Commentary Magazine

Gorbachev's Russia: Breakdown or Crackdown?

To say that we live in the midst of a Worldwide political earthquake is to state the obvious. Democracy and capitalism, which “progressive” Western opinion had relegated to the archives, are everywhere toppling Communist (as well as right-wing) dictatorships with astonishing ease. The secular trend toward enhanced state authority and collectivism that was initiated by the Russian Revolution and accelerated by the Depression, began quietly to be reversed a decade ago in Great Britain and the United States. The elections of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and of Ronald Reagan the year after appear in retrospect as historic watersheds, signaling a return to the traditions of genuine liberalism. The English and American electorates, increasingly made up of descendants of the lower classes who had benefited from capitalist prosperity to ascend into the middle class, had grown impatient with the burden of supporting the less productive elements of society. In the words of the late Theodore H. White, they had decided “that the costs of equality had come to crush the promise of opportunity.” The radical intelligentsia, which in its quest for political influence had played on class resentments, suddenly found the ranks of its followers thinning.

A process similar in effect although different in origin occurred in countries under Communist rule. It began in Poland in 1980 with the formation of Solidarity, the first genuine trade union to gain a foothold under Communism. Solidarity derived much of its strength from the fact that it embodied Polish religious and national aspirations: it was par excellence a movement of national resistance against domination by a foreign power ruling through a quisling government. But it also reflected a growing impatience on the part of Poland’s working population with a regime that not only robbed it of every political and economic right, but required it to support a huge, unproductive bureaucracy. Solidarity espoused the very ideals that left-wing intellectuals in the West labeled neoconservative: its heroes were Thatcher and Reagan.

Solidarity’s influence quickly spread to Soviet Lithuania, Byelorussia, and the Ukraine, sending tremors through the ranks of the Communist nomenklatura.1 Moscow was alarmed that, notwithstanding the safeguards which it had installed to prevent such an occurrence, a spontaneous worker movement was able to emerge in a regime closely patterned on its own. It ordered Solidarity suppressed, but the more perceptive Soviet leaders realized that the problem would not be solved by arrests and martial law. In the early 1980’s some Soviet publications began to warn that Communist governments which had lost touch with the masses faced a precarious future. The dread of a Polish-style social upheaval, combined with the realization that Communist economies were falling behind not only in comparison with the industrial democracies but even with their own past record, impelled the Soviet leadership reluctantly to accept the inevitability of reform. One cannot insist too strongly that perestroika and glasnost are neither the result of a change of heart on the part of the Soviet leadership, nor the fulfillment of one man’s vision, but the desperate effort by an apparatus composed of millions of parasitic Communist functionaries to stave off revolution.

The 18th century ended in 1789, with the fall of the Bastille. The 19th may be said to have ended in August 1914. The one date terminated the reign of absolute monarchs and aristocracies; the other, the hegemony of the bourgeoisie. It is not improbable that historians of the future will date the end of the 20th century with the year 1980 when processes were set in motion that reversed the domination of bureaucracies and arrested mankind’s march toward totalitarianism.



Western “progressive” opinion had for years misread the trend of events. It assumed that the world was inexorably moving toward collectivism and egalitarianism, and their corollaries, increased state control over social and economic life. Its theorists viewed the differences between the democratic and Communist regimes as differences of degree, not of kind, and expected the two ultimately to “converge.” This analysis was psychologically reinforced by the fear of nuclear war which biased perceptions to make the Soviet Union appear stable and relatively benign. The policy recommendations which flowed from these premises called for accommodation.

The “dovish” policy toward the USSR rested on a sequence of related propositions which can be summarized as follows: (1) Communist regimes may leave a great deal to be desired in terms of individual freedoms and living standards, but they compensate for these shortcomings with a more equitable distribution of wealth and superior social services (education, medical help, etc.).2 (2) As a result, they enjoy popular support and it is futile to pursue policies “premised on the imminent3 collapse of the Soviet empire.”3 (3) A combination of authoritarian institutions and Russian nationalism makes the Soviet Union immune to external pressures. Attempts to liberalize it from the outside by political and economic means or even radio broadcasting are both futile and dangerous. “Hard-line” treatment serves only to increase Soviet truculence since the aggressiveness of the USSR is rooted in insecurity instilled by recurrent foreign invasions. The more secure it feels, the more peacefully it behaves. (4) In the age of nuclear weapons, whatever objections one may have to its system of government, it is imperative to come to terms with the USSR: good relations with it must be the paramount objective of U.S. foreign policy. Instead of vainly trying to change Communist societies, the West would do well to attend to its own deficiencies.

A representative if not the most sophisticated example of this line of argument can be found in the ruminations of John Kenneth Galbraith. Having visited the Soviet Union in 1984 as a guest of friendly Soviet institutes, Galbraith returned home reconfirmed in the belief that “much can be learned about one of the basic tendencies of the modern economy and policy” in Russia: he reminded his readers that in one of his books he had “celebrated the similarities between the two systems” and predicted their “convergence”:

That the Soviet economy has made great material progress in recent years . . . is evident both from the statistics . . . and from the general urban scene. . . . One sees it in the appearance of solid well-being of the people on the streets, the close-to-murderous traffic, the incredible exfoliation [sic] of apartment houses, and the general aspect of restaurants, theaters, and shops. . . . Partly, the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower. . . .4

He concluded that although the Soviet system “functions less than perfectly” there was no reason to believe that it was in crisis or in danger of collapse. These remarks were made six months before Gorbachev assumed office and proclaimed his country in a state of acute crisis.



It would be easy but hardly fair to demolish the “liberal” case on the example of such casual and irresponsible remarks. There are better informed representatives of this school, although in the end equally flawed. For the dovish argument always starts with the conclusion (we should come to terms with the Soviet Union) and then works backward to find the suitable premise, depending on the circumstances (the Soviet Union is too much of a threat to challenge, or else it is no threat).

A good example of the serious dovish school is to be found in the writings of Seweryn Bialer of Columbia University. In mid-1981 Bialer published an assessment of the Brezhnev administration in which he waxed enthusiastic about its accomplishments.5 The Brezhnev era, he wrote, “will probably go down in history as the most successful period of Soviet international and domestic development”:

On the economic front, for the first time in its history the Soviet leadership was able to pursue successfully a policy of guns and butter as well as growth. . . . The Soviet citizen—worker, peasant, and professional—has become accustomed in the Brezhnev period to an uninterrupted upward trend in his well being. . . .

While anticipating in the 1980’s a reversal of this putative “upward trend,” Bialer had no doubt that the Soviet leadership could handle its difficulties and would do so by strengthening the authoritarian features of the regime, i.e., by repression.

The implications of this assessment for U.S. foreign policy were spelled out by Bialer in an article written jointly with his wife a year-and-a-half later in which the foreign policy of President Reagan was subjected to severe criticism:6

The logic of the Reagan administration’s policy is based on one key underlying assumption: that Western policy generally and American policy specifically has the capacity seriously to affect Soviet international behavior principally by exerting influence on internal Soviet developments.

This assumption, in their judgment, was “simply fallacious” and “spawned maximalist and unrealistic objectives”:

The Soviet Union is not now nor will it be during the next decade in the throes of a true systemic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability that suffice to endure the deepest difficulties.

It followed that it was vain to hope that the Soviet leadership could be induced to turn its energies inward, to “domestic priorities.” Implied was the notion that Soviet foreign behavior could be moderated only by accords with Moscow.

Events since the accession of Gorbachev have shown each of the assumptions underpinning the “dovish” position to have been wrong. Official Soviet sources now admit that the Brezhnev era, officially designated “the period of stagnation,” caused a decline in the already low Soviet living standard. The Soviet Union is declared by its own leaders to be in the throes of a “true systemic crisis.” In Moscow’s East European protectorates this crisis has led to revolutionary explosions in the course of which Communist dictatorships have been swept from power. Moscow has reacted to its crisis not by strengthening but by relaxing its authoritarian features, turning its energies inward, and assuming a less aggressive foreign stance. While it is impossible to determine to what extent the “hard-line” policies of the Reagan administration contributed to these dramatic developments, it is indisputable that these policies did not lead to the predicted deterioration in East-west relations, let alone to the nuclear holocaust which George Kennan and other proponents of accommodation had repeatedly warned us against.

The intellectuals who espoused such fantastic propositions were neither unintelligent nor uninformed. Why were they so mistaken? The answer is complicated and in this context can only be hinted at. Western intellectuals have always viewed the Bolshevik regime in Russia not on its merits but in terms of their own domestic situations. They used it as a weapon against their domestic political and social order, in accordance with the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Thus the British Labor party, which in the 1920’s regularly and with overwhelming majorities rejected the applications of the Communist party for admission, nevertheless adopted its policies, pressuring the British government to grant Soviet Russia diplomatic recognition and extend it economic aid. When the Red Army stood at the gates of Warsaw in 1920, poised to advance on Germany, British Labor threatened a general strike to prevent Britain from coming to the assistance of the Poles. The assumption in British Labor and trade-union circles was that anything that the Tories hated had to be good. Throughout the interwar period, Western liberals showed little interest in the actual conditions in the Soviet Union, which they either idealized or excused with diverse spurious arguments (the legacy of czarism, Western “intervention,” etc). They needed a certain kind of Soviet Russia to fight political enemies at home: what it actually was concerned them little. This was not an approach that made for objective assessment.

The situation in this respect in the United States in recent years was no different. American leftwing intellectuals had no love for the Soviet Union, but they positively despised Ronald Reagan and everything he stood for. To discredit his domestic and foreign policies they were driven to invent a Communism that was stabler, more popular, and even more prosperous than the evidence warranted.



Now that events have thoroughly refuted the arguments of the doves, one might expect contrition. Nothing of the kind: they claim to have been vindicated.

Thus Strobe Talbott of Time declares, with the same finality with which his magazine crowns Gorbachev “Man of the Decade”:

A new consensus is emerging, that the Soviet threat is not what it used to be. The real point, however, is that it never was. The doves in the Great Debate of the past 40 years were right all along.7

Why? Well, according to Talbott it should have been obvious to the hawks that the Soviet system is “such an abomination against basic human aspirations, against human nature itself, that much of what the West called ‘Soviet power’ was actually Soviet weakness.” By adopting this line of reasoning, the British appeasers of the 1930’s could have boasted after Germany’s surrender in 1945 that they had been right after all, because a system as abominable as Nazism never presented a serious danger to democracy. In view of his latest analysis, one wonders why Talbott had been so exercised by the threat of nuclear war as to become one of the country’s most passionate advocates of arms control and the author of two major books on the subject. If the Soviet Union was not a serious threat to world peace, then he surely wasted many years trying to prevent an imaginary danger—unless, that is, he thought that the threat came from the United States.

A different and more modest claim on behalf of the doves comes from the pen of the columnist and ex-editor of the New Republic, Michael Kinsley.8 Kinsley does not so much claim victory for the doves as deny it to the hawks. The conservatives, he argues, had been wrong in that they based their analyses on the concept of totalitarianism as a system incapable of evolution: “Conservatives, having said the collapse of Communism would not happen, now claim credit for it.” The main target of this argument is Jeane J. Kirkpatrick who popularized in the United States the distinction between “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” regimes.9

As it happens and as will be pointed out below, the distinction remains valid and has great relevance to the current predicament of Gorbachev and his associates. But it is quite incorrect in any event to assert that this distinction postulates the inability of totalitarianism to change. The difference between the two types is as clear as it is significant: authoritarian states monopolize political power but leave society intact; totalitarian systems not only appropriate all political authority but atomize and destroy society as an organized entity.

Totalitarian governments do have an inherent difficulty in evolving toward something else, in part because of the pervasive police institutions with the help of which they govern, and in part because they control all or most of the nation’s economy. Unlike authoritarian regimes, the evolution of which involves essentially the transfer of political power from one hand to many, totalitarian states must also privatize the entire economy and revive or recreate society. This inhibits but it does not preclude their evolution.

It has to be conceded that those of us who distinguish between the two non-democratic types of government underestimated the decay of Communist countries and expected the collapse of totalitarianiam to take longer than has actually turned out to be the case. But no responsible adherent of this school of thought regarded totalitarianism as permanently fixed and immutable. Even its most pessimistic theorist, Jean-François Revel, had no illusions about the ultimate fate of totalitarianism: “It stands to reason,” he wrote in 1983.

that a social system that in three quarters of a century has merely perpetuated its people’s shortages of food and medical care is doomed to disappear someday. But in no time to change the near future for us.10

In reality, it is the doves, not the hawks, who assumed the stability of Communist regimes. The hard-liners believed that firmness on the part of the West would not only contain but in time fundamentally alter the Communist system: the harder they were, the more confident they felt of democracy’s eventual triumph over totalitarianism. President Reagan more than once alluded to this prospect. In a commencement speech at Notre Dame in May 1981 he had this to say:

The years ahead will be great ones for our country, for the cause of freedom and for the spread of civilization. The West will not contain Communism, it will transcend Communism. We will not bother to denounce it, we’ll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.

In an address to the English Parliament a year later, in June 1982, launching the “crusade for freedom,” which the liberal establishment ridiculed as quixotic, the President spoke as follows:

In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis—crisis where the demands of the economic order are colliding directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union. . . . What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forces are hampered by political ones.

To anyone familiar with Marxist terminology, this analysis spelled collapse. In December 1982 Reagan signed a classified policy document which defined the central objective of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union as pushing that country in the direction of internal liberalization.



I hope it will not be considered immodest if I cite some of my own writings on the subject dating from the pre-Gorbachev era: since I worked for Reagan and was widely regarded as a “super-hawk,” they are clearly relevant to the argument. In a book written in 1983, immediately after I left the National Security Council (a section of which was later excerpted in Foreign Affairs), I advanced the following propositions:11

1. The Soviet Union is in a crisis of such severity that it deserves to be called a “revolutionary situation.”

2. The crisis is advantageous to the West because the historical record indicates that changes for the better in Russia’s foreign policy are induced by “failures, instability, and fears of collapse” and “not by growing confidence and a sense of security.”

3. The Soviet regime must

find a way of reconciling the interests of the state with the creative energies of its citizens. This cannot be accomplished unless the elite is prepared to sacrifice some of its authority and bring society into partnership, if only of a limited kind.

This objective, in my view, called for enhancing the role of legality, allowing more scope to private enterprise, and decentralizing the administration to give the ethnic minorities greater self-government.

4. “A Soviet Union that will turn its energies inward will of necessity become less militaristic and expansionist.” I considered such a development imminent:

If revolution is set aside because it lacks social support, a return to Stalinism because it is unrealistic, and recourse to war because of its uncertain outcome, reform looms as the only viable way out of the “revolutionary situation” that the Soviet Union faces.12

These words, published before Gorbachev took office, meant that reform in the totalitarian Soviet Union was more or less unavoidable.

At the time, these “hard-line” views were regarded as over-optimistic if not positively dangerous. It is a strange experience, therefore, to be castigated today for allegedly having denied the possibility of change in the Soviet Union after having been accused in the past by the same people of playing with fire in a vain effort to change it! Even if one admits that the conservatives, along with everyone else, saw the Communists as more solidly entrenched than they turned out to be, the conservatives at least correctly diagnosed totalitarian regimes to be suffering from an incurable disease. It was their opponents on the Left who insisted that the patient was in good health.



George Kennan has pronounced Gorbachev a “miracle.”13 The judgment is consistent with the dovish perception of Communism as so rock-solid that presumably nothing short of divine intervention could alter it. Actually, of course, the Soviet leader did not descend as a deus ex machina: he was no more a miracle than the hundreds of thousands of outraged citizens whose demonstrations on the streets of Leipzig, Prague, and Bucharest brought down the Communist dictators there. Gorbachev came to office neither by hereditary right nor by a coup d’état but by the choice of the very same Communist elders who had ruled the Soviet Union in the “era of stagnation.” His reform program, at least in its initial form, must have had their endorsement. They elevated him to the highest office because they had concluded that the situation in the Communist bloc was sufficiently alarming to require drastic action. Apparently Gorbachev struck them as someone able to solve the crisis without upsetting the system that had produced it. It is therefore more correct to say that Gorbachev is a product of the movement for reform than that he is its instigator.

The Communist crisis has many aspects but it is first and foremost a moral debacle: the sense of failure is all-pervasive and the more intolerable in that the ruling party, staking its reputation on utopian promises, had for decades assured its subjects that they were in the vanguard of human progress. To save itself, the party is now obliged to renounce virtually its entire past. October 1917 still looms as a beacon but almost all Communist policies since Lenin’s death in 1924 are being questioned and many have been repudiated. Stalin is denounced as a “totalitarian” ruler (an adjective long discarded by most Western academics as “simplistic”), while the thirty years that followed his death are condemned as “stagnant.” Privately, Soviet officials now concede that Stalin—in other words, the Communist party under Stalin’s chairmanship—was responsible for the death of 40 million Soviet citizens. How can a regime with such a record justify staying in office? Whom can it convince that it bears no responsibility for these crimes and these failures? Such questions gnaw at the conscience of the current Soviet leadership and account for its irresoluteness: for a regime that no longer believes in itself and its right to rule can hardly chart a course and adhere to it through thick and thin.

It is common knowledge that in its external manifestations the Communist crisis is above all due to the failure of the economy. Declining rates of growth, shortages of consumer goods, technological backwardness, and the concomitant realization that the armed forces—the basis of Soviet claim to great-power status—were becoming ever less competitive, were the main reasons for the sense of urgency that gripped the Communist elite in the early 1980’s. A new school of Soviet economists called the leadership’s attention to the catastrophic prospects facing the country.

What these prospects were is now being spelled out with unusual frankness. Under glasnost, Soviet economists have been revealing how disastrous is the Soviet standard of living and how wildly off the mark were those Western specialists who, relying on falsified Soviet statistical data, rated it as between one-half and one-third of the American.14 They inform us that measured in terms of per-capita output of goods and services, the Soviet Union occupies a place somewhere between 50th and 60th among the nations of the world.15 In 1985, we learn, Soviet citizens consumed less meat than in 1913, the last year of peace under czarism. Soviet housing space turns out to be one-tenth of that of the U.S. Even the vaunted Soviet educational system serves its citizens less well, providing nine years of secondary schooling compared to twelve in the United States, and sending 15 percent of youth to institutions of higher learning compared to 34 percent in the U.S. The only item of consumption in which Soviet citizens excel is hard liquor; in this they lead all others in the world by a wide margin: they quaff 17.4 liters of pure alcohol or 43.5 liters of vodka per person a year, which is five times what their forefathers consumed under czarism.

No less troubling to the regime than these statistics was the apathy of the Soviet citizenry, which had long ago ceased to think of itself as a community with shared interests; the estrangement of youth; and the all-pervasive cynicism which made it impossible to mobilize the people in a system which had traditionally relied on the techniques of mass mobilization. The paradoxical effect of totalitarianism’s effort to eliminate private interest on behalf of the collective was to destroy the public spirit of its citizens.



On assuming office in the spring of 1985, Gorbachev and his associates expected to have a relatively easy time reviving the economy and reinvigorating society. In Gorbachev’s own words: “We had initially assumed that basically the task was only to correct certain deformations of the social organism, to perfect the entire system set in place during the preceding decades.” The premise turned out to be wrong: before long, Gorbachev now concedes, it proved “necessary radically to alter our entire social edifice, from its economic foundations to the super-structure.”16

Once they realized the immensity of their problem, the reformers dropped the original slogan “acceleration” (uskorenie) in favor of “restructuring” (perestroika). The latter entailed reducing the grip of the bureaucracy on the country and concurrently stimulating private initiative in all spheres of national life. Essentially, it meant bringing society into a limited partnership with the ruling elite, making it an active participant in the life of the country without, however, abandoning the command method of political and economic management: a perestroika or “restructuring” rather than stroitel’stvo or construction.

In sum, the Soviet reformers undertook to transform the Soviet Union from a totalitarian into an authoritarian regime. They seem to have believed that the nation had stored in it a great deal of latent energy that would be released as soon as the shackles restraining and silencing society had been loosened. This belief accounts for the rather reckless manner in which they proceeded to dismantle many of the institutions of the Leninist-Stalinist regime before they were able to replace them.17

To the historian of Russia this effort at limited reform is not unfamiliar. On two occasions when czarism faced similar problems (economic backwardness, social apathy, decline in international standing) it attempted to bring society into partnership without surrendering its autocratic prerogatives. This occurred in the 1860’s and again in 1904. These attempts were, on the whole, unsuccessful because they failed to accompany the liberalization of the economy and of censorship with commensurate political concessions. They awakened expectations which the proposed reforms could not satisfy: in one case they ended in reaction, in the other in revolution.

There are indications that the Soviet Union is currently hovering between the same alternatives. Even as he is solidifying his personal power, Gorbachev is less and less able to govern effectively. The impression gains ground—it is prevalent in the Soviet Union—that while perestroika has done nothing to remedy the country’s economic difficulties, it has created an added problem in the shape of a political crisis. Gorbachev himself now speaks of the “sword of Damocles” hanging over the Soviet Union, and accuses those who criticize his reforms for being too slow or too timid of “lighting matches while the Soviet Union is standing in a pool of gasoline.”18 Such alarmist language, of course, serves the purpose of silencing the opposition. But even so, the Soviet Union is indeed in an exceedingly precarious situation. It is evident now that Gorbachev and his associates had vastly underestimated the task facing them: the structure which they had judged essentially sound and in need merely of an overhaul turned out to be rotten from top to bottom. First “acceleration” proved inadequate and had to give way to “restructuring”; now there is doubt as to whether anything solid enough remains of the old edifice to rebuild. The absence of a coherent domestic policy is becoming daily more apparent.

Turning a totalitarian regime into an authoritarian one is proving a far harder thing to do than transforming an authoritarian dictatorship into a democracy. Under Franco, Spaniards had been shut out of politics but they owned the country’s wealth and were free to form private associations. When Franco died it was a relatively simple matter for democratic institutions to replace the dictatorship. Similar transitions occurred in Salazar’s Portugal and Marcos’s Philippines. It is a likely prospect for Chile after Pinochet’s anticipated retirement. Gorbachev, however, is discovering that, underneath the ponderous superstructure of the Communist bureaucracy which he is seeking to reduce both in numbers and authority, there looms a vast void. In the Soviet Union, with its 290 million inhabitants, a new society must be created from scratch, for of that which had existed before 1917 not a trace remains. The question whether a totalitarian regime is capable of evolution remains, therefore, still open: the Soviet Union has as yet failed to make such a transition. In the end it may turn out that its alternatives are either collapse or reversion to totalitarianism.

The Soviet leaders are reluctantly concluding that their basic difficulties stem from human attitudes which are far more difficult to alter than institutions. Communist regimes have succeeded brilliantly in repelling all actual and potential challenges to their authority, but they have done so at the price of killing everything that gives life to the political organism: personal initiative, public spirit, trust in the government. Now when the regime calls on the population at large to come to its help, it encounters either indifference or outright hostility. The morale of the Soviet citizenry has been systematically destroyed and help is unavailable to the authorities now that they have concluded they can no longer do everything by themselves.19



Gorbachev’s problem is of a dual nature: in addition to the indifference of the citizenry, he confronts the opposition of the ruling elite which stands the most to lose from his reforms. To break bureaucratic resistance, Gorbachev had resort to two devices: the traditional one of purges, and the innovative one of using the state apparatus as a counterweight to the party.

Over the past five years, he has methodically replaced both civilian and military personnel inherited from the previous administrations with his own, with people who may or may not share his outlook but who owe their careers to him. Nearly all the current members of the Politburo and secretaries of the Central Committee are his appointees. The purges reach deep down into the provincial branches of the party and state apparatus and form the basis of Gorbachev’s personal power which shows no signs of weakening despite the failures of the reform program. Gorbachev has pledged to eliminate 40 percent of the country’s bureaucracy by 1991; if implemented, such retirements will afford him ample opportunities to be rid of many more opponents.

His boldest stroke, however, was to bring into play the Communist state apparatus which since Lenin’s days had been confined to carrying out the party’s directives and bearing the blame for whatever went wrong. The creation of a new body, the Congress of People’s Deputies, elected on a fairly democratic franchise (two-thirds of the seats chosen by secret ballot, the rest reserved for the party and its organs), and the introduction into the Supreme Soviet of genuine public representatives, had been originally intended as a limited operation. It was to give the population a sense of being involved in the political process, and, at the same time, serve as a lever against the hardliners in the nomenklatura. The local Soviets, which Lenin had reduced to impotence within months of taking power in their name, are to be revived as well.

In this instance, too, the reformers underestimated the difficulties. After seventy years of dictatorship, the politically active minority of the population was not about to accept the role of consultant to the one-party regime. The leadership was clearly unprepared for the electoral defeats of its candidates which revealed in stark figures the regime’s unpopularity: in many districts official nominees could not obtain the required votes even when they were running unopposed. The shattering of the carefully nurtured myth of popular support is something for which the Communist cadres are not likely to forgive Gorbachev.

Equally unexpected was the dispatch with which the reformed Supreme Soviet assumed legislative functions, once some of its deputies came to look on themselves as representatives of their constituencies. Through the system of guaranteed seats, Gorbachev controls enough votes to have his way whenever he considers the issue to be sufficiently important. But there is no assurance that the new parliamentary bodies will always be accommodating.

Indeed, although the Soviet Union still acknowledges only one lawful party, the caucuses which have emerged in the Congress of People’s Deputies in the guise of “groups” or “clubs” have for all practical purposes assumed party functions. The most influential of them is the Inter-Regional Group with some 400 deputies (out of a total of 2,250): it is committed to a democratic platform. The Group resembles the Progressive Bloc formed in 1915 in the Duma, which with its relentless criticism of czarism’s conduct of World War I paved the way for the February Revolution. Like the Bloc, the Inter-Regional Group is divided into radical and moderate wings: a victory for the latter was the decision, taken hours before the death of Andrei Sakharov, its titular leader, to call off a general political strike. The hard-line deputies in the Congress have responded with Rossiia, a caucus of some 100 members.

Gorbachev has thus created a monster that step by step encroaches on the Communist political monopoly.

To some extent this also holds true of the diverse associations, some 60,000 in number, which had been authorized in yet another effort to infuse life into a moribund Soviet society. For the most part they are politically innocuous (a good many of them are youth organizations devoted to sports and rock music). But in some instances, especially in the non-Russian areas, such associations have become a distinct threat to the status quo. The Democratic Union, which advocates a multiparty system, free trade unions, and the right of the ethnic minorities to secession, is the most prominent example. Others are Rukh in the Ukraine, Sajudis in Lithuania, and the Pan-Turkic Birlik, each of them a nationalist party in all but name. Although frequently harassed and persecuted by the authorities, they manage to carry on and gain in local influence.

The political evolution of the Soviet Union since 1985 has been filled with contradictions which are difficult to unravel. Side by side with the incontrovertible measures of democratization is the concentration of power in the hands of one man. It is by no means clear whether Gorbachev involves the populace in the political process in order to share power with it or merely to use it against his personal rivals. He not only staffs the civil and military administration with followers, but gathers in his hands the reins of formal authority. In December 1988 he assumed the title of President of the Supreme Soviet, which gives him considerably greater prerogatives than were enjoyed by his predecessors, designated Chairmen of the Supreme Soviet Presidium. He is both General Secretary of the party and head of state, which endows him, at least nominally, with immense authority. Sakharov worried greatly that such accumulated power could be used for other than reformist purposes.



The centerpiece of perestroika, economic reform, has failed and may be said, for all practical purposes, to have been abandoned. The bold plans to reinstate private property in the means of production were given up because they could not be reconciled with the maintenance of a planned economy and the one party system. The reconstruction of the free market was indefinitely postponed because it required a fundamental pricing reform which was certain to cause inflation and result in social unrest. The Five-Year Plan for 1991-95, as recently announced, faithfully treads beaten paths. The central institution of the Leninist-Stalinist economy, the State Planning Commission or Gosplan, retains its grip on the nation’s resources. Promises have been made of major shifts to consumer goods and cooperatives are to be encouraged, but the outlook for the next five years is more of the same.

The situation with consumer goods is becoming insufferable. Staple foods are in short supply, and even when available are shunned because of saturation with pesticides, nitrates, and other chemicals. The press reported not long ago that Soviet cats snubbed sausages produced for human consumption. The main victims are the Soviet poor, defined by the authorities as citizens earning less than 78 rubles a month ($5 at the current freemarket rate). Government sources indicate they number 43 million.20 With such a low income, survival is possible only by shopping in state outlets where prices are kept artificially low by government subsidies. However, the burgeoning cooperative market which perestroika encourages siphons off these goods to the private sector, with the result that many Soviet citizens are now living in a condition of permanent undernourishment and not a few pensioners slowly die of malnutrition.

The population’s lack of confidence in the national economy is reflected in the drastic fall of Soviet currency on the black market. As recently as the summer of 1988, the ruble, officially pegged at $1.61, sold for 20 U.S. cents. In the past year it suffered a further and precipitous decline. As the government in November 1989 adjusted the exchange rate for foreign tourists and businessmen to 16 cents per ruble, the free market once again overtook it: at present, the ruble fetches 7 cents, which represents a 300-percent devaluation.

Various factors account for the failure of the economic-reform plans. There is the inherent difficulty of grafting private initiative onto a centralized economy. Soviet citizens do not trust the government to honor promises to respect the rights and earnings of cooperative enterprises. But above all there are the vested interests of the party bureaucracy to whom state (i.e., bureaucratic) ownership of the national economy assures an easy and comfortable living; the bureaucracy fears the political consequences of the accumulation of wealth in private hands. The risks to which the Communist diehards expose the country with their sabotage of economic reform plans are incalculable: their triumph over liberal economists spells disaster. Perestroika aggravates social inequalities in a country where they are poorly tolerated. It also increases unemployment which is supposed not to exist under Communism. There are at present several million jobless in the Soviet Union and officials expect that by the year 2005 they will number between 15 and 16 million.21 Such inequalities and such unemployment, on top of generally declining living standards, create a situation laden with revolutionary potentialities.

The Soviet leadership seems to have no clear idea how to extricate itself from this predicament. It cannot, of course, openly commit itself to fullscale capitalism, which some of its economic advisers privately confess they would prefer. It speaks of adopting the Swedish Social-Democratic model, which the population at large would find most attractive, but it neither knows how to bring it about nor seems to realize that such a system requires centuries of cultural maturing.22



Nothing has won Gorbachev greater admiration in the West than the policy of glasnost, the loosening of the absurd censorship designed to propagate images totally at variance with reality no less than with the private opinions of Soviet citizens. (Censorship has been loosened, not abolished, since its organ, Glavlit, continues to operate, although under more liberal guidelines.)23 This policy caught most experts by surprise, since many if not most of them (myself included) had regarded the imposition on the populace of what Alain Besançon has called “surreality” as essential to the survival of Communist regimes. In time glasnost may indeed turn out to have been a fatal mistake: for how can one permit open criticism of the government and yet make it illegal to work for a change in government? The czarist government learned this lesson every time it relaxed censorship.

Yet a certain degree of free speech was unavoidable. The Soviet regime had been assuring its citizens for decades that they lived in the most progressive and prosperous country in the world. If that was the case, why change? To justify perestroika it was necessary to tell the truth about the country’s desperate condition. Apparently the Communist leaders, once again victimized by their own propaganda, believed that it would be enough to blame the country’s ills on Stalin and Brezhnev. They exposed the regime to criticism in the expectation that it would be confined to the implementation of Communism but respect its principles. The criticism was to be constructive: destructive criticism was to be channeled back, into the past.

The leaders were quickly disabused of these expectations. Freedom of opinion, once unleashed, proved exceedingly difficult to keep within approved bounds; it acquired a life of its own and pushed outward, probing the limits of the permissible. Thus questioning of the past inevitably led to questioning of the present. Every exposure of a lie, every breaking of a taboo, opened a breach in the fortress of official mythology through which poured critics ready to assault the next bastion. The censors, confused by vague directives, lost their bearings.

The limits of free speech are continually being tested. On the whole Lenin is still beyond the pale of criticism, although on some occasions he has been assailed for instituting concentration camps and dissolving the popularly-elected Constituent Assembly. But the Nazi-Soviet pact, the Katyn massacre, the murder of the imperial family have all found their way into Soviet media. So has the true condition of Soviet society. Denigrating the current leadership, however, is not tolerated. Gorbachev lost his temper when Argumenty i Fakty, the most widely read journal in the Soviet Union, if not indeed the world, with a circulation of over 30 million, published the results of a readers’ poll which indicated that not he but Andrei Sakharov was the country’s most popular figure. Even so, Gorbachev failed in his attempt to dismiss the editor of the offending journal.

At the end of 1989 there were in the Soviet Union over 300 independent publications, the majority of them of a democratic and pro-Western orientation.

The coexistence of a relatively free press alongside a one-party regime is clearly anomalous. It contributes to the widespread feeling in the country that the present ambiguous situation is not likely to last and will end either in full freedom or no freedom.



Gorbachev’s personal popularity abroad is due, first and foremost, to his pledges to eliminate the threat of war by reducing military expenditures, cutting down Soviet conventional and nuclear forces, and entering with the West into far-reaching arms-limitation accords. These pledges not only lift the nightmare of nuclear destruction which had been hanging over mankind for the past four decades but offer the prospect of substantial savings in defense appropriations which will significantly benefit the taxpayer as well as social services.

Logic dictates that Gorbachev must make good on these pledges if his reform program is to succeed. Western analysts have progressively raised estimates of Soviet military outlays from 6-7 percent of the Gross National Product to double that figure; currently some specialists believe it to be as much as 25 percent.24 This is a heavy burden which threatens to become insufferable: for the evolution of warfare points to an increasing reliance on costly advanced technology and a deemphasis on manpower which in the USSR comes cheap. It is natural, therefore, for Western public opinion to take Gorbachev’s promises at face value—this being an instance of good will buttressed by self-interest.

But here; too, the picture is murky and replete with contradictions. There is the evidence of reduced output of certain categories of weapons, notably tanks, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and troop reductions in Eastern Europe. Yet there are also many facts that raise doubts about Soviet intentions.

The nuclear build-up goes on. New strategic systems (the SS-24 and SS-25) are being produced and deployed; the “modernization” of the heaviest missile in the Soviet arsenal, the SS-18, is resulting in a new heavy missile in violation of SALT II. The Soviet civil-defense program, designed to provide safe shelters for the nomenklatura, is proceeding apace. Two new missile-carrying submarines are in production, along with two new bombers. Work on Soviet missile-defense programs has not stopped. The unilateral Soviet withdrawals from Central Europe, announced with loud fanfare by Gorbachev at the United Nations, are carried out in a puzzling manner: some units are reassigned rather than shipped home and much of the equipment is moved at night, when it cannot be observed by satellites.25

There is also continuing Soviet military activity overseas in the form of the construction of naval bases and the payment of subsidies to client states. The Soviet navy is building a major facility at Tartus in Syria which will enable it for the first time to service surface vessels and submarines in the Mediterranean. The port seems to be fully under Soviet control. The Soviet naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam is being expanded. Advanced Soviet planes arrive in North Korea and Libya. In Afghanistan military aid, estimated at $250 million a month, helps maintain a quisling regime in power. Then there is the military intervention in Central America: to please Washington, Moscow no longer supplies weapons directly to the Sandinistas and the Salvadoran guerrillas but indirectly, by way of Cuba. And what is the possible rationale in terms of perestroika for paying billions to support Castro—money badly needed at home—unless it is to buy valuable military facilities and services? After all, the Cuban dictator is no friend of Gorbachev and publicly scoffs at his reforms.

Congressman Les Aspin, a well-informed and balanced optimist, confesses to confusion about Soviet military initiatives even as he criticizes President Bush for not responding to them more enthusiastically. If one scrutinizes his analyses one has to conclude that his optimism feeds mainly on Soviet promises while his pessimism rests on solid facts: the former on what Moscow says, the latter on what it does.26

What can one conclude from this confusing picture? That skepticism of Soviet intentions is not a bad habit instilled by the cold war or by lack of imagination. It is prudent. Until and unless incontrovertible evidence of Soviet cutbacks in military production and foreign engagements is forthcoming, it will be premature to conclude that a new era in international relations has dawned. Those who are ready to embrace the Soviet Union on the basis of its declaration should bear in mind how wrong they were in the past: how Soviet spokesmen have now conceded that Moscow had believed nuclear war to be winnable,27 that the Soviet government had lied about its defense budget, that its invasion of Afghanistan was not defensive but aggressive, and that the Krasnoyarsk radar indeed violates the ABM treaty. American liberals prefer to see in these admissions evidence of Soviet sincerity; but they really prove the flaws in their own judgment.



The one subject on which doves and hawks have always agreed is that the nationality question in the Soviet Union is best left alone. Liberals accepted at face value Soviet claims to have solved ethnic rivalries by eliminating their economic causes and conducting intensive indoctrination. Conservatives have traditionally regarded the Russian people as the earliest victims of Communism and our best allies. They would not identify the United States with the aspirations of the national minorities on the grounds that this would push the Russians into Communist arms. As a consequence, the U.S. government, which had pressured Great Britain and the other Western empires to decolonize, has scrupulously respected the territorial integrity of the Soviet empire. Even at the height of the cold war, nothing was said or done that could be interpreted as encouraging nationalist trends there. The Voice of America and Radio Liberty were forbidden even to go as far as Lenin did with his theory of national self-determination and the Soviet constitution with its guarantees of the right of secession. It was a curious case of the Communist party professing more liberal policies than the U.S. government was prepared to demand of it.

Both positions were based on mistaken premises. Soviet policy toward the minorities, far from solving ethnic animosities, has intensified them. The hegemony of Russians in the party apparatus, Moscow’s exploitation of natural resources in the republics, Russian migration into these areas with the resultant competition for scarce living space and consumer goods have aggravated ethnic relations. It sufficed for Gorbachev to ease censorship and to allow the formation of voluntary associations for these tensions to rise to the surface.

No less erroneous was the belief that the Russian people were our best allies and that expressing support for the rights of the minorities would alienate them. The Bolshevik party from its inception in 1903 was predominantly Russian in its ethnic composition. In the elections to the Constituent Assembly in November 1917, the bulk of Bolshevik support came from the Russian provinces, and it is here that the Communists had their base during the Civil War. The regime tries to staff 80-90 percent of its officer corps with Russians and Russified Ukrainians, and makes certain they occupy key positions in the party and security apparatus throughout the country. This is not to imply that the Russians have chosen Communism as a way of life: it was imposed on them by force. Indeed they paid the heaviest price for it in human casualties. It is, nevertheless, true that such popular support as the CPSU ever enjoyed came principally from the Russian population, which explains why the regime long ago chose to identify itself with Russian nationalism.

At the same time, there is no evidence that the Russians are deeply attached to their empire or care to rule 140 million colonial subjects. Many of them believe that the minorities are in every respect better off because they derive a disproportionate share of benefits from the all-Union economy. During the recent disturbances in the Baltic republics and Transcaucasia, Moscow made no attempt to exploit Russian nationalism, which is ethnocentric and anti-Communist in the case of the hard-line opposition and tolerant of minority demands in the case of the reformers.

The Russian masses are more placid and fatalistic than the other inhabitants of the USSR and they have been slower to stir. The strongest challenge to the regime so far has come from the borderland areas where anti-Communism blends with hostility to Russian domination. In Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, it has taken the form of a direct and seemingly uncompromising challenge to the Communist constitution. In Transcaucasia it has been strongest among the Georgians but most violent among the Shiite Azeris whose religious passions, inflamed by agitation from neighboring Iran, find outlets in brutal pogroms against Armenians. It is seething close to the surface in all the republics of the Union, including the Ukraine, whose defection would be fatal to the unity of the Russian empire.

Gorbachev is trying to neutralize nationalist ferment by remaking the pseudo-federal constitution drawn up in the early 1920’s by Lenin and Stalin into a genuine confederation. The minorities are promised a greater voice in the allocation of economic resources on their territory as well as an end to linguistic Russification. Parliamentary commissions are said to be at work devising a new and more liberal constitutional arrangement. But the sincerity of these efforts is open to question in view of Gorbachev’s public commitment to the preservation of the unity of the Communist party, i.e., its continued control from the Russian center. The chances are that the major ethnic groups will not be satisfied with such concessions and will increasingly insist on full sovereignty. As one Russian intellectual put it, the Soviet Union cannot enter the 21st century carrying the baggage of a colonial empire.



No one had expected Moscow to relax its grip on Eastern Europe. Some of us thought of “Finlandization” of that region as a possibility, but rather a distant one. The recent events there have surpassed the wildest fantasies of any observer of Soviet affairs who was willing to go on record.

The rationale for Moscow’s policies in Eastern Europe since 1985 will become known when the relevant documents are made accessible to historians. At present one can only speculate. The most likely explanation is that the Soviet authorities have concluded that the economic and social situation in that area had become potentially so unstable that nothing short of massive Soviet help could prevent an explosion. This help was unavailable: Moscow had no resources to spare in view of its own domestic problems. The alternative was forceful suppression of any unrest, but that would have irrevocably marred Gorbachev’s carefully nurtured image as a liberal and man of peace, which he needs in order to qualify for Western aid. The least unpalatable solution was to Finlandize Russia’s East European satrapies. This meant self-rule internally and a friendly neutrality in foreign affairs. It was an exceedingly bold initiative, much bolder than any the Gorbachev administration has ventured to take in its own country.28 A revolution was instigated from above to prevent an eruption from below.

Under the arrangement which is still being worked out, the hard-line Communist nomenklaturas have been ejected from power, in some instances with Moscow’s blessing (Poland and Hungary), in others on its orders (East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria). The manner in which these ruling elites have been toppled and replaced by popular non-Communists leaves little doubt that the process was masterminded by the CPSU. In some cases, Moscow encouraged the entrenched interests to strike deals with the opposition; elsewhere, it looked on benevolently as street crowds forced them to surrender power. The East German, Czechoslovak, and Bulgarian Communist regimes were solidly entrenched and would never have abdicated of their own free will.29

The Soviet government seems to count on Western Europe, the United States, and Japan offering the East European countries enough aid to make them viable and stable. Under certain conditions, it appears prepared to withdraw Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, although it seems unlikely to agree to evacuate East Germany since this would deprive it of military leverage in Europe as well as rob it of its most valuable trophy of victory in World War II. It seems equally unlikely to consent to the unification of the two Germanys, except on terms unacceptable to the Federal Republic, namely, neutralization and withdrawal from NATO. All these matters, however, are in flux: it is doubtful whether Gorbachev himself knows his desiderata.

The general delight at the liberation of Europe’s Eastern half is understandable. But it is only sensible to warn that once the euphoria has subsided, staggering problems will confront the democratic governments there. Forty years of Communist looting and mismanagement have thoroughly undermined the economies of this area and demoralized its citizenry. The democrats who have taken charge—many of them academics and writers—possess unique experience in fighting tyranny but little if any in administering a state. The Communist apparatus is trying to hold on to what is left of its authority; some of its members must anticipate with glee the collapse of the democracies and their return to power under one guise or another. The KGB and Soviet military intelligence have not withdrawn from Eastern Europe; hundreds of thousands of Red Army occupation troops are still in place.

Under these conditions, it is sensible to offer generous economic aid to Eastern Europe and to negotiate mutual troop withdrawals with the Warsaw Pact. But the situation in this part of the world merits close attention: nothing that has occurred there is irreversible. A sharp move against reform in the Soviet Union could quickly upset the fragile arrangement.



Gorbachev, hailed abroad as a statesman who has dared to challenge the very fundamentals of the Leninist-Stalinist regime, a liberal and a man of peace, inside the Soviet Union is held in low regard as someone who has failed to make good on his promises and brought the country to the brink of anarchy.

It can hardly be disputed that the Soviet government is losing authority. Of this, there are many indications. Although strikes in the energy sector have been declared illegal, Moscow could do nothing but equivocate and negotiate with the miners of Vorkuta when they struck in October 1989 to protest its failure to honor promises to them. All around the country, demonstrations are taking place daily, many if not most of them unauthorized.30 On November 7, 1989, the anniversary of the Bolshevik coup, demonstrators carrying anti-Communist banners paraded in Moscow and other cities in front of stony-faced bureaucrats. In several republics, dissidents disrupted official celebrations on that occasion; in Georgia and Armenia they forced the authorities to cancel them. More ominously, the armed forces are encountering open defiance. In certain districts, 10 percent of those called for induction fail to show up. In the Baltic republics and Transcaucasia, draft centers have been blocked by protesters.31 The Chief of the


1 The proletariat of all countries never united as did its Communist masters. How strong is the kinship among the world’s nomenklaturas may be seen from the fact that in 1981, when Beijing and Moscow were sharply at odds, the Chinese Communist leadership applauded the crushing of Solidarity. Gorbachev’s Politburo returned the courtesy by averting its eyes from the Tienanmen Square massacre.

2 Some less informed observers went so far as to argue that the Communist countries of Eastern Europe enjoyed relative well-being. Thus Paul A. Samuelson in one edition of his widely used textbook laid it down that “it is a vulgar mistake to think that most people in Eastern Europe are miserable”: Economics (McGraw-Hill, 10th edition, 1976), p. 881. My attention to this bon mot has been called by Dan Seligman in Fortune, December 18, 1989.

3 Senator Charles McC. Mathias in Foreign Affairs, Summer 1983, p. 1018.

4 “Reflections: A visit to Russia,” New Yorker, September 3, 1984, pp. 54, 60, 61. Since “exfoliation” means “stripping” or “separating,” it is difficult to know what Galbraith meant unless it was that Soviet buildings crack and peel, which indeed was and is the case.

5 Foreign Affairs, Summer 1981, pp. 522-39.

6 Seweryn Bialer and Joan Afferica, “Reagan and Russia,” Foreign Affairs, Winter 1982/83, pp. 249-71.

7 Time, January 1, 1990, p. 69.

8 “Who Killed Communism?,” New Republic, December 4, 1989, p. 4.

9 I say “popularized” rather than originated because, as she is the first to admit, the distinction had been known to historians and political scientists for decades before she published her well-known COMMENTARY essay, “Dictatorships and Double Standards” (November 1979). I thought it so accepted that I used it in 1968 in a freshman textbook, Western Civilization. The earliest use of this terminology that I encountered was by the German scholar, Heinz O. Ziegler, in his Autoritärer oder Totaler Staat (Tüibingen, 1932).

10 How Democracies Perish (Doubleday, 1984), p. 17.

11 Survival Is Not Enough (Simon & Schuster, 1984) and “Can the Soviet Union Reform?,” Foreign Affairs, Fall 1984, pp. 47-61. The quotations which follow are from the Foreign Affairs article.

12 Survival Is Not Enough, p. 202.

13 Newsweek, December 25, 1989, p. 40.

14 A. S. Zaichenko in SShA, No. 12 (1988), pp. 12-22. The statistics below come from this source.

15 A. S. Zaichenko in Moskovskie Novosti, No. 34, August 21, 1988, p. 12.

16Pravda, No. 330, November 26, 1989, p. 1.

17 One of Gorbachev’s advisers said in private conversation that the Chinese criticized the Russians for trying to change too much too quickly: the Chinese thought it preferable to concentrate on economic reform and leave everything else intact, at least for the time being.

18 Pravda, No. 312, November 8, 1989, p. 2; Gorbachev’s interview on the anniversary of the October Revolution, November 7, 1989 in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Daily Report, No. 200, October 19, 1989.

19 I have spoken to two U.S. officials who accompanied Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, the ex-Soviet Chief of Staff and Gorbachev’s adviser, on a recent tour of U.S. military installations. They agreed that he seemed unimpressed by the equipment but was stunned by the patriotism of the men and women in uniform with whom he conversed. He even suspected that he was the victim of a deception. This gives an idea of the morale of the Soviet armed forces.

20 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Daily Report, No. 235, December 12, 1989. Other sources estimate that the Soviet poor account for 20 percent of the population, or 58 million individuals: Bundesinstitut für ostwissenschaftliche und internationale studien, Sowjetunion 1988/89 (Munich-Vienna, 1989), pp. 20 and 72 ff. According to A. Levin (Literaturnaia Gazeta, No. 49, December 6, 1989, p. 12), such people must spend 85 percent of their income on food and other essentials.

21 Pravda, No. 304, October 31, 1989, p. 2. This figure does not include those who will lose jobs because of anticipated cuts in defense appropriations.

22 For a discussion of the Swedish model and Eastern Europe, see “Is Olof Palme the Wave of the Future?,” by Angelo M. Codevilla, beginning on p. 26 of this issue.-Ed.

23 According to the head of Glavlit, V. Boldyrev, the number of forbidden subjects has been reduced by one-third (Sowjetunion, 1988/89, p. 111). This welcome news means that two-thirds of such subjects are still taboo.

24 Anders Aslund in Henry S. Rowen and Charles Wolf, Jr., eds., The Impoverished Superpower (Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1989), p. 49.

25 New York Times, August 9, 1989, p. 10.

26 House Armed Services News Release, November 16, 1989. Military hardware is the only product of Soviet industry that has a foreign market: it is a major hard-currency earner. In some fields—jet combat planes, helicopters, and tanks—exports to the Third World are believed to amount to one-third or more of production: Steven Zaloga in Armed Forces Journal International, December 1989, pp. 20-21. Obviously, major cutbacks in the manufacture of this equipment would have serious consequences for Soviet finances, which may explain the reluctance to curtail armament production.

27 Vadim Zagladin in Izvestiia, No. 179, June 27, 1988, p. 3. Zagladin is an important member of the Central Committee of the CPSU. When in 1976, the so-called “Team B” appointed by George Bush, then Director of Central Intelligence, came up with this very same assessment of Soviet strategy, the arms control community to a man denounced it as the product of “cold war” paranoia. It has not been heard so far to comment on Zagladin’s admission.

28 Russia has a historical tradition of granting greater political liberty to its subject peoples than to its own. In the 19th century, a number of areas which it had conquered—Finland, the Baltic region, Poland, the Central Asian principalities of Khiva and Bukhara—were in varying degrees self-governing while the Russian metropolis lived under a strictly autocratic regime.

29 Rumania is a special case since Moscow had no voice in its internal affairs. Ceaucescu was overthrown by a spectacular popular revolution, stimulated by the example of neighboring Communist countries. Such a revolution could not have succeeded in any other East European state because of the presence of Soviet troops. There, revolutionary change could have taken place only with Moscow’s blessing.

30 According to the Ministry of the Interior, in the first ten months of 1989 there took place in Moscow 324 gatherings with 472,000 participants, of which 209 were unauthorized: Pravda, No. 326, November 22, 1989, p. 6. Citing these figures the Ministry’s spokesman complained that under glasnost and democracy “some people think that everything is permitted.”

31 Komsomolskaia Pravda, No. 273, November 28, 1989, p.4.

32 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Daily Report, No. 243, December 22, 1989.

33 According to Soviet sources, 25 percent of the young men inducted into the armed forces have a police record: Komsomolskaia Pravda, No. 273, November 28, 1989. p. 6.

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