As the White House contemplates emergency aid to the Soviets, a U.S. study indicates there is no widespread hunger in the Soviet Union and adequate food supplies exist - if authorities can get it distributed.
The Bush administration said Monday it is considering several ways to help the beleaguered Soviets get through the winter, including direct humanitarian aid as well as waiving longstanding trade restrictions to loosen up credit.Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze bluntly appealed for U.S. aid before a meeting Monday with Secretary of State James A. Baker III in Houston.
"We would appreciate, if possible, some food supplies," he said in reply to a question from a reporter. "That is the most acute problem."
Baker pledged a sympathetic response. "As far as humanitarian assistance, medical assistance, food and that sort of thing, I know the president will be forthcoming with respect to trying to help," the secretary said.
Marlin Fitzwater, the president's spokesman, also said Bush is considering waiving trade restrictions imposed by the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which was designed to punish the Soviets for refusing to permit free emigration of Jews.
Bush had pledged to hold up granting the Soviets most-favored-nation trade status until the Soviet legislature passes new emigration legislation. But the measure has been tied up for months, partly due to concern among some Soviets that it would lead to a "brain drain," a mass exodus of the troubled country's best-trained people. Nonetheless, Jews are being permitted to leave in record numbers.
Meanwhile, a top State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a U.S. study of the Soviet consumer goods shortage confirms there is no widespread hunger in the country and that adequate food is available if authorities can get it distributed.