Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze asked today for American food and other assistance to help get his country through the winter. Secretary of State James A. Baker III promised a sympathetic response.
“As far as humanitarian assistance, medical assistance, food and that sort of thing, I know the President will be forthcoming with respect to trying to help,” Baker said in a brief news conference as he opened two days of talks in his hometown with Shevardnadze.
The two are trying to conclude a treaty to reduce American and Soviet long-range nuclear missiles, bombers and submarines by about 30%.
Shevardnadze, posing for pictures with Baker at the edge of a gazebo on the lawn of a fashionable hotel, was straightforward about his country’s economic plight.
“We would appreciate, if possible, some food supplies,” he said in reply to a question from a reporter. “That is the most acute problem.”
And, he added, the Soviets would also like to receive from the United States “efficient economic cooperation.”
Baker said President Bush is considering helping the Soviets as they try to make a difficult transition in their economic system.
However, he also said, there are laws that stand in the way.
“The United States would want to be of assistance in ways that we can be,” Baker said.
One step under consideration, he said on arriving here Sunday, is suspending the Jackson-Vanik law that imposes stiff barriers against Soviet imports.
The law was enacted nearly 20 years ago to try to force the Soviets to allow Jews and other minorities to emigrate. Under Gorbachev the tide of Jewish emigration has climbed to an all-time high.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said, “We are considering going ahead with waiver of Jackson-Vanik.” He cited two reasons:
“One is what is developing as what appears to be a very serious need in terms of their economy and in terms of their ability to get food supplies and the distribution system that equalizes the food coming into Moscow and so forth.
“And secondly because of their cooperation in the Persian Gulf and their strong support of us in that area.”
Baker, meanwhile, brushed off a question about the prospects of completing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, saying he said he would know more after his meetings with Shevardnadze.
Once the treaty is done, Bush hopes to go to Moscow to sign it at a summit meeting with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
DONATIONS FOR THE SOVIETS A sampling of food donations and other aid deliveries to the Soviet Union from individuals, private organizations and governments to help ease debilitating shortages. Does not include monetary aid, credits or discounts. AUSTRIA 100,000 food parcels and medical supplies are promised. GERMANY The government has agreed to donate the Berlin Blockade stockpile of food and medical supplies including 66,000 tons of rye, 26,000 tons of canned meat and 7,500 tons of butter. Over 87 tons of aid from charitable groups including: prepackaged meals for orphanages and hospitals; CARE packages, containing chocolate, rice and meat; packages of flour, sugar, sausage, powdered milk and baby food, family food packages, childrens food, preserved meats and clothes. ISRAEL 10 tons of melons, watermelons, tomatoes and oranges and 15 tons of powdered milk have been shipped. ITALY Charities shipped 8 tons of milk, five tons of medical supplies and tons of canned tuna, cheese and vegetables Nov. 30. Another 64 tons of similar aid are being sent. JAPAN The Socialist Party is asking for donations of dried ramen noodles. NORWAY Canned food and medical supplies stockpiled in case of war with the Soviet Union will be made available to Soviet refugees who might approach the northern border. Groups in northern Norway have taken toys, clothes and some food across the border. PAKISTAN Newspaper reports say the government will send 10,000 tons of rice. SWITZERLAND In January Swiss Army volunteers are to deliver 320 tons of food from its stocks. A 40-ton government emergency airlift of food for hospitals, orphanages and old people’s homes has been sent. UNITED STATES 80,000 pounds of medical supplies and powdered protein drink were delivered to Moscow children’s hospitals and orphanages. A second airlift, carrying 250,000 pounds is scheduled to go Dec. 26. The Rotary Club in Nome, Alaska, said it would send food across the Bering Strait at Christmas time.