Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said in an interview published Wednesday that he resigned because he feared a repeat of military crackdowns that killed hundreds in two Soviet cities in 1989 and 1990.
Shevardnadze's interview with the weekly Moscow News contained his first public remarks since he told a stunned Soviet Congress and President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Dec. 20 that he was stepping down because the country was sliding toward dictatorship.The Kremlin envoy told the tabloid that Soviet foreign policy and relations would suffer if a dictatorship were established to curb domestic conflicts.
"If destabilization of the country continued, and the democratization process stopped, then it would be impossible to follow the previous foreign-policy course," Shevardnadze said. "The development of events could lead to a repeat of what happened in Tblisi or Baku.
"What kind of new thinking would it pay to speak about then? Naturally, we would as before try to develop relations with all countries. But would our partners want this?"
He referred to the dispatch of Soviet Army troops to crush a pro-independence demonstration in Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, in April 1989. Nineteen demonstrators were killed.
Shevardnadze, a native Georgian, threatened to resign a few months after the incident.
Soviet troops stormed Baku in January 1990 after a wave of anti-Armenian attacks. A total of 125 people were killed.
Shevardnadze's interview appears in the Jan. 6 edition of the Moscow News. The newspaper released copies in advance.
Shevardnadze repeated his warning of a dictatorship, and indicated it could come in the form of presidential rule. Gorbachev has said he would not hesitate to impose presidential rule in ethnic hot spots if lives or state security were threatened.
"If the country isn't able to break out of the crisis, then dictatorship is unavoidable," the diplomat said. "What is the way out? People and peoples must unite. And first and foremost, democratic forces must do this."
Presidential rule, he said, was a "punitive sanction" that wouldn't solve problems.