The question is not whether to help the Soviet Union, but how. President Bush is on target when he brushes aside suggestions of immediate cash infusions. Given the confusion that reigns as the old Soviet empire unravels, it's a certainty that any cash handed over to the discredited central authorities in the Kremlin would be "pouring money down a rathole," as the President put it.
Anyway, most of the Soviet Union's problems aren't the sort that can be solved by throwing money at them. Democratic principles and a market economy can't be bought with any currency except the willpower and resolve of the peoples concerned. For the pressing problem of the poor harvest and the daunting prospect of feeding 280 million mouths through a long and bitter winter, the West should supply food and other emergency help, if needed, with export credits, not cash.
Even though this is not a time for cash aid, it is the time for action. There is no margin for delay. A workable blueprint for action, called the "Grand Bargain," has already been suggested by Harvard's Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill. The bargain would consist of Western pledges of technical support and financial assistance to motivate and facilitate Soviet reforms strictly tied to specific reform measures and a timetable for carrying them out. Real Western resources would be committed only after real Soviet economic reform, which despite the thrilling events in Moscow has not yet occurred.
What can the West do to help now? A good beginning would be for British Prime Minister John Major, the current chairman of the G-7, to visit Moscow as soon as possible with the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, and the European Bank to demonstrate dramatically the West's commitment to help Soviet reform. A more practical purpose would be for the agencies to set up shop in Moscow and the republics to help with the preparation of concrete, detailed economic reform plans.
The West should explicitly state its willingness, once the reforms are under way, to provide substantial funds in tandem with the international lending institutions for balance-of-payment support; infrastructure support for transportation, communications, energy, and defense conversion; and eventually a currency stabilization fund. The President should designate a top adviser to coordinate assistance to the Soviet reform effort. In all these ways, none of which would involve any aid until there are concrete reform results, Washington and its major allies can let the world know we stand ready to help reform succeed.