President Mikhail Gorbachev said Thursday a decision by the Russian republic to slash its contribution to the central government budget could lead to "the destruction not only of the economy but of the entire union."
The Russian Parliament decided Wednesday to cut its contribution, previously set by the central government, from a 1990 level of more than $242 billion to $39.8 billion in 1991.Under the Russian Parliament action, most of what was previously allocated to the central government will instead be spent on programs controlled within the republic.
The lower 1991 contribution, according to the Russian budget, represents what the republic's leaders believe is necessary for national defense and other powers "delegated to the center."
The Russian republic is by far the biggest in the Soviet Union, covering three-fourths of the Soviet land mass and comprising half its population.
The budget move was part of efforts by Russia and the other Soviet republics to assert their sovereignty.
Soviet Finance Minister Valentin Pavlov said at the national Congress of People's Deputies that the Russian Parliament's decision would endanger "the entire system of all-union programs," including social programs, science and education.
Gorbachev denounced the action as a dangerous escalation of the "war of laws" between the republics and the central government.
"Everything that we have done before will be destroyed, because every republic will then try to save as much of its resources as it can, " Gorbachev said. "This would be the destruction not only of the economy but of the entire union.
Some deputies demanded that Russian republic leader Boris Yeltsin, who also is a member of the Congress, be called to the session to explain the action, but Yeltsin was on a previously scheduled trip to the Yakutia region of Siberia.
Gorbachev has been attempting to reach a temporary economic agreement with the republics, but the talks apparently broke down because the two sides could not agree on how to divide revenues.