Commentary Magazine


Peace and the USSR

To the Editor:

At last, someone who really understands writes an article on “What We Know About the Soviet Union” [February]. Walter Laqueur, in his excellent piece, proves that the reason we are losing ground to the Soviet Union is the ignorance of the Kremlinologists both inside and outside the State Department. Mr. Laqueur’s conclusion is that the Soviets have to live up to their “historical mission” by maintaining an “irreversible advance.” The confusion and lack of unity in the West have simply reinforced this tendency of the Soviets.

I would like to add a few comments. The West has traditionally perceived Soviet leadership as monolithic, although there is much proof that such unity has existed only in Pravda editorials. Not even under Stalin was the government monolithic. . . . Now Andropov is re-Stalinizing the Soviet Union, which proves that he must have been in opposition to Brezhnev for a long time.

It is only natural that in any government there are conflicts, but there is one basic conflict that pervades the entire party and country—that is, whether the USSR is to pursue a policy of peace or war. The Soviets spend about 20 percent of their GNP for military purposes. In reality, they spend even more, because the best scientists and engineers and the most advanced technology are used only for military purposes. But there must be people, both among the leaders and among rank-and-file party members, who think in terms of raising the standard of living rather than territorial advances. Thus it would be prudent for the West to put forth a real peace policy.

There is not the slightest doubt that Central and Eastern Europe were perceived by the West as a corridor of Soviet aggression, to which they responded by founding NATO. The Soviets, on the other hand, saw this area as a territory of security and they in turn founded the Warsaw Pact. But in any event it is absolutely futile to attack the secondary growth while leaving the roots intact. . . . Therefore the West should propose the following to the Soviet Union: if the nations of Central and Eastern Europe were given the right to choose their government and socioeconomic system in free elections, then both NATO and the Warsaw Pact could be dissolved, and a massive disarmament effort could begin.

The Third World would support such a peace policy because in the process of disarmament it would receive more support. A consensus for this proposal within the NATO countries and between the U.S. and Europe could also be achieved. Such a proposal would actually offer the Soviet Union the real security Mr. Laqueur claims it requires and it would become a topic of discussion at all levels of the party. Thus not only a new Soviet history but a new history of peace would begin.

Eugen Loebl
New York City

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