Beleaguered Gorbachev Finds Liberals Deserting Him in Hour of Need : Politics: Longtime allies Shevardnadze and Yakovlev spurn his request to rejoin government, pointing up his increasing isolation.
Betrayed by many conservatives colleagues in last week’s abortive coup d’etat , President Mikhail S. Gorbachev found Friday that liberals are also deserting him.
Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Alexander N. Yakovlev, the two men closest to Gorbachev in the first years of perestroika , declined the president’s nomination to serve on a newly constituted national security council. Moscow’s radical mayor, Gavriil Popov, also refused.
And Askar Akayev, the president of the Soviet Central Asian republic of Kirghizia, who was asked by Gorbachev to become his vice president, is uncertain whether to accept the nomination, the newspaper Izvestia reported Friday.
The snubs by Shevardnadze, Yakovlev and Popov dramatized Gorbachev’s diminished political stature and his isolation from the liberals and radicals who defeated the putsch. It was further proof, as Russian lawmakers had bluntly told the Soviet president last week, that he needs the radicals but that they do not need him.
The refusal by Shevardnadze and Yakovlev also reflected the doubts voiced widely among former Gorbachev aides about the president’s political judgment in allying himself with the conservatives through much of last year and in appointing to key positions in the government, Communist Party and his own staff so many men who turned out to be traitors.
Even Vadim V. Bakatin, named by Gorbachev after the coup to head the KGB, described the president Friday as “both the victim and the perpetrator of the coup in a sense.”
“Gorbachev is guilty of being too trusting, too kind to people, who later betray him,” said Bakatin, who has remained with the president after being ousted as interior minister last December but feels free now to criticize him.
Shevardnadze told Izvestia that Gorbachev had approached him Thursday to join the reconstituted security council, which he said would be an “authoritative body,” but that he and the president first had to reach some basic understandings on where the country is headed as well as on the council’s powers and Shevardnadze’s own role.
To some Soviet commentators, the appointments of Shevardnadze, Yakovlev, Popov and Leningrad Mayor Anatoly A. Sobchak, another leading liberal, appeared to be an effort by Gorbachev to rebuild his support on the left--and thus little more than a tactical move by the president.
Shevardnadze said he and the president had not been able to meet as planned; the question was too serious, he said, to be discussed only by telephone. He was thus “surprised” when his name was included among the nominees--and asked that the Supreme Soviet not consider it.
The appointment might have been an expression of trust in him, Shevardnadze said, “but I should be asked what I think of my own future.”
Both Shevardnadze and Yakovlev had quit what was known here as “the president’s team"--Shevardnadze was foreign minister, Yakovlev the president’s senior adviser--with warnings that conservatives were plotting against him and planned to reverse his reforms and restore the Communist Party’s dictatorship.
This summer, they helped found the Democratic Reform Movement as a social democratic alternative to the Communist Party, then still led by Gorbachev, and made plain their loss of confidence in the president’s leadership.
During the coup, they had quickly joined Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin in rallying resistance to the junta, bridging the political gap between the liberals increasingly disenchanted with Gorbachev and the radicals supporting Yeltsin.
The new security council includes Yeltsin and the other leaders of the nine republics that had been committed to remaining in the Soviet Union; presidential assistants Grigory Revenko and Yevgeny M. Primakov; Bakatin; Sobchak, and Yuri Ryzhov, chairman of the Supreme Soviet’s defense committee.
The council’s responsibilities are broadly defined under a constitutional amendment adopted last year and include not only foreign policy and defense issues but also “economic security” and “defense of the constitution.”