The foreign aircraft landing at Moscow’s Sheremetievo-2 International Airport, their cargo holds filled with humanitarian aid, are an almost constant topic of conversation in the former Soviet Union. The aid, largely food and medicine, is a welcome relief to pensioners and others who are least able to cope with the painful transition of the new Commonwealth of Independent States to a free-market economy. But many people say that they are ashamed that the onetime superpower has been reduced to the status of an international beggar. At Moscow’s Boarding School 109, home to 158 orphans and neglected children, director Aleftina Sennova expressed her appreciation for two shipments of food and clothing, mostly from Germany, over the past 18 months. “It would be very hard here without this help,” she said. But, reflecting many Russians’ conflicting emotional response to foreign assistance, she added: “If it goes on for too long, people will take it for granted and start to believe that others should help them.”
Despite blows to Russian pride, the number of mercy flights will increase dramatically. At a
two-day conference in Washington last week,
representatives of 47 countries, including Canada, met to co-ordinate massive humanitarian and technical aid to 12 former Soviet republics. President George Bush announced that he would ask Congress to approve an extra $740million aid package for the emerging states,
raising the U.S. commitment to about $5.8 billion. And Secretary of State James Baker announced that a $70-million U.S. airlift of food and medicine would begin on Feb. 10.
Canada will launch its own airlift this week. External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall was scheduled to be in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Jan. 27 to meet the first of five planes bringing in $6 million worth of medicine and medical supplies. Canada has pledged about $2.3 billion in aid, mainly food credits that benefit Canadian farmers. McDougall said that Canada will consider a request from Russian President Boris Yeltsin for technical help in the oil and gas sectors when he visits Ottawa this week.
In total, international pledges of emergency aid exceed $25 billion. But many experts maintain that doriors must now decide who is going to provide the huge sums that the new states will need to reform their economies. Robert Hormats, vice-chairman of the U.S. investment-bank giant Goldman Sachs International Corp., said that the commonwealth will require 1 $17 billion to $23 billion an5 nually over the next few I years. Donor nations may confront that challenge at a meeting in Lisbon in the ~ spring. Until then, a humbled
superpower will have to resign itself to accepting many additional foreign alms.
ANDREW BILSKI with MALCOLM GRAY in Moscow and HILARY MACKENZIE in Washington
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