Copyright 1990 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
September 2, 1990, Sunday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A39
LENGTH: 894 words
HEADLINE: Yeltsin Calls for Soviet Cabinet to Step Down;
Russian Predicts 'Ruin' if Gorbachev Mixes Radical, Conservative Economic Reforms
BYLINE: David Remnick, Washington Post Foreign Service
DATELINE: MOSCOW, Sept. 1, 1990
Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian republic, called today on the Soviet cabinet to resign and said that if President Mikhail Gorbachev tried to use "the old centralized means" of reforming the nation's economy "it would lead to complete ruin."
Yeltsin told reporters that in closed meetings this week with Gorbachev and leaders of other republics, Yeltsin demanded that Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, the author of a conservative economic reform package, and all Soviet cabinet ministers step down. Yeltsin said Gorbachev was "considering" the suggestion.
Gorbachev and Yeltsin have said they approve of a more radical economic reform plan that calls for a widespread privatization of state-run businesses, stabilization of the ruble and delegation of power to the Soviet Union's 15 republics.
But at a press conference Friday, Gorbachev indicated he wanted to merge some more traditional aspects of Ryzhkov's plans, which proposed creation of a more market-oriented economy that retained central controls, into the more radical package. The Soviet legislature rejected an early version of the Ryzhkov plan in June.
Yeltsin today rejected any attempt to combine the proposals, saying: "It's completely unrealistic. That would put a stop not only to economic reform but also to the whole renewal of social and political life in the country. [Gorbachev] is being indecisive on this score." Yeltsin said the longer Gorbachev remained loyal to Ryzhkov, the shorter Gorbachev's own term in office would be.
After two years of bitter political rivalry, Gorbachev and Yeltsin have forged an alliance of mutual benefit as they attempt to forge a plan to revitalize the Soviet Union's collapsing, centrally controlled economy. But at times it appears that the marriage is deeply troubled. Yeltsin, who recent polls have shown to be twice as popular as Gorbachev, has chided his former mentor for "half-measures and missed chances" while Gorbachev has accused Yeltsin of demagoguery and undermining the authority of the national government.
Sources in the Russian parliament said it was likely that after one or two more weeks of debate, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and the leaders of the other republics, including the Baltic states, would adopt the more radical plan and send it to the republics' legislatures for discussion and approval. Ryzhkov, they said, cannot last long in office.
The Russian parliament will begin a new session next week, and the Supreme Soviet, the national legislature, will open its session Sept. 10.
In a related matter, Yeltsin said he had little confidence that the republics would agree by the end of the year on a draft for a new treaty governing relations among the Kremlin and the republics. He said there were 13 drafts, many of which would allow individual republics to maintain their own armies, currencies and banking systems.
At his press conference, Yeltsin also distributed drafts of a new constitution for the Russian republic written by 29-year-old political scientist Oleg Rumyantsyev and other young legislators. The draft never mentions socialism, emphasizes the "primacy of the individual and human rights" and begins with the same words as the preamble of the U.S. Constitution: "We the People . . ."
Yeltsin said the new constitution would likely create a presidential system of government for his republic, overhaul the functions of the KGB and provide a basis for the rule of law. Rumyantsyev said the constitution is based "on world experience" and the constitutions of various Western countries.
"We have had four constitutions prior to this and they all served power and ideology, not the individual and rule of law," Rumyantsyev said. He added that the Russian constitution would make no mention of the Soviet Union "since we hardly know if that will even exist in the nearest future. Will there be a confederation of states? A commonwealth? Who knows? We want a stable document, not one we'll have to change immediately."
Yeltsin, despite periods of erratic behavior, has proved in the past several years to be a critical player in the evolution of Soviet reform. As a member of the Communist Party Politburo in 1987, he was the first party leader to make known his differences with his colleagues -- a breach of party etiquette that was the first step toward eventual destruction of the party's monolithic structure and monopoly on political power in the Soviet Union. It also cost Yeltsin his Politburo seat.
After marshaling enough popular support to win the the Russian parliament's presidency in May, Yeltsin accelerated the collapse of another foundation of the Soviet system: Moscow's iron grip on the economy and politics of the nation's republics. When Russia's legislature declared the republic's sovereignty this summer, it became clear that Gorbachev faced a nationwide sovereignty movement, not one that was isolated in the small Baltic republics.
For three weeks this summer, Yeltsin traveled across the vast Russian republic, from the mining fields of the polar north to the Pacific ports, and he said he felt "the people's deep dissatisfaction" with living standards, ecological disasters and with Gorbachev.
"People are at the very limits of their patience," Yeltsin said. "They feel that for five years the Soviet government has done almost nothing to improve their lives."
GRAPHIC: PHOTO, BORIS YELTSIN