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Iraq's devastating defeat in the 100-hour Persian Gulf war has sent both mili6tary and economic reverberations all the way to the Kremlin. No single event since the end of World War II has so vividly exposed the wide gap between Western and Soviet technology.

The mass defeat of Soviety-made weapons will no doubt have a chilling impact on the sale of soviet arms in the future. After all, no one wants the second-best military equipment.While that may be good news to the West, the prospect of diminishing arms sales only adds to the difficult task facing beleaguered Soviet political leaders.

Such arms sales in the past have accounted for nearly one fourth of the #32 billion in foreign hard currencies that annually find their way into the Soviety treasury.

These hard currencies are vital if the Soviet Union is to participate effectively in international trading circles. Only the sale of Soviet crude oil brings in more hard cash.

The Soviet Union's centrally controlled economy is already in free fall, leaving the Kremlin few resources for financing an expensive course change for the military. The country no longer has the economic infrastructure necessary to finance costly high-tech military weaponry.

Soviet leaders would do well to ignore the hounding that is likely to come from military leaders interested only in matching their Western counterparts.

For too many years, Soviet leaders invested heavily in military programs at the expense of civilian welfare. Past Soviety military spending consistently ranged between 16 and 20 percent of the country's gross national product, compared to just 6 or 7 percent in the United States.

The result? Soviet civilians have been forced to forego the healthcare, adequate housing and consumer goods taken for granted in most industrialized countries in the West.

Social unrest in the Soviet Union has reached epidemic proportions, and the country is being pushed, literally, to the brink of civil war.

But this is the kind of war that is more likely to be won with bushels of wheat, baskets of bread, bolts of cloth, jobs, housing, and other basic necessities of life.

Soviet leaders are more likely to survive the upheaval through investment in the Soviet people and their dignity, not through improved military weaponry.