New Look Expected for Foreign Policy : Diplomacy: Pankin sketches the Soviet agenda. It includes recognition of Baltics, reassessment of Cuba ties.
Newly appointed Soviet Foreign Minister Boris N. Pankin on Thursday stressed continuity in foreign policy but left little doubt that as the country itself takes new shape, so too will the substance and conduct of its foreign affairs.
Looking confident yet carefully hedging his replies to questions on an array of global issues at his first news conference as foreign minister, Pankin predicted that formal Soviet recognition would likely be extended to all three Baltic states within “the next few days.”
Earlier in the day, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said the country’s newly created collective executive, the State Council, would consider the issue of Baltic independence at its initial session, planned for today.
“I believe that in the final analysis, it (Baltic independence) is a matter of the nearest future, or the next few days,” Pankin told reporters.
Pankin, 60, a prominent liberal who clashed frequently with hard-liners during his years as a newspaper and literary gazette editor at the height of the Leonid I. Brezhnev era, later became ambassador to Sweden and Czechoslovakia.
He is the third Soviet foreign minister in nine months, replacing Alexander A. Bessmertnykh, who was fired by Gorbachev for failing to offer greater resistance to last month’s failed coup.
Bessmertnykh replaced Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who resigned last December, frustrated that conservative forces in the country were attempting to roll back the reform process.
Pankin is said to have consulted with Shevardnadze before accepting the Foreign Ministry post, and his remarks at Thursday’s news conference pointed to speedy, fundamental change.
For example, he said that Moscow’s relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba would be reviewed and indicated that financial aid would likely be either sharply reduced or ended altogether.
Answering a question about whether aid to Cuba would continue, Pankin said that Soviet foreign policy has been what he called “de-ideologized,” and because of that, ties with many countries would be reviewed.
Pankin said Soviet foreign policy has been “de-ideologized” and, as a result, ties with many countries would be reviewed.
“The fact that foreign policy has been de-ideologized refers in the same way to Cuba or Chile or Albania or Ethiopia,” Pankin said. “There’s no difference, and in that light our relations are going to be reconsidered.”
He said that this process would change the nature of economic relations with Cuba, much as economic ties changed in 1989 between Moscow and the countries of Eastern Europe. However, in Eastern Europe, it was the Soviet Union’s own satellite states, not Moscow itself, that went through anti-Communist revolutions and redefined their economic ties.
Cutting aid to Cuba would end a three-decade-long policy of backing Castro’s government, which Moscow once considered among its greatest foreign policy successes because it pushed the Communist revolution to within 90 miles of America’s shores.
Throughout the 1980s, Moscow provided about $4 billion in assistance annually to Cuba, mainly in the form of trade subsidies. This aid was one of the biggest single causes of U.S. reluctance to provide more extensive financial help to the Soviet Union.
Pankin said he plans to discuss a variety of bilateral issues next week with U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III on the fringe of the scheduled 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) meeting in Moscow.
“We’ll discuss a broad range of international problems,” he said. “I expect a lot from this first meeting with my American counterpart.”
Pankin also outlined important changes in the way the new union of Soviet states is expecting to conduct its foreign policies.
Those changes are expected to include powerful new influences from individual republics such as Russia.
In referring to next week’s meeting of CSCE foreign ministers, Pankin repeatedly noted that Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin and leaders of other republics would be making contacts at the international gathering, in addition to central government figures such as himself and Gorbachev.
Although he avoided detail, he sketched a political system in which close consultation between the central government and individual republics would shape Soviet foreign policy.
“There will be certain changes, and we will work in close contact with similar foreign policy bodies of the republics and states that are in our union,” he said. “This work has already begun.”
He noted that new laws established to reshape the political system encourage the republics to join the United Nations, but he said that during the transitional phase, power would be shared between the union and its republics.
Pankin parried a question about the Soviet Union’s permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. “I’m not going to speak about the Security Council for a while,” he said.
Foreign observers, especially those engaged in arms control, have voiced concern about individual Soviet republics exerting their own independent influence in complex negotiations.
A second stage of conventional arms reduction talks scheduled to begin this week in Vienna is expected to be more difficult, diplomats there said.
Conventional arms reduction talks, a follow-up to last November’s signing of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, are scheduled to begin this week in Vienna-- and are expected to pose more difficulties, diplomats there said.
While Pankin rejected what he called “rumors of a purge” in his ministry, he said actions of those during the coup attempt would be “objectively reviewed.”
His comment came on the day Moscow recalled its ambassador to France, Yuri V. Dubinin, who seemed to lend support to last month’s coup by delivering a message from its leaders to the French government.
Dubinin is a senior Soviet diplomat who has served as Moscow’s ambassador both to the United Nations and the United States.
“The Foreign Ministry is going to be greatly changed,” Pankin said.
A deal that is expected to lead to immediate Soviet recognition of the Baltics was apparently forged Thursday: The support of Latvian deputies helped break an embarrassing impasse in the Soviet Parliament and give Gorbachev the two-thirds majority needed to agree on a transitional political system that would maintain the union, but as a looser confederation with considerable power flowing to the constituent republics.
One parliamentary observer called the plan “a sort of barter arrangement with Gorbachev,” in which the Soviet leader won approval for his plan and in return agreed to grant the Baltics immediate independence.
If true, the deal placed the Latvian deputies in the position of casting votes in the Soviet Parliament after their country’s diplomatic recognition by nearly 40 nations. Deputies from the Baltic republic had abstained from voting for months.
Pankin told reporters that his formal contacts with the foreign ministers of the three Baltic states had so far been limited to “greetings on the occasion of my appointment.”
Although now widely expected, recognition of the Baltics would only underscore the totality of the collapse of hard-liners’ power in the Soviet Union since last month’s unsuccessful coup.
In comments to reporters Thursday, even leading conservative figures such as former Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov seemed resigned to the loss of the Baltics.
But against a backdrop of concern about the fate of large Russian minorities in the Baltics, he urged that the independence issue be considered carefully.
The CIA estimates that the Soviet subsidy to Cuba was about $3.5 billion in 1990, down from $4.16 billion in 1989. The Soviets have sent oil and manufactured goods, including arms, to Cuba in return for sugar and other agricultural commodities. There is a huge trade imbalance in favor of the Soviets. Soviet shipments of oil peaked at 13 million tons a couple of years ago but will be about 10 million this year and are projected to drop to 7 million in 1992.
New Soviet Stance on Cuba
Soviet Foreign Minister Boris N. Pankin told a news conference Thursday that his country will “reconsider” relations with Cuba and other Communist nations. Among his statements: On formulating foreign policy:
He said foreign policy will now be formulated by Moscow in conjunction with the republics.
On relations with Cuba:
He said ties with Cuba, including supply of military hardware and economic aid, will be “the subject of additional analyses, additional studies. . . . Our relations are going to be reconsidered.”
On ties to Communist nations:
Relations with Albania and Ethiopia among others will be re-oriented on the basis of commercial considerations rather than on ideology. “We foresee an attitude toward these countries based on de-ideologization.”
On reliance on the republics:
“The work of the Foreign Ministry as a union government body . . . is going to undergo certain changes. We will work in close contact with similar bodies in the states that are part of the union.”
On international agreements:
“The priority of international law over national law is going to be reaffirmed in a very powerful way. . . . “