the United States-led Western industrial democracies. Yet we are told that dire consequences will result for the Soviet Union - or whatever replaces it - unless billions of dollars in aid are made available now.Such unqualified aid would be unrealistic and misguided. It would be as if we had poured billions of dollars into Germany just before VE Day to rescue the same Nazism we had defeated at such great cost. Since that defeat of the Nazis 46 years ago, our energy, money, and resources have been consumed in thwarting an even greater threat - worldwide, atheistic communism. It would be folly to subsidize the survival of that threat. Let us not forget that the Soviet Union still commands the world's largest oil reserves, as well as stockpiles of strategic minerals and metals equaled only by South Africa. And whatever its present disarray, it remains the only military power capable of threatening our safety. If Moscow insists on remaining a military superpower and refuses to undertake the reforms necessary to feed its own people, billions of American dollars should not be wasted rescuing what remains of a discredited ideology and a bankrupt political system. There will be no incentive for Moscow to discard that ideology finally and truly reform the system. It's going to cost an estimated half-trillion dollars to rebuild what used to be East Germany, a nation of 17 million people. What will it cost to pull the Soviet Union's 280 million people out of third-world status? Certainly more than the US, with its own troubled economy and soaring deficits, can afford. Before we send Moscow one dime, we should insist that the ruble be stabilized and made convertible with other international currencies. Much of Moscow's vast gold reserves should be deposited with Western democracies as a first step toward integrating the ruble into the global monetary system. That must be followed by other essential economic reforms, such as the establishment of a legitimate banking system and ironclad protection of private property. Moscow must also feed its own people. Russia's arable farmland dwarfs that of other nations, but central planning and collectivized farming have made the Soviet Union an agricultural basket case. One-fourth to one-half of the Soviet fruit and vegetable crop rots before reaching market. As long as its oversized Soviet military is the only institution with the manpower and logistical capability, it should be put to work on the harvest and distribution of food. Finally, Soviet industry must be redirected away from military power and toward the civilian sector and the production of consumer goods. Soviet leaders must give their long-suffering people genuine hope that conditions are truly improving. A good first step in that direction would be the massive and unprecedented import of consumer goods. Moscow has indicated its willingness to reciprocate George Bush's initiative for reductions in strategic and tactical nuclear forces, to reduce military personnel, and to move toward an all-volunteer force, much like our own. Very well. Let Moscow's actions match its deeds. Nothing would do more to gain the confidence of the free world. Moscow must also end its subsidies to Cuba, North Korea, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and other anti-Western regimes and use those resources to give Soviet citizens a taste of the benefits of living in a free society. Dismantling its military establishment to a level commensurate with a civilian economy would convince the free world the cold war is indeed over and the primary threat to world peace removed. The US will not allow the Soviet people to starve. But we would be doing them no favor by coming to the rescue of those who want to perpetuate the old system. Former President Ronald Reagan was right. The Soviet Union has been an Evil Empire. But that empire was vanquished by the resolve, blood, and treasure of the free world, especially that of the US. We should not now rush to revive it and all that it represents.