ABSTRACT

Does the USSR need external help? The question was put forth in 1988, at a time when the Soviet Union did not ask officially for any aid, except for a rather vague request for training. Soviet indebtedness in convertible currencies has for a long time seemed manageable according to the standard criteria of creditworthiness (see table 1). And even if it increases by the end of 1990 to $57 billion as forecast by Soviet experts (Shabalin, 1990), implying a growth of 14% over the previous year, the level will remain tolerable as compared with Polish or Hungarian indebtedness. 1 The Shatalin report does not offer a precise estimate of the Soviet debt, and it strongly criticizes the Ministry of Finance, the Bank for Foreign Economic Activities (Russian acronym VEB), and the State Commission for Foreign Economic Relations (Russian acronym GVK) for not providing external debt statistics. The report adds: "the lack of such information prevented the group from thoroughly analyzing the external payments situation of the USSR and from taking it into account in the reform program" (Transition, p. 190).