MOSCOW, JUNE 26 -- The Soviet Union is struggling to pay more than $2 billion owed to foreign creditors and suppliers, Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said today.

"We're experiencing some commercial difficulties now. Our perfectly immaculate record on the external market of always paying our debts is now under question," Gerasimov said.

Foreign companies have been complaining for months that the Soviet Union has not been paying its bills for various goods ranging from American chemicals to Japanese machinery. In the past, the Soviet Union had been a reliable borrower, but a new decentralized system allowing direct imports and exports with foreign companies has caused confusion, a rising debt and anger among the foreign firms.

Despite the debt, Gerasimov said the Soviet Union requires more foreign loans, such as the $3.1 billion credit extended by West Germany earlier this week. About half of that loan will probably be used to pay off debts to West German companies doing business with Moscow.

Gerasimov said the debt figure of $2 billion came from the head of the Soviet state bank, Viktor Gerashchenko, although some foreign experts say the total Soviet foreign arrearages may run as high as $8 billion. Gerasimov said the Soviet Union has every intention of paying its debts and that its vast natural resources should be considered adequate collateral for increased credit.

{The Reuter news agency reported that Gerashchenko told a group of central bankers in Basel earlier this month that he hoped the Soviets could clear $2 billion in payments arrears to Western firms by the third quarter of this year.}

{In Washington, a U.S. official explained that the debts referred to by Gerasimov are arrears in payments for goods and services from the West. Typically these are financed with short-term trade credits, or no credits at all, rather than with long-term debts to banks. Total Soviet hard-currency debt to the West totaled approximately $45.3 billion as of June 1989, according to data released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.}

European leaders disagree on how the West should go about helping the ailing Soviet economy. While West Germany has been among the quickest to extend credit to the Soviet Union, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has expressed concern that without adequate systemic change, any aid or loans are likely to be of minimal help.

Leaders of the European Community meeting in Dublin decided today not to adopt a $15 billion aid plan proposed by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Francois Mitterrand. Instead, the EC ordered an urgent study of Soviet economic needs.

In the past, the Soviet state bank paid foreign debts quickly, and Moscow was widely considered a good customer. But since new laws were adopted April 1 allowing for direct trade arrangements, about 14,000 firms have conducted such transactions, leading to widespread confusion. Soviet oil sales abroad have dropped sharply, along with international oil prices, and Moscow's hard-currency reserves have dropped in stride, reducing its ability to pay off foreign debts.

President Mikhail Gorbachev's decision late last year to try to satisfy some domestic consumer demand through an infusion of imports also strained the country's available hard currency.