DAVOS, SWITZERLAND, FEB. 3 -- German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher warned today that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by taking advice from those who advocate repression in the Soviet Union, is calling into question his place in history and endangering a new era of East-West cooperation,
Genscher, who was one of the first Western statesmen to embrace Gorbachev's call in the 1980s for "new thinking" to end the Cold War, declared that "everyone in the Soviet Union must realize that our willingness to help and our scope of action have been seriously jeopardized by the use of force in the Baltic states over the past few weeks."
The strong admonition to Gorbachev from one of his closest allies in the West reflected the anxiety sweeping Western and Central Europe about the dramatic turns in Soviet politics.
Speaking to 1,000 leading figures from government and business at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Genscher said the Soviet army's recent intervention in Latvia and Lithuania showed that "the old thought patterns are returning in the Soviet Union and that reactionary forces might attempt to restore a totalitarian regime throughout the country."
While praising Gorbachev for releasing Eastern Europe from Soviet domination and paving the way to German unification, Genscher said the Soviet leader must realize that "democratization and external policy are inseparable." He expressed the hope that Gorbachev's more conciliatory statements in the past week suggested that "he is not seeking to solve the crisis with yesterday's means."
The European Parliament voted last month to suspend more than $1 billion in food aid to the Soviet Union as a sign of displeasure over the Baltic crackdown. The West needed to show outrage over injustice, Genscher said, because otherwise the guardians of "old thinking" would believe they are right. "If we wish to help the reformists, we must not turn a blind eye to the actions of their opponents," he said.
Europe's preoccupation with the upheaval in the East has underscored its abiding concern with continental interests even as a U.S.-led coalition, which includes European forces, presses a war against Iraq in the Persian Gulf. This weekend, the Davos assembly of Europe's power elite listened spellbound to a succession of Soviet politicians and reform activists describe the impending collapse of their country and Gorbachev's desperate efforts to stave off disintegration of the union.
"This is a really important moment in my country because people are starting to act fearless and the leadership is full of fear," said Vitaly Korotich, editor of the Soviet weekly Ogonyok and a leader in the democratic reform movement. "The only support left for Gorbachev comes from the army and the secret police, and now he must pay the price" by giving in to their demands.
Despite popular pressure to reduce the swollen military-industrial complex that Korotich said consumes two-thirds of the Soviet budget, Soviet generals feel "they are fighting for their survival" and insist on keeping their vast share of resources if Gorbachev expects them to prevent rebellious Soviet republics from breaking away from Moscow's control. As a result, the editor said, "We started the year hoping for a Marshall Plan, and now we get martial law."
A recent presidential order allowing the KGB to audit Western busiuness enterprises in the Soviet Union shows how desperate Gorbachev's position has become, said Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. "No normal government can act that way and expect to hold on to power," he said. "Such decrees are against our laws and constitution, and they show how Gorbachev is becoming so unpredictable in choosing policies and people to carry them out."
Sobchak said that during arguments among Soviet leaders over economic independence for various republics, Gorbachev has not dared to confront the issue of how to divide up state property, perhaps out of fear that such action could be the spark that ignites civil warfare.
Arkady Volsky, president of the league of Soviet scientific and industrial groups, said that apart from determining who may own railroads or energy grids, the debate about "what belongs to whom" in the Soviet Union could prove dangerous. "It would be a nightmare, not just an absurdity, to talk about dividing nuclear arsenals and giving a share of those bombs to Armenia and Azerbaijan," said Volsky, who served as a mediator in the bloody ethnic dispute between the two republics over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In an appeal to the West, Volsky said "we need intellectual help" more than material assistance to help establish a stock exchange and make banks operate efficiently so that the Soviet Union can be integrated into the world economy.
Arnold Ruutel, president of Soviet Estonia, announced that passage of a law there allowing all forms of ownership had spurred establishment of more than 200 joint ventures by his republic with Finnish and Swedish companies. Sobchak said he hoped to achieve similar links with the West through a free economic zone recently created in Leningrad.