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Archive for Tuesday, January 7, 1992

PROF ASSESSES COMMONWEALTH

January 7, 1992

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Inhabitants of former Soviet republics are reeling from a big dose of market economy and political freedom, a Kansas University professor emeritus says.

"No politician in the Soviet Union can be secure," said Roy Laird, who is writing a book, "Winds of Soviet Change," that covers 1985 to the present.

Laird, professor emeritus of Soviet and East European studies, said now that Mikhail Gorbachev has been pushed aside, other politicians will be blamed for problems.

"With the possible exception of new leaders in the Baltic states, I think we might see in the next year or so a considerable turnover of leaders," he said.

LAIRD SAID the Commonwealth of Independent States, which replaced the Soviet Union, is a desperate measure to maintain order.

"I'm very pessimistic about them being able to shore up this disruption, which is getting worse and worse. Things are going to get much worse before they get better," he said.

Laird said there is a possibility civil unrest and fighting will continue in Georgia and spread to other former republics.

"There is a real possibility that bloodshed in Georgia could be a prelude, a dress rehearsal, for what could happen elsewhere," he said. "I hope I'm wrong.

"But what are people in Moscow and St. Petersburg going to do when they are hungry and think there is food in the Ukraine?"

LAIRD SAID all economic indicators show food shortages will occur this winter and spring.

"A key point is that things have got desperately worse because of disruption in management and distribution," he said.

Field crop production was down this year. City dwellers are making trips to the country to steal food from fields and small livestock from farms, Laird said.

He said the Atlantic and Pacific fishing fleets are docked because they don't have the fuel to move the boats.

Meanwhile, production of essentials coal, for example has dropped in some areas by 50 percent in the past year.

"WHY? BECAUSE they weren't getting the timber to prop up the mine shafts from Russia," Laird said.

While researching material for his next book, Laird said he's been studying public opinion polls from Russia.

"I believe the primary determinate of health and welfare of nations, given natural resources, is the mind-set of people themselves," he said.

Laird said polls show the vast majority of Soviet people are skeptical about moving to a market system where supply and demand determine prices.

"The mind-set of the people, I've found by reviewing public opinion polls, is against moving to privatization," he said. "They believe things will only get worse."

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