Upheaval In Romania : Moscow Pledges Aid but Rejects Troop Request : Soviet Union: Gorbachev says Romania’s new government can expect humanitarian help from the Warsaw Pact.
The Soviet Union, affirming its support for the popular uprising that overthrew Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, pledged Saturday to provide “immediate and effective humanitarian aid” to the country but drew the line at military assistance.
President Mikhail S. Gorbachev told the Congress of People’s Deputies that Moscow also is consulting its Warsaw Pact allies so they can coordinate their actions in “rendering aid to the people of Romania and some other measures that will be taken with this aim.”
Gorbachev told the deputies that the Kremlin had considered a request for military assistance by leaders of the Front of National Salvation, the provisional government established by former Communist Party and government officials, military commanders and intellectuals in Bucharest. But he said Moscow had decided against sending in forces as the fighting appeared to abate.
Speaking to journalists at the Congress, Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov said: “We have to support them from the point of view of medical help and maybe some other kinds of assistance, but to bring in forces would, to my mind, be impermissible.
“We must not repeat mistakes,” Ryzhkov continued. “Not long ago, we reevaluated the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. That reassessment was made on Dec. 4, and should we repeat something like that just a few days later?”
Gorbachev said the request for military assistance had come overnight when Romanian army units, apparently loyal to Ceausescu, “turned against the people” and were threatening to retake strategic positions in Bucharest--including the Communist Party’s headquarters, where the provisional government’s leaders were meeting. But the loyalists’ counterattack was “suppressed,” Gorbachev said, when more troops were brought in.
The Warsaw Pact’s foreign ministers had tentatively scheduled a meeting here this morning, according to East European diplomats, but they canceled it as the situation appeared to stabilize in Romania late Saturday.
Romania is a member of the Warsaw Pact, along with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland, and the pact’s treaty provides for mutual military assistance in the case of foreign attack. At one point, there were reports from Bucharest that Syrian and Libyan troops were fighting on Ceausescu’s behalf, but this was never proved--and was later denied by both those countries.
“This victory will be a hundred times more valuable if it is won by the Romanian people themselves,” a senior Soviet official said. “We would definitely act to prevent Ceausescu’s return--by now, that has been made clear to all--but the victory belongs to the Romanian people and must be protected and developed by them. In this, they can count on our firmest support, but let the actions be theirs.”
In a formal declaration Saturday night, the Soviet government expressed its full support for both the uprising that ousted Ceausescu and the Front of National Salvation.
“The Soviet people are on the side of the Romanian people upholding the ideals of freedom, democracy and national dignity,” the Kremlin statement said. “The Soviet government supports the efforts of the council of the Front of National Salvation aimed at establishing calm and order in the country.”
The statement was tantamount to diplomatic recognition of the provisional government, officials said, and was aimed at helping to stabilize the situation and secure broader support for the Front of National Salvation.
The government statement, following a resolution Friday by the Congress of People’s Deputies declaring Soviet support for the “just cause of the Romanian people,” left no doubt of the contempt in which Gorbachev and the other Soviet leaders had held Ceausescu, even while he was still lionized in the West for his “independence.”
Gorbachev, meeting with Ceausescu here earlier this month during a Warsaw Pact summit conference, had bluntly told the Romanian leader that either he would have to change his policies and his whole approach to governing his country or he would be overwhelmed by the same tide sweeping Eastern Europe, according to Soviet sources.
“Ceausescu said that he understood Romania’s problems and that Gorbachev perhaps did not quite understand his own country’s,” an informed Soviet official said over the weekend. “Essentially, Ceausescu said everything was under control and would remain so. Gorbachev told him that, aside from the political morality of the question, he was making a major error--that the country would blow and take him with it.”
In talks with U.S. Ambassador Jack F. Matlock Jr., Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze said that Moscow saw the developments as “the expression of the will of the Romanian people striking for a renewal of socialism on democratic principles.”
The Soviets, meanwhile, began an airlift of medical and other relief supplies to Romania and prepared to send in medical teams to treat those wounded in the fighting and evacuate as many as necessary to hospitals here.
The first Soviet aircraft carrying medicine and other relief supplies landed Saturday morning in Bucharest, officials here said, but were held up at the airport, which had been blockaded by opposing military units. Subsequent flights were able to land at other airports, according to Soviet officials.
Soviet journalists working in Bucharest have covered the uprising in Romania with unparalleled professionalism, providing a running report on developments there with vivid eyewitness accounts of the fighting. At one point Saturday, the three-member Tass bureau was forced to evacuate its office when it came under fire--but resumed sending reports within 10 minutes from another location.