The Kremlin, seeking ever more desperately to save the collapsing national economy, is preparing proposals for a program akin to the Marshall Plan for the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov said in an interview released Sunday.
Pavlov gave no details on his ideas for winning the kind of massive aid that the United States provided to post-World War II Europe, but said he is convinced that "what we need is a long-term program for the attraction of foreign investment."
"We are working now on programs which could become a sort of Marshall Plan for the Soviet Union," he told the independent news agency Interfax.
It remains a mystery how Pavlov plans to attract foreign aid and investment when Western agencies, banks and governments have decided repeatedly over recent months that, although they would like to shore up President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's reforms, the Soviet economy is too much of a shambles and the country's politics too unstable to make it worthwhile.
President Bush recently questioned the wisdom of providing the Soviet Union with $1.4 billion in requested farm credits. Gorbachev, still pushing for the credits, has agreed to Bush's proposal to send a delegation of American experts to Moscow on Friday to look into food distribution problems.
Pavlov's self-proclaimed willingness to open the country to Western investment marks a decided change in tone from his accusations just weeks ago that Western bankers participated in a scheme to illegally suck billions of rubles out of the Soviet Union in an attempt to destroy its economy.
The heavy-set, tough-talking prime minister's descriptions of the country's current economic troubles highlighted the dire position in which he finds himself as keeper of the Kremlin's finances.
He told Interfax that the Soviet Union, which gets much of its foreign currency earnings from oil exports and has the world's largest reserves, will produce far less oil this year than originally planned.
"It is already clear that we will not be able to extract the planned amount of oil," Pavlov said. "I am not talking about 1% or 2%; we will be lacking millions of tons. That means we must say honestly that somebody will be left without engine oil."
He also disclosed that the Soviet Union is considering plans to link its energy system to a joint European network in one big power grid.
In contrast to the country's grim economic outlook, the Soviet political scene showed further signs of improvement Sunday, with a Kremlin meeting between Gorbachev and Russian Federation leader Boris N. Yeltsin indicating that the two rivals' new-found harmony may actually hold.
Yeltsin and Gorbachev joined forces to maneuver around the latest threat to the Soviet president's plan to hold the country together: demands for fuller recognition from the leaders of 16 autonomous republics.
In a landmark victory April 23, Gorbachev gained the consent of nine of the country's 15 larger constituent republics, Yeltsin's giant Russian Federation among them, to his proposal for a new federal treaty.
But then the cracks in the country's unity split even deeper. Some of its autonomous republics--administrative units within the constituent republics--began to complain that they would not be given the chance to sign the new treaty as full-fledged partners.
Because Yeltsin's Russian Federation could be virtually dismembered if its autonomous republics began to insist on independence, the outspoken Russian populist found himself in exactly the same position as Gorbachev: arguing for consolidation and centralization with leaders of the autonomous units.
According to reports from the Kremlin meeting, the two got along extremely well, and all the participants agreed that the country's principal goal is to retain its current composition.
"The main result of the meeting was agreement on the need to sign the new Union Treaty as soon as possible," Vladislav Zotin, of Russia's Mari autonomous area, said.
And each of the autonomous republics will decide for itself how it wants to sign the federal treaty, the official Tass news agency reported.
Meanwhile, in another section of the Kremlin on Sunday, Soviet lawmakers once again took up the long-awaited draft law on freedom of emigration, only to put off a vote until today Monday in order to hear a government report on just how much it could cost to open the country's borders.
Liberal publicist Fyodor M. Burlatsky, the law's main sponsor, said that although he is disappointed by the delay, he has been heartened by the tone of the discussion and now believes that the measure's chances for passage are excellent.
Until it came back to the floor of the Supreme Soviet last week, the emigration law had languished in legislative committees since November, 1989.
Although few argue for the old authoritarian regime of closed borders, many lawmakers worry that it could cost billions of rubles to pay for printing millions of passports, beefing up staffs of emigration bureaucrats, opening new consulates and border crossings and adding new trains and airplanes to the Soviet fleets.