Good questions have been raised in this country about the wisdom of the recent rush by our Western allies to lend huge amounts to the Soviet Union. About $9 billion in new credits is being offered, which would raise the USSR's foreign debt to $45 billion. Some U.S. officials worry about Kremlin uses of this financing.
On the surface, Mikhail Gorbachev welcomes a financial boost from Western Europe and Japan for the purpose of liberalizing the Soviet economy and making it provide better for a civilian populace long deprived of consumer goods. The European allies are enormously pleased at what they see as the emergence of a reasonable Soviet Union more interested in doing business with the West than in threatening the non-communist world. And Western bankers and industrialists envision profits.But a disturbing thought arises that substantial Western credits can help Moscow to make progress with its civilian economy without having to divert resources from its huge military establishment. Would Soviet officials, wrestling with economic disabilities, be forced to disarm faster if denied this bailout from the West? And are European and Japanese hopes of profits from Soviet dealings exaggerated, considering the ruble is not convertible into hard currency?
The promotion of Western investment can await a clearer notion of what combination of civilian and military emphases might emerge under Gorbachev, and if his brand of leadership is indeed characteristic of his country's long-term future.