Russia is never as strong as she looks.
Russia is never as weak as she looks.
—a European statesman in the 1930s
THIS CHAPTER discusses the Soviet political system in the 1980s and the influence it may exercise on Soviet foreign policy. It will concen-trate on three major areas: (1) the domestic and foreign legacy of the Brezhnev era; (2) the succession(s) to the Brezhnev government; and (3) the factors which will influence the Soviet domestic scene and their effect upon foreign policy in the 1980s.
The Politics of the Brezhnev Era
The Brezhnev era spanned a period of eighteen years, during which the general secretary was the dominant figure on the Soviet political scene.
In the highly centralized authoritarian Soviet system, the position of the leader is of central importance; this alone argues for recognizing the two decades of Brezhnev’s rule as a distinctive period. This distinction also rests on important discontinuities between the period of Brezhnev’s rule and that of Khrushchev or Stalin.
Brezhnev was elected by his colleagues to the position of party leader after Khrushchev’s leadership had disaffected virtually all the bureaucratic hierarchies. Brezhnev received a clear mandate to revamp his predecessor’s domestic policies and to stabilize the system. Khrushchev’s leadership was populist and reformist; Brezhnev’s was corporate and conservative. Nowhere was this distinction as noticeable as in the structure of Soviet politics and decision making.
The most important feature of the Soviet political system on the leadership level has been its transformation from the personal dictatorship of Stalin and the highly personalized and confrontational leadership of Khrushchev into a relatively stable oligarchy under Brezhnev. The top leadership that developed in the Brezhnev era was collective; almost all major bureaucratic interests were represented in the leadership, but no bureaucratic group or personal machine dominated. Although the role of the first party secretary and his “loyalists” within the Politburo clearly increased from about 1972, it was still limited in the late 1970s and began to decline sharply in the last year of Brezhnev’s life, parallel to the progress of his illness and his growing inability to conduct the business of the Soviet government on a day-by-day basis.
The most important differences between the Brezhnev and Khrushchev leadership cannot be described adequately by such terms as “less” or “more”; rather, they may be expressed by the question, “power for what purpose?” In this perspective, Brezhnev’s power differed from Khrushchev’s because the former used his authority in a different way. Khrushchev expended power most notably in efforts to change institutions and policies; alternate advances and retreats in the face of leadership and elite opposition challenged his limits visibly. Brezhnev did not test his power in those terms. He expended it primarily in ensuring the continuity of Soviet institutions and in the gradual adjustment of policies. Within that context, his position was strong and stable.
During the Brezhnev period, real politics preoccupied the Soviet elite as never before. The cult of the top leader, the centralization of the party and state, and the “planning” that supposedly permeates all aspects of Soviet life could not hide the operation of the give and take of politics. The main actors in the Soviet political process are the major bureaucratic structures and their subsections, alliances of various bureaucracies on particular issues, and, finally, territorial interests. During the Brezhnev era, these groups developed a high degree of corporate existence and identity, displayed a broad range of opinions on specific issues, and were able as never before to help resolve issues through bargaining and compromise.
During the Brezhnev era the conflicts and agreements between various bureaucracies and their subdivisions testified to the broadening of the policy-making process on the elite level, but one bureaucratic hierarchy, the party apparatus, requires particular attention. Brezhnev restored and even strengthened the central role which the party apparatus had occupied until Khrushchev tried to reorganize it radically to attain independence from any single bureaucratic constituency.
Under Brezhnev, the party apparatus on all levels, especially the central Secretariat, became the chief agency in charge of appointments to all leadership positions. In its early days the party apparatus was primarily engaged in propaganda and in checking the loyalty of state bureaucracies. In the Khrushchev period it primarily fulfilled a mobilizational function. But in the Brezhnev era its main role has been to coordinate the activities of state institutions on the regional, republican, and central level.
It would be incorrect, however, to conclude that the party ap-paratus acted only as a broker between various institutional interests. Most importantly, it was a power committed to representing within bureaucratic politics the all-national interests, as counterposed to par-ticularistic interests, as the central Secretariat and the general secretary defined them. Moreover, it was in charge of agenda setting, the key element of policy making and implementation that defines the parameters within which conflicts over policies are resolved.
The role of another group, the military, also requires special consideration, not so much because of its importance in the policy process but because of the many misconceptions concerning its role. The military factor in Soviet policy making is crucial, largely because national security is the uppermost priority for the Soviet leadership. Sometimes, however, observers draw an erroneous conclusion from the role of the military factor in policy by assigning an exaggerated role to the military sector in politics. Under Brezhnev, the military broadened its powers, because it attained a high degree of professional autonomy and a great voice in matters concerning military questions at a time when military strength increased steadily. Yet, its subordination to the political leadership remains unquestioned, and its role in influencing nonmilitary matters is limited. Its success in attaining high allocations of key resources during the Brezhnev period is not a result of its independent political weight, but rather of the symbiotic view of the military and the political leadership on this matter.
The key features of the political system that Brezhnev inherited from his predecessor, and that he continued with limited changes, were subordination of the secret police to party dominance and control and abolishment of mass terror. The Soviet leadership no longer resorts to terror to control, shape, or change society, or to resolve disputes within the elite. The system is a highly repressive, pervasive authoritarian state that uses the forces of repression and the enormous police machine as safeguards against the violators of established rules of behavior and others it fears, and the punitive force is ordinarily in accord with Soviet law and commensurate to the offense perpetrated.
Yet, the influence of the KGB probably increased in the Brezhnev era. The more distant the crimes of the Stalin era have become, the greater have been the authority and political visibility of the KGB. One example is the portrayal in the Soviet media of the KGB and of its predecessors, the CHEKA, OGPU, NKVD, and MVD. Another sign of its political importance is that Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB, became a full member of the Politburo in April 1973. Still another illustration is the inclusion under Brezhnev of all republican KGB chairmen in the Central Committee bureaus of their republics and of all KGB chairmen in the provinces (oblast) of the Russian Republic in the provincial bureaus, for the first time since Stalin’s rule.
Of course the key examples are the May 1982 elevation of An-dropov to the central post of Central Committee secretary in place of the late Suslov, which made Andropov a prime candidate for succession to Brezhnev’s position of general secretary of the party, and finally the selection of Andropov to succeed Brezhnev as the top Soviet leader.
The stability of the composition of the Soviet leadership repre-sents a major dimension of the conservatism of the Soviet polity. To a degree unequalled in any other period of Soviet history, the leadership and key elite groups have remained unchanged through the Brezhnev era. One index is the low turnover in membership of the Central Committee, as the following figures demonstrate:
This stability is partly a reaction to the experimentation and tur-moil of the Khrushchev period and partly a secular trend representing the bureaucratization of the system. Under Brezhnev the pattern of cooptation to the central political institutions reflected the replacement of those elite members who died or retired mostly by persons from the same generation to which Brezhnev belonged. The leadership and elite are currently composed of people from the same generation who have worked together for an extraordinarily long period and who have designed rules for working relationships that are relatively benign in the light of Soviet tradition. Until recently, stability represented the basic yearnings of key Soviet elite groups, and the leadership responded positively: the Soviet Union entered the 1980s with the oldest leadership and central elites in its history.
The price of Brezhnev’s conservatism has been primarily the lack of structural reform. The most striking changes in the post-Stalin era have occurred in policies, not in structures. Nowhere else is this more pronounced and remarkable than with regard to the economic system and its relations with the polity. Despite the reforms of the Khrushchev and post-Khrushchev period, discussion of improving planning and economic mechanisms, tinkering with indices of growth, and the progress achieved in modernization, the economic system today remains virtually unchanged in its basic characteristics from the model Stalin gave it: super-centralization, absence of autonomy of economic subdivisions, tight and detailed planning, stress on quantitative output, and lack of any self-regulating, self-generating mechanism.
The break between mature Stalinism and its Leninist past was more clear-cut and more profound than that between the present system and its Stalinist past. Stalin established his system through a series of deep revolutionary convulsions and transformations. The present system came into being through a process of incremental, evolutionary change. The Stalinist system acquired its shape by crushing established institutions; the present authoritarian system molded the process of adjustment.
Since as far back as the mid-1920s, when Stalin proclaimed the policy of socialism in one country, the leaders have consistently resolved the tension between an active foreign policy and the needs of the domestic system in favor of domestic priorities. In the Stalin era, the priority of domestic policies found economic expression in autarky, political expression in Soviet self-isolation in the international arena, and foreign policy expression in its focus on preventing or delaying an attack by nonsocialist powers. Foreign policy played primarily a defensive, supporting role with regard to the political system even when the Soviet Union engaged in naked expansion, as in the case of Finland, Poland, the Baltic states, and Romania in the 1939—40 period, and to a large extent when it created the Soviet empire in the 1944—48 period.
Starting in the Khrushchev period, but particularly in the Brezh-nev era, active Soviet foreign policy became more visible, more important in its own right, and more independent from the domestic system. This change in the weight of foreign policy was the result partly of internal political and economic developments, partly of growing Soviet power in the international arena, and partly of the continuity of basic Soviet attitudes toward the international system. Whatever the reasons, the Soviet Union has propelled itself into world affairs and has been drawn into world affairs more actively than before Breznhev. Attention to foreign policy has therefore increased.
Many indications reveal the greater role foreign policy has come to play. Increasingly, the domestic government devotes resources to the promotion of foreign policy. The domestic repercussions of foreign policy are more pronounced than ever. Foreign policy is more often the center of attention in plenary meetings of the Central Committee. International affairs are the subject of more speeches and articles by more leaders than before, and differences within the political elite with regard to foreign policy are more pronounced than in the past. A major expansion of formal and informal foreign policymaking channels has occurred. An advisory apparatus focused on foreign policy questions has emerged and is growing rapidly. Yet while one should recognize the greater concern of leaders and elites with foreign policy questions, the domestic preoccupation of the Soviet system’s directors remains paramount.
The Politburo remains the central decisive body in all policy mak-ing, but it represents a broader range of institutions and seems a better informed decision-making body than before Brezhnev. By all accounts, the Politburo and the general secretary define the agenda for foreign policy making and select the options that will determine the directions and goals of Soviet foreign policy.
As the Soviet role in the world has grown and the foreign policy apparatus and foreign policy institutions have swollen, the process of foreign policy making has become more complex and more systematic. Under Brezhnev, partly because of his personality and the oligarchic nature of the Soviet leadership, a more regularized and routinized process has replaced the haphazard and intuitive foreign policy making of Khrushchev, which represented his personality and style.
During the Brezhnev era the number and variety of those in-volved in the foreign policy-making process have expanded. Many groups now participate, and their influence has increased. Those involved include individuals at the apex of the various bureaucratic hierarchies—political, military, economic, and academic—and experts attached to those hierarchies.
In addition, the input of information, explanation, and advice has increased immensely, as has the variety of views expressed, although to a lesser degree. Moreover, for the first time in Soviet history, information, explanation, and advice from within the bureaucracy are matched by input from outside the bureaucracies, especially from the academic institutes. Authorized civilian experts are now beginning to influence even military doctrine and arms con-trol, which the military staff had monopolized until recently.
One should not exaggerate the importance of specialists. They remain occasional advisers at best. In a Soviet-type regime, the ambitious bureaucrat tries to tailor his selection of data, explanations, and advice to the perceived needs and preferences of political superiors. One has to remember also that the opinions of experts are quite heterogeneous and that the political leaders may quickly select those views that suit them best.
To some extent, political, military intelligence, and academic ex-perts contribute to the posing of available options for the Politburo. However, their primary influence is rather in the process of im-plementation and adjustment of foreign policy after the Politburo has determined the “general line.” Apparently, highly professional foreign ministry officials, functionaries of the foreign and information departments of the Central Committee Secretariat, and prominent members of the Academy of Sciences then have some freedom in explaining and justifying policies at home and especially abroad.
During the Brezhnev era, the Soviet Union faced a number of difficult problems. Its achievements were impressive but spotty. When the era started, Western analysts of Soviet affairs published long lists of trouble spots and potentially destructive problems that confronted the leadership. Even though Brezhnev did not solve or sometimes did not even diminish the major problems, he prevented them, singly or in their cumulative effect, from becoming a source of systemic crisis. In the domestic field the Brezhnev era, particularly from 1965 to 1976, was quite successful in combining Soviet military expansion with overall industrial growth and with a substantial rise in the standard of living of the Soviet population, particularly of the lowest paid strata. But what the Brezhnev era will be particularly remembered for is its successes in the international arena.
In military affairs the Soviet Union fulfilled its major postwar dream, achieving strategic parity with the United States and becoming a truly global power. Soviet rule over its empire was legitimized internationally at Helsinki in 1975, and the Brezhnev doctrine provided a kind of justification for secure continuation of the empire through any means. Although unable to improve its relationship with China, the Soviet Union succeeded in shifting the Sino-Soviet military balance more clearly in its favor.
While the period of Brezhnev’s rule brought increased political influence for the Soviet Union in the international arena, it was a time of economic and political decline for its chief adversary, the United States. The Soviet Union was able to translate its newly won power and influence into a new relationship with members of the Western alliance, particularly the United States, called detente, that con-stituted a cornerstone of Soviet long-range strategy. Detente provided economic benefits but above all it permitted the expansion of Soviet global influence without danger of confrontation with the United States and its allies. It also brought about a further swing in the balance of global influence and power in favor of the Soviet Union.
From the Soviet point of view, detente meant that recognition of strategic parity by the United States would also lead to recognition of political equality with the United States. For the Soviet leaders, this meant that no major issue of international politics should be resolved without Soviet participation. It also included simultaneously entering into agreements on limitation of strategic arms while continuing a military buildup in all regions and in all systems that the agreements did not include. As former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown said, “When we are increasing our military expenditures, they are increasing their own; when we are decreasing our military expenditures, they are also increasing their own.”
With regard to Europe, detente included Soviet restraint in ag-gressive actions, threatening signals, and bellicose statements toward Western Europe and legitimization of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. Outside of Europe, however, the Soviet Union considered the gray, that is, the nonaligned, areas of the world open to superpower competition, which it could pursue in any form and by any means, so long as no direct military clash with the United States occurred.
In the economic field, the Soviets expected from detente unre-stricted trade with the West, including importation of grain and high technology, common ventures, and easy credit. They also expected a major increase in cultural and scientific exchanges. Finally, they recognized that detente would involve some adjusting of their internal policies with regard to human rights, so as not to offend the sensibilities of Western public opinion.
Detente was meant as a long-range policy that would have slight influence upon Soviet internal political conditions but would provide important benefits to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and permit the pursuit of influence in the Third World, without the danger of an American-Soviet confrontation. Despite some occasional unease, the ideologues and the military supported detente, the military in part because they saw it as a major opportunity to acquire high technology from the West in order to modernize their forces.
Detente in Soviet-American relations did not survive long, largely because the leaders of the two superpowers held different percep-tions of the kind of behavior detente entailed for the other side. Thus, the United States expected that detente would slow Soviet military growth, which was clearly moving beyond defensive needs; lead to Soviet restraint and moderation in conflict areas of the Third World, especially in the use of military power; and link economic cooperation with moderate Soviet international behavior.
How can one explain American misperceptions? How can one explain the ambiguities of the early 1970s and the agreements which did not spell out explicitly the specific actions, policies, and behavior within and outside of detente-type relations?
Part of the explanation is that the United States entered detente relations from a position of weakness, as Vietnam seemed to mark the decline of American power and will just at the time the Soviet Union was on the verge of its global “take-off.” The two superpowers were out of phase with each other. Under such conditions, detente could not work for the United States.
For the Soviet Union, however, detente was quite successful. Its economic gains fell short of its expectations with regard to the United States, but the European connection worked well. The Soviet military buildup continued to change the balance of power in its favor. It achieved expansion in the Third World at low risk and low cost.
A very important domestic input into Soviet foreign policy is the ideology to which the Soviet leadership and elites subscribe, the faith that is fundamental to their existence. The relationship between ideology and Soviet nationalism as the driving forces of Soviet foreign policy emerges as a major question. Some Western scholars and statesmen believe that ideology is dead in the Soviet Union and that the moving force is pragmatic Soviet nationalism. Others conclude that Marxism-Leninism is alive and well and constitutes the galvanizing mechanism in Soviet foreign policy. It seems that both answers err, that is to say, both Soviet ideology and Soviet nationalism in many of its dimensions influence and shape Soviet foreign policy.
Four major components, and their mutual interaction, determine the character of Soviet nationalism. First, the experiences of Russia and the Soviet Union characterize this nationalism as defensive in nature. Russian nationalism grew from the traumatic experiences of frequent invasion, defeat, and even near destruction. It is a nationalism for which disaster and crisis always loom large on the horizon. It stresses the separateness of Russia from other nations and the unbridgeability of the “we-they” syndrome in international relations. It is also an undiminished imperial nationalism, in all probability the last such imperialism. It is committed to the empire that Stalin built in Eastern Europe, the existence and integrity of which his successors are determined to defend at all costs. In this dimension, it expands the basically defensive preoccupation with security to include the entire East European area, as if the slogan “socialism in one country” had expanded into “socialism in one empire.”
Second, Soviet nationalism is to an increasing degree the outlook of a great power attaining global stature, a power still young, dynamic, growing, ambitious, and assertive for “a place in the sun” and one that entertains hopes and illusions about the accomplishments power can achieve in the international arena. Soviet nationalism reflects the faith of an older generation of Soviet leaders who worked hard, waited long, and dreamed of achieving a dominant international position. It is also the nationalism of the post-World War II generation of Soviet leaders, who share the ambitions of their elders but not the lingering insecurities and memories of past weaknesses and who lack the maturing influence of knowing at what cost Soviet power was created.
Third, Soviet nationalism includes a universal mission. This universalist attitude was rooted in Russia long before the revolution, when it fused with the Communist world outlook. Its operational validity was dormant for a long time during periods of Soviet preoccupation with internal problems and the defensive aspects of its international relations. But it survived as an ingrained attitude even at the height of Stalin’s isolationism.
Finally, the combination of ideology and nationalism gives Soviet leaders a view of the world divided into opposing systems of competing values. This combination of the dynamic of an ascending power with that of a power that represents a world outlook different from and competitive with others limits the scope of bilateral agreements and makes balance of power policies and long-range solutions inherently unstable.
To distinguish analytically between the various elements of ideol-ogy and the many dimensions of Soviet nationalism is in essence to separate artificially factors that are not separate, distinct, or counterposed to one another, but inseparable, intertwined, Soviet in form and Russian in content. They blend in the minds of those who make policy. One cannot separate them when analyzing intentions and actions.
The fundamental difficulty is that one can evaluate the relative weight of the various elements and components of ideology and nationalism only when these elements create tension in the conduct of policy and policy making. Usually, however, the components supplement and reinforce each other, as they do in the Sino-Soviet conflict, the Soviet quest for absolute security, and the Soviet commitment to an East European empire.
Moreover, the tensions that occur in Soviet foreign policy are not between nationalism and ideology but reflect differences between what the Soviet leadership and political elite expect and the risks they must take to attain them; between what Alexander Dallin aptly termed “the impulse to enjoy and the impulse to destroy.”
The relationship between nationalism and Soviet ideology is es-pecially important when considering the question of legitimacy of Soviet rule and foreign policy. The Soviet Union is one of the few political systems sustained by a universalistic doctrine that provides the prophecy of self-fulfillment on a global scale. To the extent that the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism is still accepted, the Soviet Union plays the role of the historic agent who will bring about its fulfillment. An expansionist foreign policy acts as a legitimizing factor for the system and for the regime primarily among the various Soviet elites. It also justifies the party bureaucracy’s central role in the political system. There is no evidence that Soviet expansionism, particularly beyond Eastern Europe, is popular among the Soviet people.
In short, Soviet nationalism equals Russian great-power national-ism plus Soviet ideology. Ideology provides a driving force that intensifies Russian nationalism, and Russian great-power nationalism keeps ideology alive. Neither ideology nor Russian nationalism explains or determines the tactical or even the strategic zigzags of Soviet foreign policy. However, they do explain the general trend of expansionism.
Other sections of this book analyze in some detail the political, economic, military, cultural, and ideological aspects of Soviet life that affect foreign policy. Here I seek only to introduce some elements of these sources of Soviet conduct.
The political resources at the disposal of Soviet foreign policy are significant and impressive. With this foundation, the leaders have accelerated the process of Soviet political activization abroad that started under Khrushchev and ended the sectarian and isolationist approach to non-Soviet forces abroad.
Soviet policy toward change and toward revolutionary and nationalistic aspirations in the noncommunist world provides almost a blanket underwriting of any and all aspirations for change that will undermine the status quo and thus contribute to Soviet strength. This makes the Soviet Union a natural ally of nations, movements, even small groups, which harbor ambitions and aspirations, and costs the Soviet Union little.
The Soviet Union, however, displays significant weaknesses in trying to muster political resources for foreign policy goals. The repressive and deadening character of its political system is now widely understood and lacks an attractive character for most peoples. The Soviets maintain their “alliance” system almost wholly by force of arms.
The considerable difficulties the Soviet economy faces should not cloud the achievements of the Brezhnev era. The size of the economy, especially of the industrial plant, and centralized control over resources provide the Soviet Union considerable economic potential in support of foreign policy. Yet for the foreseeable future, the effect of the nonmilitary aspects of this economy will remain greatly limited. The magnitude of Soviet involvement in the world economy is not commensurate with the evolution of the Soviet state as a global power, and Soviet influence on the world economy is minimal. It has not grown during the Brezhnev era, compared with that of Western industrial nations. Except for its military power, the Soviet Union would remain an underdeveloped country.
Soviet ideological resources, at one time among the strongest components of Soviet power, are either exhausted or have become a liability. The Soviet Union has ceased to be the symbol of radical revolution. The old international Communist movement has lost most of its enthusiasm and unity and will likely continue to unravel. As model and symbol of social progress for the leftist intelligentsia in industralized societies, it has been irrevocably compromised. Among the leftist intelligentsia of the Third World, this process tends to develop in the same direction. Expediency and circumstances, not ideology, attract revolutionary regimes and groups to the Soviet Union.
The cultural assets of a country—language, educational tradition, “high culture,” mass cultural patterns, and the attractiveness and impressiveness of its way of life—can be of great importance in furthering that country’s influence in the international arena. Soviet cultural patterns, however, are highly formalized, rigid, stolid, intolerant, and strange to most people of various classes and national origins who are exposed to them. Far from being carriers of a culture that would enhance attempts to gain influence, the Soviet people, including the elite, are greatly attracted by Western, especially American, culture. In short, the cultural and intellectual dimensions of Soviet life do not constitute an important element of strength in the international arena.
The situation is quite different with regard to the military assets behind Soviet foreign policy. Military power is at the base of the Soviet state’s authority in the world. Soviet military capabilities enable the government to offer an array of weapons covering the whole range of needs of any nation, competitive with what the United States is in a position to offer. The Soviet Union is also able to deliver all kinds of military aid, from large numbers of military advisers to the offensive deployment of the troops of a client or the offensive use of its own military forces.
Willingness to commit military assets in a growing number of areas suggests that the Soviet leaders may have partly redefined what constitutes risk. One of the principal characteristics of recent Soviet international behavior is an attempt to translate military assets into global political influence, a course that involves inherent dangers. Soviet military policy has produced some conspicuous failures, and its present successes are far from assured. Military power is not sufficient to create a Pax Sovietica, as it was not sufficient alone to create a Pax Britannica. Yet in a perverse way, the imbalance in foreign policy resources, which is rooted in the domestic system, makes the Soviet Union a much more dangerous power than would be the case otherwise. In conflict situations, the Soviets have little choice but to transform political and economic competition into military competition, supporting the weak political, commercial, or ideological structure of Soviet influence with a surplus of military power.
The growing role of the Soviet state in international politics has inevitably increased the impact of factors far beyond Soviet frontiers on Soviet domestic life and on the interrelationships between internal and external policy. This is clear in three particular areas: trade, treatment of dissenters and Jews, and scientific and cultural relationships, the latter defined in part by agreements with other countries providing for exchange.
Economic relations with the outside world provide an especially obvious connection. Increased trade with the West since the late 1960s has opened the Soviet Union to external influences, as it did in earlier centuries of Russian history. However, Western leverage through trade and credit relations with the Soviet Union can be successful only if the Western alliance develops and follows a coherent and coordinated governmental policy, which is hardly likely. The belief that by manipulating Western credits and trade one can significantly influence Soviet behavior has as little merit as the notion that the Soviets will change and become much more moderate as a result of trade and contacts with the West. Yet one should remember that political interaction involves marginal changes and adjustments. If commercial dealings between the West and the Soviet Union cease to be a private business and become rather an instrument of governmental policy, they may have a salutary effect on Soviet foreign policy, even if only a few Western industrial democracies support the United States in such long-term endeavors.
Another influence of foreign relations on the domestic system concerns the formal and therefore restricted exchange of people and ideas, which has been taking place for twenty-five years. Its first, although probably not its most important, effect has been on Western specialists on the Soviet Union and the political public in the West. American experts on Soviet life have profited from living and working in Soviet society, thus expanding their knowledge and understanding, which they have passed on to others through publication and the educational process. In addition, the impact of Western contacts upon the Soviet elite has been considerable. Travel is the greatest privilege of all for them, and Western cultural influences of every kind have engulfed this element of Soviet society, with powerful longterm effects.
The exchanges have also “educated” Soviet experts and increased their sophistication with regard to political processes within the United States and other Western countries. Whether this is a positive or negative development depends on how the Soviet leadership will use it.
The clearest effect of the exchanges is in science and technology, where the Soviets have acquired information of considerable value for improving the quality of their military equipment and of electronic and other such industries. Some believe that these exchanges have also influenced Soviet scientists, making them a force for peace and for moderation in Soviet policies. This is doubtful, because they serve the system quietly and faithfully and in any case have little influence on policy makers, other than by providing technical expertise.
Some Western observers believed and hoped that the greatest consequences of detente and of the various exchanges would be their impact on the Soviet mass public, which they assumed would exert a major influence on Soviet dealings with the West, particularly with the United States. They underestimated the efficacy of Soviet political controls and the mobilizing force of Russian nationalism and overestimated the impact of exchanges. The Soviet mass public remains today as subordinate to the Soviet regime and as politically apathetic as it was before the age of detente arrived.
During the height of detente, Soviet participation in the interna-tional system also influenced the domestic scene in creating some sensitivity to and regard for world, particularly Western, public opinion. It is foolish to think that external public opinion could have decisive influence on Soviet behavior. However, the response of the Soviet leadership to public pressure from abroad at that time showed a clear preoccupation with its outward image on issues that were marginal to Soviet stability or goals.
In short, the Soviet leaders have learned how important Western public opinion can be at times for the success or failure of central foreign policies of the USSR, such as European detente. They have showed a willingness, as Stalin did not, to adjust marginal policies at home to foreign policy goals. The most vivid illustration of this type of accommodation was the response to Jewish and German emigration and the treatment of well-known dissenters, a “liberalism” that created precedents that may haunt the leadership in the future.
The 1980s Succession: Character and Impact
In the highly centralized and bureaucratized Soviet party-state, transfers of power from one leader to another are events of great consequence in their direct and indirect impact on structure and policies. One can predict with little risk that by far the most important domestic political event in the Soviet Union during the 1980s will be the leadership and elite successions.
The major shifts of power implied by the term “succession” con-stitute a severe test of the stability of the Soviet political system, as well as a major discontinuity in the process of policy making and in the substance of policies. No predetermined tenure of office attaches to the post of the leader. The terms of office, the attributes of rights and obligations and of power and influence are not standardized, nor is the protocol for relinquishing the post. Moreover, the degree of uncertainty in the procedures for selecting a new leader and for consolidating his position is much higher in the Soviet Union than in most other societies. This injects a pronounced element of unpredictability into the political process.
The consequences for the political system are profound. Proba-bilities of deep personal and policy conflicts within the top leadership structure increase. Possibilities for resolving the conflicts in extreme ways are maximized, and tendencies toward large-scale personnel changes within the leadership itself, and among the top elites and the bureaucratic hierarchies within which they function, grow. A period of succession offers a high potential for destroying bureaucratic inertia and for changing policies. It is conducive to structural changes, the introduction of clusters of new policies, and realignment of political coalitions. In sum, the succession, aside from its own intrinsic importance, acts as a catalyst for pressures and tendencies within society that previously had limited opportunity for expression and realization.
The succession process in the Soviet Union has been going on for quite a while. With the death of Brezhnev and his replacement by Yuri Andropov, it has entered its most dramatic and decisive stage. The present succession combines some characteristics of past successions with a number of exceptional features that give it important political implications.
From a narrow point of view, the succession concerns the re-placement of the top leader and the process of the new leader’s con solidation of power. The present succession might see not only the replacement of Brezhnev by another leader (Andropov), but also the failure of this leader to consolidate power, resulting in still another leader in the 1980s. From another point of view, this succession might also produce the formation of a largely new core leadership group and, as if in concentric circles, the turnover of a large part of the central elite, the advisory group who serves the Secretariat and the Politburo, and even local elites. From this point of view, the present transfer will certainly produce replacement of the majority of the core leadership group and of a large part of the central party-state elites. In all probability it will also produce major changes in the advisory group. The probable ratio of turnover among the republic and provincial leadership is more uncertain.
The age cohort structure of the leadership and elites during the final years of Brezhnev’s rule is such that the replacement not only will be massive but also will occur in a relatively short time because of actuarial conditions. The greatest concentrations of holders of high offices occur in the late sixties-early seventies age group, and in the early-to-mid-fifties age group. The turnover of the political elite for reasons of health and retirement, as well as of power and policy, will lead most probably to the replacement of old officials with younger individuals. In the latter part of the succession process, particularly if the new top leader is only a transitional figure, those selected for the leadership and central elite posts will increasingly belong to a new generation, who entered political life during the post-Stalin era.
In longevity, Brezhnev’s eighteen years in office were second only to Stalin’s and much longer than the tenure of Roosevelt, Adenauer, Churchill, or De Gaulle. Moreover, in stability of the leadership and elite and in continuity and stability of policy, the Brezhnev period was longer than any previous one in Soviet history. Unless one believes in the Soviet institutionalization of leadership and elite relations and policies, one must expect that such a long period of stability and of petrification has led to an accumulation of unresolved animosities, conflicts, and policy initiatives likely to explode during the succession.
The single most important characteristic of the present situation is that the succession process overlaps with the need to resolve a large agenda of domestic and international issues that have accumulated over the past decade. Some of these issues, like the question of economic growth, are qualitatively different from those of the past two successions in that they require nontraditional methods of approach and new structural arrangements for effective resolution.
Many Western observers automatically associate the terms “suc-cession” and “crisis.” Looking back, it is clear that one can characterize only one of the past two successions, that after Stalin’s death, as a critical period. Furthermore, the crisis which that succession created was primarily one of leadership, not of the system.
Many suggest that the replacement of Brezhnev will constitute a “crisis” not merely of leadership, but also of the system. It is probable that replacing Brezhnev will bring about a leadership crisis that will be closer in level and depth to that after Stalin’s death than to that after the ouster of Khrushchev. At the same time, one should not underestimate Soviet reserves of political and social stability, and one should be skeptical concerning predictions of a systemic crisis in the Soviet Union.
Of all the positions whose incumbents change during succession, the most important is that of the top party leader, the first or general secretary. The man who occupies this position, in addition to leadership of the Secretariat, the party apparatus executive body, also chairs the top decision-making interfunctional body, the Politburo. He who acquires this position inherits the prerogatives of office, which are awesome but to a large extent potential. The occupant of the office acquires a great advantage over his colleagues in the Politburo, some of whom certainly consider themselves contenders because the office carries organizational strength, symbolism, and tradition. All three top leaders in Soviet history—Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev— held this office and the control of the party apparatus which it ensures.
Yet one should be aware that the value of the first secretaryship depends on what its incumbent wants to do, can do, and does during the process of the transfer of power. Stalin used the office as a lever to achieve unlimited personal dictatorship. Khrushchev used it to attain great power, but an overwhelming coalition of his colleagues ousted him when he tried to achieve independence from his support among the major bureaucracies without reinstating Stalin’s terror. Brezhnev invested the office with great powers, which he used in a cautious and limited way, never challenging the vested interests of any major bureaucracy.
Early in the succession process, and as its result, the successful incumbent to the top leadership position gradually builds support among his colleagues in the Politburo, the Secretariat, and their constituent bureaucracies. He enlarges the prerogatives of the office and accumulates additional roles partially implied in it. In his position as chairman of the Politburo, he gains influence to the extent that he is able to set the agenda of policy making and to gain the support of the majority through new appointments. When and if his position becomes unchallenged, he may combine it with that of prime minister or the head of state. He becomes publicly recognized as commander-in chief of the armed forces and unchallenged spokesman with foreign leaders. Finally, his position becomes personified; that is, he and the power of the office blend or merge.
Western specialists do not agree on the extent of Brezhnev’s power, although all recognize that it was greater than that of any colleague. Some assert that determining its extent is crucial in evaluating the importance of the succession. Clearly, the greater Brezhnev’s role, the more important his biases, idiosyncracies, and preferences were in establishing policies, the greater the potential discontinuity the appointment of Andropov will have created. Yet the magnitude of the departed general secretary’s authority does not ensure that of his successor. It is sufficient to agree that Brezhnev’s powers were considerable and that the vacuum his departure created is significant.
The critical questions about the new general secretary’s power and policies concern other issues: the time element in the succession or successions; constraints on the general secretary’s power; and elite consensus versus elite policy conflicts during the old and new general secretary’s tenure.
Since the retirement and death of Alexei Kosygin, the process of succession has been underway. The elevation of Konstantin Chernenko within the Politburo, the disappearance of Andrei Kirilenko from public view, the appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev to the Politburo, the death of Mikhail Suslov, and the return of Yuri Andropov to the Secretariat of the Central Committee were all steps in an unfolding process. Equally important was the semiretirement of Brezhnev, who in his last two to three years worked only intermittently, and then for only a few hours a day. Until the summer of 1982, most observers believed that Brezhnev had ceased to direct affairs of party and state on a day-by-day basis but retained the levers of power. By the end of the summer of 1982 this no longer seemed certain, although like many old and infirm leaders he clung desperately to his powers in office. Chernenko, who relied on Brezhnev for his position, may have encouraged this.
This process, in which the succession began while the leader was still in office and his powers were declining, was different from that of the last two successions. At the same time, expectations regarding the outcome of the change and impatience to complete the succession were discernible and resembled the last years of Stalin’s rule.
The longer Brezhnev stayed in office, the greater became the fragmentation of the leadership group, with various factions staking claims to succession; the greater became the accumulation of urgent unresolved issues; and the higher the likelihood of conflict after Brezhnev died in office. The timetable question has another, more important aspect: the age of the successor and the time he has to accumulate and realize the powers of office. Andropov is 68 years old, and he has had a heart attack. While his first steps in office and the appointment of his loyalists to some central positions were decisive and immediate, it is still unclear how quick and full the process of his consolidation of power will be.
The powers of the position of general secretary are nominal. The incumbent may require years of alliance building and utilization of the power of appointment to acquire unchallenged authority. Andropov may be a transitional leader, a caretaker for an interim period between two successions, who will not have time to acquire genuine authority. The important succession will be that of the successor to Andropov. Thus, after almost two decades of stability of personnel and leadership, a longer period than any other in Soviet history, we may see two successions in one decade, with destabilizing effects.
The way in which a transitional succession may influence policy making in form and substance depends on the decision-making patterns it establishes. One model suggests the succession as a “honeymoon” for the incumbent to the top position in the initial period. His colleagues assist him to initiate innovative policies concerning both process and substance. One author contends: “Numerous case studies provide strong evidence that policy change is greatest right after the succession, and those new policies are precisely the ones advocated by the new First Secretary…. Only later did they run into difficulties in implementation. Thus, a honeymoon, with its implied cooperative spirit, would seem to operate in Socialist contexts. It seems to be a time, in view of the results, when the new leader has the power and desire to make a change. He seems to be allowed a grace period during which he is supposed to earn his mandate. Later, of course, failure expands, political debts pile up, opposition grows, compliance fails—the honeymoon ends as it does in the West.”1
The second model suggests that occupying the office of First Secretary only begins a long battle and that the succession is not resolved for several years. The new leader possesses sufficient power and stable political alliances to implement effectively his major policy preferences only in the later, postconsolidation phase of the succession.
If the first model should develop, potential for two successions in the 1980s would suggest periods of great uncertainty and flux in the Soviet Union and great potential ability for successors to introduce and implement major changes in decision making and in policies. If the second system should occur, the transitional succession would result not only in flux and uncertainty, but in few policy initiatives and in no major changes in substance and form of policy formulation.
I believe the second model the more likely, in part because the unfolding of the succession in the last two or three years suggests this scenario, and in part because it resembles the past successions. However, the two possibilities which seem most probable are complementary.
Andropov, a man of Brezhnev’s own generation, might be able to introduce policy initiatives in economic matters and to implement those structure and policy changes about which the elite and leadership hold a general consensus. Thus, after Stalin’s demise, his successors ended secret police intervention in elite conflicts and abolished mass terror, Khrushchev initiated new agricultural policies during the early phase of his dominance, and Brezhnev abolished the sovnarkhoz and administrative bifurcation system in the early phase of his rule. If a second, more permanent succession follows, the 1980s might produce major policy initiatives and marginal structural reforms upon which the entire political elite may agree, but the leadership would delay major unpopular policies until the 1990s.
The question of contraints on the general secretary’s power after the period of consolidation is crucial. The institutional constraints may be partially a response to elite and leadership experience with the departed leader and may represent a secular trend in the evolution of the general secretary’s powers. The powers of the leader’s office and of the person who occupies this office have declined from Stalin to Khrushchev to Brezhnev, when one examines not only the abstract limits on their powers but also the question, “power for what?”
Part of this devolution is a reaction to the experience the elites have enjoyed with the last leader. The danger the elite experienced under Stalin’s personal dictatorship cut short Khrushchev’s quest for personal power and made him pay for his insensitivity to his colleagues’ institutional interests. Brezhnev’s behavior was clearly a response to the experience with Khrushchev and his inglorious end.
The decline of the general secretary’s powers may also represent a secular trend reflecting the growing complexity of Soviet society and the devolution of power in an oligarchical setting. In this view, the checking and balancing powers of the oligarchical leadership and broadening of the policy-making process became institutionalized in the Brezhnev era and may survive or even widen under his successors. However, one cannot preclude the emergence of a very strong leader, especially in the second succession. The extent of the leader’s powers may be a cyclical phenomenon rather than a secular trend, and the elite’s need and the desire for a strong leader may not balance sufficiently their fear of the consequences.
Another question concerning the succession concerns the two different patterns of interelite and of elite-leader relations. Under Khrushchev, the pattern was primarily that of conflict; under Brezh nev it was that of compromise. Some believe that the latter pattern represents an institutionalization of broad elite participation in policy making that will probably survive the rise of a new leader. Others argue that the pattern represents a response to the Khrushchev turmoil and experimentation and may therefore change after a period of prolonged stability and immobilism. I subscribe to the latter point of view and expect a high degree of conflict about power and policies within the leadership, among the elite, and between the leader and various elites.
The Age Factor: Old Incumbents vs. New Challengers
The central Soviet leadership consists of the full and alternate members of the Politburo, the Secretariat, the Presidium of the Council of Ministers, and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. The most striking characteristic of this group as a whole is its advanced age, one higher than at any time in Soviet history, during any preceding succession, and in the comparable group in any industrial society. Moreover, the distribution of age groups within the leadership is such that a large proportion of its members is not simply old but very old and that the proportion of the youngest, though not young, group is relatively small.
The oldest group constitutes the core of each institution, the most important and influential members. These men and alternates have an average tenure of seventeen years in the Politburo and have experienced a long working relationship with each other in the central apparatus. The younger members are either very recent additions without much experience within the central apparatus in Moscow, or provincial and republican officials whose main responsibilities normally keep them away from the capital. In the highly centralized Soviet system, this makes them marginal, second-class members of these institutions.
No precedent exists for the advanced age of this oligarchy in Soviet history or for clustering such a high proportion in the highest age bracket, especially in the midst of succession. When Stalin died, he was 70 years old; when Khrushchev was ousted, he was 70. Yet, the oligarchies they left were much younger than the current leadership group and relatively young as individuals. The youngest full member of the Politburo today is older than the average Politburo member on the eve of Stalin’s succession; the youngest alternate member of the Politburo today is older than the average alternate Politburo member on the eve of Khrushchev’s ascent. These data suggest that the succession will not consist simply of replacement of the leader, but of a massive replacement and reshuffling within the highest echelons of the hierarchy.
While somewhat lower, the age configuration of the central lead-ership reappears in the central elite, the party and state functionaries who serve in Moscow directly below the central leadership level. This group also faces massive changes in the 1980s, even if politically dictated retirements and replacements do not occur on a broad scale.
Two additional elements underscore the incongruity of this fac-tor and its significance. First, the Soviet Union is a very young country: according to the 1970 census, almost 50 percent of its population was 25 years old or younger. Second, the party-state leadership and elites outside of Moscow—that is to say, in the republics and provinces—are older than at any time in Soviet history, but not old by the standards of the central elite and leadership, nor considering their responsibilities.
The Central Committee already has a considerable representation of younger members, a new generation, in all levels of responsibility, especially the middle echelons of the various hierarchies, and the adviser-experts to the leaders also include a new generation. In the highly centralized Soviet system, the stability and the continuing domination of a coterie of old leaders, who are afraid of change and who stifle initiative for transforming established policies and routines, have circumscribed and dampened that younger generation’s impact on policy formulation. Assuming that the influx of newcomers to positions of high and intermediate levels of power will slowly accelerate and attain a high level during the coming decade, during and partly as a result of the succession, the key question still remains: how will the newcomers differ from those they replace; how will their style of leadership, manner of behavior in office, attitudes, beliefs, and actions compare to those of their predecessors?
Answering these questions in a satisfactory manner is impossible. We do know that the younger elite members, today primarily at the republican and provincial levels, belong to a different political generation than most of their superiors in the central leadership. Therefore, in the succession, especially its later phases, we will witness a generational change among Soviet elites as well as replacement of the leader and the larger part of the highest leadership stratum.
I define political generation as an elite group whose membership is homogeneous with respect to a particular life experience at a similar point of its development. It is easy to claim excessive importance for such a concept, especially when data about elite attitudes and behavior are scarce. Yet within bounds, the indirect data concerning the new generation can be important.
The members of the new elite generation entered politics after Stalin’s death. They did not experience the paralyzing and destructive process of terror that corroded and influenced the behavior of the earlier generations, despite their renunciation of mass terror, nor did they develop an appreciation of the price of Soviet achievements. Their crucial formative political experience took place during the protracted ferment and shock of Khrushchev’s anti-Stalin campaign that frankly admitted some of the monstrosities no one hitherto had dared to name and that questioned authority and established truths, thereby stimulating critical thought.
The party apparatus also established supremacy among the hierarchies during this period. The entrance of this generation into politics coincided also with open recognition of the gross inadequacies of Soviet development and the backwardness of Soviet technology and with extravagant predictions of equaling Western achievements in the foreseeable future, predictions that collapsed with great embar-rassment.
It is, of course, difficult to reach confident generalizations about a large group of officials about whom one’s knowledge is limited and suspect. However, analysis of the information available suggests that certain qualities distinguish this amorphous cohort from those ruling today.
The new generation is clearly Soviet in its persistent adherence to the cult of the state. One cannot doubt the sincerity of its commitment to the most basic forms of Soviet political organization and its belief that the system is right and proper for the Soviet Union. However, they are skeptical about the grander claims of Soviet propaganda concerning the system’s merits. In private, they do not disguise their dislike of and lack of respect for the old generation.
This new generation seems scarcely touched by populist and egalitarian traditions. Grossly materialistic in wants and expectations, it has a highly developed career orientation, a cult of professionalism and elitism. Condescending in attitudes toward compatriots and older colleagues, its members appear self-confident and insensitive to real or imagined slights. Just as one postulates strong bonds of generational solidarity for the old elite, one can suppose that members of the new generation are forming similar bonds.
Some traits of the new generation may appear contradictory. On the one hand one detects a sense of security that contrasts with the old generation’s feeling of insecurity. At the same time, their attitude toward the Soviet system is defensive. If they seem stronger, more self-confident, they are also more aware of and sensitive to the failures, shortcomings, and backwardness of contemporary Soviet society and polity than their predecessors were.
The present leadership presents a specific type of modernizing mentality, thoroughly conservative insofar as it seeks to combine in-cremental material progress and welfare with preserving the social and political relations and the organizational framework on which material production is based. It compartmentalizes the process of modernization and tries to insulate each compartment from the others. In its most extreme form one might call it the Saudi Arabian mentality of modernization. With regard to economic development, it measures progress by how much change has occurred rather than by how much remains to create a thoroughly modernized society. It is rooted in the past and in a curious way reconciled to the fact that the Soviet Union is the most developed of underdeveloped societies or the least developed of the developed countries. This means, as T. H. Rigby has written, that “Russia’s second Industrial Revolution is presided over by men who may have overlearned the task of implementing the first.” It seeks progress by small steps without grand vision and grand designs. It is pragmatic in that it has respect for what is possible, but its calculus of what is possible is petty.
The modernizing mentality of the new generation is quite differ-ent. It recognized the Brezhnev administration’s inability to define directions for development. It deplores the backwardness of Soviet society, the system’s functional deficiencies, and the administration’s inability to make progress, while at the same time it is confident of its own ability. It may be less likely to accept actual or potential international achievements as substitutes for internal development. It may be willing to pay a high price in political and social change if persuaded that this would ensure substantial improvement in the growth and efficiency of the productive and distributive processes. Above all, it would like “to see the country moving again.”
I do not suggest the existence of a new generation of officials with reformist tendencies similar to those of Dubček in Czechoslovakia. Nor will it be favorably disposed to the highly ideological, frantic, and campaign-like type of innovations associated with Khrushchev. At the same time, it would be surprising if they were not reform-minded in the Soviet framework and if they were rather less than more responsible and comfortable opponents in the international arena than Brezhnev was. They may be less cautious, more prone to take risks than the Brezhnev leadership, precisely because they have not experienced the cost of building Soviet might and simply assume Soviet great-power status.
The extent to which the entrance of the post-Stalin generation will influence Soviet policies in the 1980s will depend radically on the timing of their entrance into leadership. Isolated individuals, such as Gorbachev in the Politburo, Dolgikh in the Secretariat, or Katushev in the Presidium of the Council of Ministers have had to adjust their style and preferences to those of their colleagues and superiors. If, however, the turnover during the sucession is high and the new elite enter the central leadership in great numbers, their impact on the style of leadership and policies may be substantial. One should not expect this until the end of the 1980s.
To summarize, the present succession, whatever the form and results of its initial state, will involve a replacement in the leadership and the central establishment on a scale much greater than the last two successions and will combine with a generational turnover of the political elite. This conjunction of successions in both the broad and narrow sense has no precedent in Soviet history and may have longterm duration and significance.
The Role of the Issues
The importance of the coming successions also rests on policy and structural issues that will constitute the decade’s agenda. The combination of change of leadership with the significance of the numerous issues that remain unresolved makes the 1980s crucial.
Leaderships in Communist and noncommunist societies often delay and even exclude important emergent or chronic issues from their agenda or do not resolve them in any comprehensive or decisive fashion. Sometimes the leadership does not recognize the seriousness of the issues; sometimes no one possesses enough power and influence to place them on the agenda; sometimes neglecting them seems wise because any solution would endanger the political system. At times, a lack of action reflects deliberate logic, that of politics rather than of analysis.
The problems the Soviet Union faces are of such a serious and protracted nature that the price of irresolution will be high. Moreover, much evidence suggests that the leadership and elite are keenly aware of these issues and their significance. One may, therefore, expect that the new leaders will at least consider the issues, even if they do not make their resolution possible.
Are policy issues important in a succession? Are they not simply a smokescreen behind which hide the ambitions and power urges of the contenders? Clearly the succession is, if nothing else, a struggle between individuals and factions that goes through many phases. One cannot succeed in reaching a position in the Politburo if one is not ambitious and skilled in the game of power. One does not become the leader if one is not more ruthless than his opponents in manipulating power resources.
Yet policy issues, initiatives, and programs play a central role in the transfer of power. The leaders who contend have an urge to put into practice ideas that they have developed on their road to the top. Moreover, the activist Soviet ideology makes the leadership, the elite, and the political public expect from the leader or contender interven tionist behavior, policies that try to answer problems and provide some vision of the future. In addition, policy initiatives are a key resource in the struggle for position. A contender can triumph and consolidate power not only by force, but also by manipulating coalitions grouped around institutional interests and policies and by persuasive appeals to colleagues, the strategic elite, and the party at large. Succession, then, is a period not only of power plays, but also of policy posturing and initiatives. He who wins is not only the one who wields power most effectively, but also the one who best meets the party’s and elite’s perception of national needs.
The contenders’ policy initiatives are often an anticipatory reac-tion to the leadership’s fear that the workers, for example, might become disruptive and dangerous if the government did not give sufficient consideration to their interests. Lessons of the dangers of workers’ dissatisfaction in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, have impressed Soviet leaders. In a system where stability is highly valued, some dissent exists, mass terror is absent, popular expectations have been encouraged, and the opening of Soviet society to foreigners has made material comparison possible, the party must pay attention to the population’s material satisfactions so that it can continue to curtail cultural and political freedoms and preserve political stability. In short, ambition, power, and desire for change all meet in a succession, preparing the ground for introducing innovative policy initiatives, most likely around two poles, promises for more and better consumer goods and promises for greater successes in the international field.
The economic agenda of the succession is the most obvious and important. Year after year, decade after decade, the leaders poured ever-increasing quantities of labor, capital, land, and natural resources into the economy to meet their goals. In the 1980s, the economy has reached a stage of maturity which makes rapid growth no longer possible through the use of the traditional Soviet methods, mobilization and extensive growth. One can compare it to an addict who needs increasing quantities of narcotics to get a “high” but whose supplies do not meet his needs or are even decreasing.
A number of factors discussed elsewhere explain the declining rate of growth of the Soviet economy: the centralized system of man-agement and planning, weakness of the Soviet industrial infrastructure, unfavorable demographic trends, exhaustion of cheap natural resources, an unfavorable energy balance, an aged machine stock, an enormously inefficient agricultural sector, and many other factors.
All Western observers agree that the Soviet Union faces a difficult economic situation in the 1980s, at worst, a period of low growth intermingled with stagnation and decline. Even the more optimistic predictions indicate that the Soviet Union will experience an economic crunch far more severe than anything it has encountered since the 1930s.
Evidence abounds that Soviet leaders are aware of this. The dif-ference between the optimistic and the pessimistic scenarios are im-portant; some observers forecast a difficult situation, others a crisis. Moreover, the choice of the most likely scenario cannot depend alone on more or less precise and complex computations, but must take into account such unpredictable elements as the vagaries of nature and the seriousness and extent of countervailing policies the government adopts. Brezhnev’s leadership delayed decisions necessary for improving economic performance. His successors will be denied this luxury; they must do something to ensure domestic peace. Uppermost in their minds will be tensions within the industrial working class, but making significant changes in the management of the economy would raise many other problems as well.
A major economic change in the Soviet Union would require thoroughgoing change of the pricing system and a sharp change in the workers’ position in the industrial marketplace. Prices of consumer goods, particularly food and basic goods, are kept very low through immense state subsidies. Any thorough and far-reaching reform would have to abandon artificial prices and allow costs to determine prices, which workers would resent.
Can a more innovative leadership emerge during the succession? If the emergent leader, Andropov, is convinced of the necessity for far-reaching change—a large assumption—he will need time to attain sufficient strength to launch a significant program. Such a leader may emerge only during the second succession. If the past is any indication, it will take him several years to amass the necessary powers. Because of the powerful forces allied against radical reform, he could achieve this only under remarkable circumstances.
The vested political and economic interests against such a change are powerful and will remain so even when the turnover of elites and leadership is high and when the pressures to “get the country moving” again intensify. Those resistant to change are numerous and powerful: the central planners and central bureaucracies, whose amassed powers would decline; the political and economic apparatus that is afraid of the potentially negative political repercussions of reform; the medium and low-level managers and technocrats, who are trained and experienced in how to work within the system and who have benefited from it; and even the educated low-level bureaucrats and skilled workers, who profit from present arrangements. One author has remarked: “After 60 years of experience with the Socialist economy run by government agencies … nearly everyone seems to have found ways to turn its shortcomings to individual ad vantage.”2 The Soviet Union is after all a very conservative society, one which lacks the ability the Japanese have shown to assimilate and improve the work of others and to master the techniques of change.
Initiative for reform in the face of widespread and strong opposi-tion at all levels will not come from a powerful coalition from below. Reform will require energetic initiative and constant pushing from above, especially from the First Secretary.
An oligarchic leadership, which by its nature has to act by bar-gaining and compromise, is ill-suited for initiating and executing major reforms of structures, procedures, or even policies. Thus, the future of reform depends to a large degree on the inclination of the top leader and on his ability to pursue and realize those inclinations.
Stalin’s successors sought support from the growing and increas-ingly important professional and middle strata, whom it managed to insulate from the heterogeneous dissent movement. The Soviet “in-telligentsia,” paid off by the regime in increased material well-being and a degree of professional automony, remains career-oriented, very much part of the system.
The growing dependence of the leadership and elites on the expertise and advice of professional groups is relevant. Stephen F. Cohen is probably right when he stresses that the spirit of reform and “liberalism” is not dead but was only dormant under Brezhnev and that one would find the greatest support for radical reform among some professional groups, especially the economists. In light of their significant advisory capacity, it is important that these groups unite; this happened in Hungary and helps explain implementation of radical reforms there.
However, these groups are fragmented and divided in the Soviet Union on the kind of reforms needed, neutralizing their potential for influencing change. The various factions in the leadership, the various sectoral and functional segments of the elites manipulate them easily. Both proponents and opponents of change in the leadership will find and mobilize experts for their respective positions.
The Soviet Union has not yet experienced the explosion of ex-pectations characteristic of the advanced industrial societies and of parts of the underdeveloped world. Soviet workers’ expectations reflect their past experiences and remain low by Western standards. In the post-Stalin era they experienced a slow but steady improvement in the standard of living. Consumption, especially in durable goods, rose substantially, particularly in the 1964—76 period. Moreover, the system offered a safety valve for aspirations by providing mobility for their children into middle-class positions and occupations, partly the result of deliberate policy and partly a concomitant of rapid industrial growth.
Thus far in the 1980s, the living standard of Soviet workers has remained constant, but it may now decline, a new experience for the overwhelming majority, composed of young people who did not know the postwar years of hunger, denial, and terror. Moreover, the movement of their children into the middle and professional strata will decline, due to sagging industrial growth, stringencies in educational expenditure, and stiff competition from the children of the new middle class. Neither American observers nor Soviet leaders themselves know how the workers would respond to a period of prolonged belt-tightening.
The Soviet worker does not work hard and receives little in real terms for his work. The road to higher consumer goods incentives requires that he work harder and receive more. However, unless he starts to work harder he cannot receive more. In other words, the government must ensure greater worker productivity before wages provide the incentive to work better, a typical vicious circle. Yet, the worker will not receive more at the initial stages of a new approach to the economy but will suffer from an austerity program designed to bring basic commodity prices in line with their costs and their availability. Furthermore, change would impinge on the workers’ job security, the most important workers’ achievement under Communism. It is easy to organize a small-scale Shchekino experiment but quite difficult to apply it throughout the country. Therefore, thorough changes would initially have a high cost for the workers and would create combustible social and political resentment. It is likely that the political dangers inherent in such reform will prevent its initiation or implementation.
I do not suggest that the reaction would evolve into a Russian edition of the Solidarity movement in Poland. The Soviet system and the Soviet working class are quite different from their Polish counterparts and have different traditions. Yet I anticipate lower productivity, greater absenteeism, more illegal economic activity, and perhaps unrest and even sporadic violence.
Another source of social conflict may be worsening relationships between the dominant Russians and the other nations of the “internal” empire. Peace during the Brezhnev era rested not only on intimidation and coercion, but also on circumstances which may not exist for the remainder of the 1980s: the rising standard of living and permissiveness toward private economic activity in the national republics, both greater than in Russia proper. A compact between Russian decision makers and non-Russian administrators in the republics also provided career opportunities for the native elite. In the last decade, however, these elites have reached such a level of education and professionalism that they have developed a sense of identity and may question the need for Russian overseers. In any case, the change in ethnodemographic trends means increased tensions between the dominant Russians and the dominated non-Russians.
Thus, the 1980s will surely see increased pressures for change but ever greater difficulties delaying or preventing it. The system’s major dilemma is how to impose new priorities effectively on old structures and processes. What is the likelihood that the pressures of necessity will produce a successful attempt to transform old structures and processes? If by transformation one means market socialism or anything even similar, for instance, to the Hungarian model, the odds overwhelmingly oppose it.
In addition to the rooted opposition of social groups, the eco-nomic and technical difficulties of change are great. A major change would most certainly involve a temporary decline in production and productivity, would significantly increase the need for real incentives, and would require reeducating the labor force and management. The difficult transition period from the old to the new system would require large reserves of capital and consumer goods, at a time when the economy will be stretched to its outer limits, and when planning is especially taut, with reserves dwindling. In short, the Soviet leaders will face a dilemma; the enormous pressures stemming from serious shortcomings do create initiative for change, but successful reform requires a cushion of economic performance to subsidize the transition. The political risks of attempting significant change during a period of economic decline must seem very great to any leadership, probably graver than the consequences of living with the old system and its shortcomings.
Another key obstacle to successful change concerns the reform mechanism, the pattern in which changes occur under conditions of post-Stalinist politics. Far-reaching reforms must be carried out ex-tensively, without hesitation, not in a piecemeal fashion. The necessary determination and persistence for such action will most likely be lacking until the effects of such a reform are tested and recognized as effective. Judging from past Soviet experience, the response to this contradiction tends to be self-defeating. From the various possibilities, the leadership usually selects a compromise solution which will cause the least disturbance, requires the least cost and effort, and serves as an experiment on a limited scale.
Consequently, the results of change are far from conclusive and even disappointing. This outcome in turn fuels the arguments of opponents who prevent continuing change. The leadership reverts to the traditional way of doing business and continues to tinker, which absorbs and distorts well-intentioned piecemeal reforms. This piecemeal mechanism explains the inherent stability of the traditional economic system and of the instability of reform methods in the Soviet Union.
The multinational and nominally federal nature of the Soviet system also exerts a conservative influence on reformist tendencies. A radical liberalizing change would diffuse economic authority within the Soviet Union, anathema to men whose central belief is in centralized power. The leadership might tolerate such diffusion if the benefits were sufficiently high but would have to weigh carefully the effects any change would have, especially on the non-Russians. The Soviet leadership during the Brezhnev period has been able to achieve relatively peaceful relations between the dominant Russian elite and the non-Russians through a shrewd carrot and stick policy. The balance of those relations is quite precarious and is susceptible to destructive conflicts on both elite and mass levels. Instituting a liberalizing economic reform could and probably would upset that balance, tantamount to restructuring relationships among nationalities, a price they are unlikely to pay and a danger they would hardly like to face.
Thus, a major economic reorganization would constitute an over-haul of the system which would require a basic change in the working style of the leadership, elite and sub-elite, and would have a significant impact upon other spheres of Soviet life. One does not embark on such an extremely serious undertaking unless convinced that the crisis within the system is so great that fundamental changes are essential. The old leadership and the elite under Brezhnev did not reach that conclusion, and no compelling evidence exists as yet that the emerging leadership and elite under Andropov would either.
In considering a thorough or even timid reform in the Soviet Union, any Soviet leaders must anticipate also its potential impact upon Eastern Europe. Any revisions in the Soviet Union could only encourage forces for change there. Therefore, only an enormously confident or desperate Soviet leadership would initiate internal policies that would undermine its external holdings. The situation in Eastern Europe during the rest of the 198os will be very difficult economically, explosive socially, and precarious politically. This will influence the Soviet leadership in an anti-reformist direction.
In conclusion, despite the unprecedented pressure the difficult economic situation will create for change and the rare opportunities the coming successions offer, a successful, far-reaching reform that would move in the direction of market socialism is unlikely. Changes attempted will probably be hesitant, limited in scope, and ultimately absorbed by the system. They may approach the watershed dividing this kind of reform from one which will revise the system, but they will reject the market socialism or the abolition of direct planning at the level of execution.
The most likely course is that the leadership will continue to tinker with the economic system, intensifying its “organizational” and “mobilizational” changes. Characteristically, such reforms succeed in improving one aspect of the system or in counteracting its shortcomings but do not revise the system’s basic parameters. They occur at the margins of the official economy and are directed at relieving pressures on the consumer sector.
A likely marginal change of some importance may entail, as one author suggests, “a NEP type of change which retains the centrally planned economy largely intact, but allows for a flourishing smallscale private sector. Since it entails no retreat from central planning, but rather the development of a new secondary economy that offers some promise of spurring new imitation and innovation, it may be entertained seriously by the proposed successional leadership.”3
One should not dismiss partial changes and tinkering as having no importance. Politics concerns marginal advantages and changes, and the difference between no change or some change to the political actors could constitute the distinction between a difficult situation and a deep crisis. As Hugh Heclo and Aaron Wildavsky have suggested: “In expenditures, one man’s margin is another man’s profit. The tiny differences which may seem unworthy of argument yield the little extras that make life worth living. Policies, as we have seen, are bargained on these margins. A few percent of hundreds of millions … may make the difference between sufficiency and stringency, contentment and dissatisfaction, elbow room and the straitjacket.”4
In summary, I anticipate no fundamental changes during this decade, despite intensive and divisive discussion concerning economic reforms, a number of organizational policy initiatives, experimentation with economic structure, and significant political conflict.
It is, of course, easy to predict continuities on the basis of past experience, and some might consider this analysis of prospects for systemic change unduly rigid. The confluence of conditions necessary for an important transformation may seem too restrictive and exaggerated to those who think in terms of historical process which has to transform Communist society. The difficulty in foreseeing discontinuities lies exactly in the fact that past patterns of behavior and experience give little guidance. Yet, as Gregory Grossman has suggested, we still fail to appreciate fully the complicated conjunction of favorable circumstances necessary for a successful transition of the Soviet system beyond its traditional mold.
In each of the previous successions, the leader who acquired the top position and the leadership which he structured responded not only to his own process and policy preferences, but also to the ambitions of key segments of the elite. We do not know how this process of coincidence evolved. Most probably, at the beginning of the succession process, especially in the period of initial consolidation of power, he was responsive to a conglomeration of various interests representing his constituency as against those of his opponents. Thus, the most telling yearnings of all elites after Stalin’s death were simply security of life, the lifting of the mass terror that harmed the elites as well as the masses, and the removal of the stultifying and paralyzing atmosphere of Stalinist Russia. After Khrushchev’s ouster, the major goals of the elite were security of office, bureaucratic stability, an end to endless experimentation, reforms, and campaigns, and greater professional autonomy.
What were the desires of particular segments of the elite on the eve of the post-Brezhnev succession? Each specialized functional elite and each of its subsegments has its particular interests and constituency, specific fears and hopes. Yet some generalized political moods in the Soviet Union of the early 1980s cut across functional and regional lines and old and newly formed coalitions. The profile will be highly impressionistic, formed on the basis of Soviet political, economic, and military publications, Soviet fiction, talks with Soviet officials, experts, and people of various walks of life, and intuitive impressions formed by travels to the Soviet Union.
One such mood, probably the most important and widespread, is the wish “to get the country moving again” because things are not going well and the old dynamism seems lost. Many seek strong leadership which will present new programs of action, of innovation, of improvement. Still another mood is the impatience of the young and especially the middle-aged members with the old generation, which has outlived its time and is blocking advancement of the younger groups. Another discernible mood is longing for greater order and discipline, especially over the workers and the low-level bureaucrats. In past Soviet successions, a hope to get more under a new allocation of resources motivated almost all elite groups. Today the mood seems less optimistic than in the past. Almost all elite groups seem to fear getting less when the reallocation the succession produces takes place.
The economic situation in the 1980s will introduce the politics of scarcity into the Soviet system for the first time. One may argue, of course, that Soviet politics were always that of scarcity. However, the past scarcities of products, raw materials, and capital always went hand in hand with rapid growth in almost all sectors of the economy. The expectation always survived that what was scarce one year would be less scarce in absolute figures the next year, though, of course, remaining still scarce relative to the plan and market demands. Direc-tors of the system on all levels were accustomed to operating with such a set of scarcities.
The system of scarcities of the 1980s will be quite different in that very low growth will accompany it. In the past, the relative degree of their growth differentiated the various sectors and branches of the economy. For the rest of the 1980s, the differentiation will be between decline and stagnation on the one hand and growth on the other. Thus, rapid growth will not exist to provide relative satisfaction of all diverse interests, and low growth rate will create dilemmas both economic and political in nature. Economic consequences of resolving the dilemmas in one way rather than in another will carry an appreciable political cost, and the economic logic of the selection between options may be very different from the political logic.
Economic dilemmas present in every system are resolved through political decisions. Political logic argues for the victory of short-range immediate interests of the strongest constituencies. One can expect severe political conflicts and clashes on the road to compromise. The process of the present transfer of power itself will in all likelihood produce major conflicts between contenders for power and their supporters. The complexity and gravity of social and economic issues within the framework of succession suggest that it may be closer to the post-Stalin succession process than the post-Khrushchev.
The key dilemma concerns the squeeze between consumption, investment, and military expenditures. In a situation of low growth, the pursuit of rates of growth in these three on the level of the 1960s or early 1970s is no longer possible; something has to give. Yet, the economic and political consequences of long-range decisions are enormous.
The stagnation of consumption undermines the program of in-creased productivity on which growth depends and may be politically dangerous. Brezhnev himself in 1981 and 1982 proclaimed that growth of consumption sectors, especially of agriculture, are “the key political tasks” of the Soviet party. Consumption can only grow from cuts in investment or military spending. The redirection of investment into the consumption sector would undermine the effort to improve drastically the productivity of labor and energy through introduction of new technology. The drastic redirection of foreign trade composition away from high technology to consumer products would have a highly detrimental effect on productivity. Cuts in military expenditures, or at least cuts in the growth of military spending, would be a decision of enormous political sensitivity.
Obviously, deciding what has to give and what will give is vastly complicated by repetitiveness within each sector. One may list here the dilemmas of expenditures between labor-productive and energy- productive investment; between oil, gas, and coal within the energy branch; between expansion of production and the overdue replacement of aging machine plant; between trying to break the bottlenecks in the economic infrastructure and expanding productive capacity; between increasing production of arms and military equipment and enlarging the base of the military-industrial complex; and between investing vast sums of money into the long-range capacity of the nonblack-soil sector of Soviet agriculture and more immediate agricultural needs.
A stronger, more tenacious competition for resources among various regions of the Soviet Union will also become involved in the increased inter- and intrasectoral competition for resources. Such competition was a normal facet of Soviet politics in the 1970s. The budgetary squabbles concerning development plans between the Ukraine and Siberia, among the other republics, and among the various provinces of the RSFSR were visible to the outside world. They are certain to increase in the decade.
The difficult political decisions in distributing available resources are complicated by another economic dilemma. The European part of the Soviet Union has a well-developed infrastructure; investments there would be relatively cheap and would provide a high return. At the same time, the European part is poor in natural resources. Those regions in the Russian republic that have natural resources are extremely poor in labor resources and lack infrastructure. Investment here will be extremely expensive and difficult to manage. Central Asia has large labor resources but is poor in natural resources and has a limited infrastructure, especially in the technological sector. In addition, the Slavic elite would fiercely debate the political role of the Central Asian elite in seeking new resources.
Regional leaders assumed the role of king makers during Khrushchev’s rise to power. The regional struggle for resources will intensify during the succession period, when the influence of the provincial and the republican elite traditionally increases. The potential for playing good politics instead of good economics is therefore considerable.
After the Soviet population realizes that it will experience a pro-longed decline in the growth of its living standard, the basic stability of the Brezhnev period and the compact between the elite and the workers will fray. An increase in labor unrest, growing communal dissatisfaction, work stoppages, and industrial demonstrations may occur and will affect the government’s allocation policies.
When a situation becomes difficult, when no prospects for rapid improvement are available, and when tightening of the belt is re quired, the natural response of Soviet leadership, whether old or new, is to tighten political and social controls.
The first and foremost response of the Soviet authorities to such difficulties will almost surely strengthen the party-state’s authoritarian character. Stress on law and order, social discipline, unswerving loyalty, and punitive and restrictive measures against antisocial behavior will almost certainly become more pronounced than in the 1970s. Another likely development is an increase in nationalistic and chauvinistic propaganda and an attempt to create a siege mentality. The role of the secret and not-so-secret police will increase. In short, the Soviet Union is likely to become a more repressive state, probably through a gradual process as domestic problems become less tractable.
Some Western observers, while disclaiming belief in imminent disintegration of the Soviet system, do not think that the system will survive in its present form in the next decade. Their long-range prognosis is that the Soviet Union will either return to a Stalinist autocracy or transform itself into a military regime. The first prognosis would retain the basic Soviet institutional structure and simply tighten its controls with a return to the terror of the decades under Stalin. However, the latter prognosis does not envisage a fundamental change in the structure of Soviet power, but rather a reshuffling of political actors, with the military element or militarists dominant. As one political scientist expressed it, instead of party leaders wearing marshals’ uniforms, marshals would wear party leaders’ civil uniforms. That is to say, military dictatorship may come to Russia disguised as party rule.
I do not believe that the succession and the major policy dilem-mas and troubles of the 1980s provide sufficient cause to expect a return of the terror of Stalin’s years or the establishment of a military dictatorship. The Soviet Union is almost certain to have a government more repressive in its domestic policies with regard to culture, ideology, dissent, discipline, law and order than the Brezhnev government, while at the same time it will be open to a degree of experimentation in the economic area. But unless the very existence of Soviet power is endangered, the return of Stalinism seems unlikely.
One can, of course, argue that the introduction of Stalinism could occur gradually and by stealth; yet one doubts whether history will repeat itself. The experience with Stalinism in the 1930s and 1940s is still alive within the political elite, and I believe an attempt at “creeping Stalinism” would stimulate decisive opposition from a broad coalition of leadership and elite forces and particularly the Army.
If a crisis arises that elicits a drive to change the form of govern-ment, the second scenario, with some changes in the plot, seems more plausible. I conclude that a qualitative change in the form of govern-ment will not occur in a gradual, creeping fashion, but would require a coup d’etat, not by the military leaders themselves, but by a combination of party, state, and military leaders. I do not expect even this more plausible scenario in the Soviet Union in the foreseeable future, because the system’s reserves of political and social stability will remain sufficient for the next decade. Moreover, I do not believe that even such a threat as the loss of the East European empire might spark an attempt by the military to take over the reins of government. If such a threat in Eastern Europe occurred in the next decade, the Soviet political leadership itself will command the armed forces to crush such a danger to “socialism in one empire.”
The last scenario in particular leads to the question of the role of the military in the present succession and to the various elite and leadership alliance configurations that will probably emerge in the 1980s. The role of the military in Soviet politics is the subject of a variety of views, most of which overemphasize the military in domestic politics and policy formation and exaggerate its role in the past two successions. In the post-Stalin succession, Khrushchev allegedly was able to defeat the “anti-party” group only with the help and support of the military elite led by Zhukov. As evidence, some allege that the use of military planes which brought the members of the Central Committee to Moscow in June 1957 was decisive in Nikita Serge- evitch’s victory.
However, the victory of Khrushchev was secure before the Central Committee meeting. Using intimidation and political bribery, Khrushchev was able to switch the division within the Politburo from a “mathematical” majority for his opponents to a “political” majority for himself. Second, any First Secretary of the party is free to command military air transport for political purposes. There is no evidence that the situation in 1957 was exceptional. The military leaders simply fulfilled an order from the head of the party. Third, Khrushchev removed Marshal Zhukov, Minister of Defense, the most popular war hero in the country and the epitome of professionalism in the armed forces, with no protest, only a few months after Zhukov had performed this great service.
With regard to the coup that ousted Khrushchev in 1964, some allege that Khrushchev’s behavior toward the armed forces, particularly the ground forces, and his behavior in the Cuban missile crisis by pressing the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) in Cuba and then agreeing in humiliating circumstances to withdraw them created enormous dissatisfaction in the Soviet armed forces and predicated his ouster. It is moreover alleged that the armed force leaders participated in the coup.
First, not only the armed forces but most of his Politburo colleagues were dissatisfied with Khrushchev’s military policies and with his behavior in the missile crisis. Second, the coup was accomplished during Khrushchev’s absence from the Politburo and later rubber- stamped by the Central Committee. The head of the Soviet military, Marshal Malinovsky was not even a candidate member of the Politburo and was not promoted to it after the coup. The acquiescence of the security police was much more important for keeping Khrushchev in the dark than the aid of the military. The head of the KGB then was Semichastny, a close protege of Shelepin, who was then a full member of the Politburo and an important partner in organizing the plot. The Central Committee then gave legitimacy to the action.
Does the present succession contain elements of such a nature that the role of the military might be greater than in the past? With the Soviet international position qualitatively different than in the past, the central role of the military in designing and implementing Soviet global plans, and the forces visible as a main achievement of Soviet power, may not the military leaders play a more significant role than in the past?
The evidence with regard to the present and future weight of the military in domestic politics is ambiguous. Party control over the military, as over every other instrument of power in the Soviet Union, seems very high. Military leaders have acquired some visibility during the Brezhnev era, but available evidence suggests party dominance is and will remain unquestioned. With the election of Marshal Grechko to full membership in the Politburo in April 1973, the Soviet professional military for the first time had a spokesman in the top leadership, if one excludes Zhukov’s brief membership in 1967. Yet, one has to note that after Grechko’s death Central Committee Party Secretary Ustinov, a civilian with long and close military ties (starting in 1940, he was the key civilian in the Soviet military-industrial complex), was appointed Minister of Defense and elected to full membership in the Politburo. The appointment of Ustinov was a setback for the political role of the professional military leaders: Ustinov was the first civilian in this post in the entire post-Stalin era. The appointment of Ustinov’s military predecessor, Grechko, to the Politburo appears more a reward to a close companion of Brezhnev than recognition of the military’s political weight. It will be very significant to see whether Marshal Ogarkov, the professional military head of the General Staff, will become Minister of Defense after Ustinov’s death and, if so, whether he will receive a seat in the Politburo.
Present and future military leaders belong to the postwar genera-tion. They do not possess the same prestige and experience as their predecessors, the legendary heroes of the Great Patriotic War. They esemble managers rather than the exciting military leaders who led he sons of Russia into battle. Their ties with party leaders of the Jrezhnev, Ustinov, or even Andropov generation seem purely professional.
It is also true that the generation of war commissars is quickly disappearing, but the process of replacement inside the military is somewhat quicker than on the civilian party side. This difference will disappear in the near future, and both the professional army and the professional party leadership may again belong to the same genera- ion. The relatively young military leaders and the relatively young party leaders will not be particularly impressed by each other’s pasts and at the same time will not have special personal ties. In such a situation, the party’s pride of place in the political system will be even greater than in the past. The succinct saying that “You don’t ask a general if a place should be bombed, but only how” might be enforced even more strictly than in the past.
Obviously the military leadership will play an important part in he present and future successions, but so will other groups. The succession may encourage broad participation of various elite strata in politics; if this should happen, the military will presumably not be an exception. Each elite group important in the succession process may count on rewards and inducements from the contenders and from he victor, and military leaders may receive inducements and rewards either for their military branches or for themselves. The major quesion, however, is in the currency in which they will be paid: in favorible budgetary allocations for their branches, or in ranks, titles, and decorations for themselves?
The final point about the military’s role in succession politics concerns the procedures developed after Beria’s arrest and liqlidation in 1953. The unwritten code of behavior for intraleadership truggle has many codicils: thou should not kill the losers or deny hem a comfortable existence outside of politics, and thou should not lirectly involve the secret police in leadership and elite struggle. Still mother unwritten rule is that the contending political leaders should lot directly involve in the struggle groups over whom the political eaders have to exercise tight control, such as the military leadership.
Probable Configuration of Alliances
The last question concerns the probable configuration of aliances that may emerge in the succession. The discussion will be brief, because Western knowledge of the characters involved and the nechanism by which alliances on the leadership and elite level are ormed is limited.
In Stalin’s succession struggle, alliances within the leadership were continuously shifting, and the question of personal loyalty, rather than questions of institutional interest, was uppermost in Stalin’s mind until the time came when he needed alliances no more.
In the Khrushchev succession struggle, the base of his claim to power rested on support within the leadership and elite of the Party apparatus. The struggle was primarily within the core leadership between Khrushchev and the apparatchiki representation in the leadership on one side, and the old Stalinist political guard, whose main resources were their own “good” name and fame and their numerous clients in almost every elite institution on the other.
The post-Khrushchev succession saw an exceptional situation: at the outset of the succession, almost the entire leadership was united, partly the result of the way Khrushchev alienated all institutions of the Soviet elite and partly the result of the manner of Khrushchev’s departure: the coup required a unified core leadership group. When Brezhnev acceded, he was already a recognized leader of a broad coalition of party and state functionaries. In the process of the struggle which ensued after his nomination to the top position, his institutional base was decisively located in the party apparatus. Brezhnev was determined not to repeat Khrushchev’s mistake by alienating his power base. In the course of accumulating power, Brezhnev achieved dominance over the state leadership and gradually removed those members of the Politburo who, for one reason or another, could be potential challengers. He eliminated these individuals not because of their institutional associations or major policy differences, but simply for not being his unquestioned supporters.
When Stalin died the Soviet leadership issued a communique asking the party members and the population not to panic. Stalin’s death was met in the Soviet Union with grief by some, relief by others, and uncertainty by all. When Leonid Brezhnev died there was no need to appeal to the people not to panic, and the grief and relief at the long awaited change of the guard were muted to say the least. Yet the uncertainty surrounding Yuri Andropov’s ascendency to the vacant post of general secretary of the party may be as great as it was twenty-nine years ago when Stalin died. Today, as then, the Soviet Union is confronting domestic and international problems that defy any but radical solutions.
In its sixty-five-year history the Soviet Union has had only four top leaders. Lenin, the founder of the state, led the Bolsheviks in gaining and consolidating their power. Stalin, the tyrant, used political power in an extreme manner to shape and transform society according to his own image of what it should be. Khrushchev, the innovator, shocked the party out of its Stalinist mold, instituted new policies and reshuffled the inherited structures, and activized Soviet foreign policy and ended the self-imposed Soviet autarkic isolation. Brezhnev, the administrator, tried to institutionalize the process of policy making and introduce into the Soviet political system a degree of stability unknown before; in the international arena he presided over the transformation of his country into a truly global power.
The personality, vision, and power that these leaders wielded were crucial in determining the directions of Soviet policies at home and abroad. These leaders played a role in their societies which great leaders in other industrialized nations assume to a limited extent only in emergency situations. Yet, the whole history of the Soviet Union has been one of constant emergencies that required powerful leaders. The history of the Soviet Union was that of a highly centralized partystate that produced powerful figures. The departure of these leaders therefore can be regarded as milestones of Soviet history. The present transfer of authority to the fifth leader, Yuri Andropov, may have implications for the future as great as those of the past successions.
The patterns of past Soviet successions differ from each other. Yet, some common elements with regard to both domestic and foreign policies and politics can be discerned in all the successions. In domestic politics and policies the common elements were as follows:
(1) The succession did not come to an end with the appointment of a new top leader but continued for a few years until he consolidated his position and created a lasting coalition of people loyal to him personally within the leadership group.
In the present succession, in contradistinction to the past ones, the struggle for Brezhnev’s mantle started well before his death and became intensified after the death of the chief Soviet ideologue, Suslov, in the beginning of 1982. With the debilitating illness of Kirilenko, the organizational secretary of the party and by tradition the heir apparent to Brezhnev, Konstantin Chernenko, a member of the Politburo, became the key contender for the top position. Chernenko took over many of the duties of Kirilenko and, with the progressive decline of Brezhnev’s health, became the man in charge of the day-to-day running of top party institutions. A crony of Brezhnev’s with a very undistinguished record and career, he was clearly Brezhnev’s personal choice for the top position. The transfer of Andropov from chairmanship of the KGB to the party Secretariat in May 1982 was a decision of the majority of the Politburo (only the Politburo could have made the decision to effect such a transfer) and provided evidence of the sharp decline of Brezhnev’s power and of conflicts and divisions within the Politburo about policies and personal loyalties.
At the time of Andropov’s transfer to the party Secretariat—and his transformation from a power behind the throne to a contender for the throne—it was, and still remains, our belief that the retirement of Brezhnev would have resulted in the victory of Chernenko, while the death of Brezhnev in office favored the candidacy of Andropov. Chernenko’s basic strength and power base was his closeness to Brezhnev. His major problem was his dependence on the transfer of commitment from Brezhnev’s loyalists to himself, which was no longer automatic upon the death of Brezhnev.
Andropov’s key card was his prestige as a strong leader and a generalist, a combination in short supply within the present Politburo. The coalition that brought him to the top probably included a combi-nation of some of the oldest members of the Politburo and the youngest members of the Secretariat. The men of the old generation—for example, civilian Minister of Defense Ustinov—who, because of their age, no longer aspire to the top position, feel more comfortable with a man like Andropov, who has had a distinguished career of his own and belongs to their own generation, than with Chernenko, whose entire career consisted of being Brezhnev’s companion. The young secretaries of the Central Committee like Dolgikh or Gorbachev probably wanted a change rather than a continuation of Brezhnev’s policies, which Chernenko’s candidacy would have promised, and they wanted a strong leader from among the younger members of the old generation; these criteria fitted Andropov’s credentials.
The struggle for power within the Soviet leadership has not ended, however, with Andropov’s ascendency. In the near future we may see a challenge to his leadership, but it is more likely that we will see attempts to circumvent the power potentially inherent in his position as general secretary. The domestic and foreign issues and dangers facing the new leadership under Andropov would argue for a defensive unity of the collective leadership and elites, that is to say, for a repetition of the 1965 pattern of succession from Khrushchev to Brezhnev, which was characterized by compromise and conciliation. Yet, it is more likely that the issues facing the leadership today are so divisive and central to their institutional interests that the present succession process will be closer to the 1953—57 pattern of Khrushchev’s ascendency, with its confrontations, sharp conflicts, and purges.
Regardless of whether the pattern is closer to the Khrushchev or the Brezhnev succession, Andropov cannot feel safe in his position until he replaces some of the present members of the Politburo, Secretariat, and Presidium of the Council of Ministers with men of his own choosing who will be loyal to him personally. This is particularly true if Andropov intends to be a leader who promotes major changes and therefore endangers many vested interests.
The first indication of change within the Politburo was the November “retirement” of the very ill Kirilenko and the promotion of the party chief of the Azerbaidzhan Republic, Gaidar Aliev, to full membership in the Politburo. In the past Aliev was the head of the KGB in Azerbaidzhan and therefore an Andropov subordinate and presumable loyalist. (Incidentally, this is the first time in Soviet history that two individuals with an extensive KGB background occupy positions within the Politburo.) Another example was the appointment of Fedorchuk, an Andropov loyalist, to replace Brezhnev’s man as the minister of the interior.
(2) The key power resource of the new leader has traditionally been the support of the professional party apparatus, the representatives of which constitute the single largest bloc in the top decisionmaking, executive, and symbolic bodies—the Politburo, the Secretariat, and the Central Committee of the party.
Andropov’s elevation to the position of general secretary is the first case in Soviet history in which an individual who had not served in the party apparatus for fifteen years assumed this position. Yet one should recognize that while Andropov was not in the party apparatus for a long time, he is clearly of the party apparatus. Of the forty-six years of Andropov’s active political life, he was a functionary of the party for twenty-seven years and spent the last five years before assuming the KGB chairmanship in the highly influential position of secretary of the Central Committee.
Yet, the question still remains: what is Andropov’s influence within the party apparatus? We will be able to judge much better when we see whether Andropov keeps intact the present composition of the party apparatus, and particularly its first provincial secretaries, or whether he changes its composition in line with his own plans for Soviet development and in the interest of his own political security.
(3) The man appointed during the succession to the top position of first or general secretary survived the later challenges of other contenders or coalitions and became an indisputable leader. The nominal power of the office is so great that a politician of even average skills finds the odds stacked decisively in his favor. His prerogatives include the chairmanship of the Politburo and the ability to decide the agenda and timing of the Politburo’s deliberation; the role of chief executive of the most important bureaucracy, the party apparatus; the chairmanship of the powerful Supreme Defense Council, which oversees the Soviet military industrial complex; the supervision of the “nomenklatura,” that is, the right of appointments and dismissals of key office holders throughout the bureaucracies; and the sym-bolic legitimization from the onset of his position as the top leader.
In the present succession the odds are overwhelmingly in An-dropov’s favor that he will be able to consolidate his position beyond any challenge from his colleagues, that he will be able to purge personal opponents and opponents of his policies. In this respect his chairmanship of the Soviet secret police and intelligence for the last fifteen years will be very helpful. By now Andropov must certainly know where the skeletons of every member of the Central Committee are buried, and he can extract obedience, if not out of loyalty and agreement with his policy initiatives, then at least out of fear.
(4) In each succession the policies of the new leader have de-pended very much on the substance of policies and the pattern of politics developed during the tenure of the departed leader. To a large extent the new leader responded to the past period, whether it was Stalin’s inertia of terror and petrification to which Khrushchev responded, or Khrushchev’s inertia of innovation and reorganization to which Brezhnev responded with his policies of stabilization and incrementalism.
Brezhnev’s leadership and policies were characterized by the abandonment of any serious attempt to change significantly the Soviet economic structure and system; by the development of a policy process which relied decisively on bargaining, compromise, and incrementalism; by the promotion of change and adaptation to new conditions by gradual and cumulative policy changes; by the stress on proven experience and seniority in the selection of the administrators who would supervise and implement his policies in the center and on the peripheries by emphasizing stable cadres and slow promotions.
While this system worked relatively well in the first decade of Brezhnev’s rule, toward the end it became a major obstacle to development and it promoted petrification in domestic policies, costly delays in response to burning problems, and immobilism. In the last years of Brezhnev’s rule the Soviet decision-making process began to unravel in the face of a crisis situation. If the past is any guide to the future, Andropov’s leadership will react to the Brezhnev experience with strong leadership and a determined push from above to change outmoded policies and to ensure that new people will be in charge of new policies.
(5) During each succession the new leader responded at least partly to the yearnings of the political elite, and especially those groups within the elite which represented his main constituencies. Obviously, in the present succession, as in the past, the yearnings and hopes of each functional elite group are primarily concerned with the fate of the particular institution over which that elite presides. Yet, even here one can discern a major difference between the present and the past successions. In the past each functional elite group hoped to gain stature and allocations from the new leadership. At the present juncture, each group fears that its stature will decline and its allocation will be cut, or at best that its growth will be slower than in the past.
With the present transition to power, however, there are also yearnings and hopes of the elites which seem to cut across all functional groups and which represent some form of consensus of expectations connected with the new leadership. The most visible consensus concerns a desire, undefined in terms of means, to get the country moving again, to reverse the stagnation and decline of the past years. Another consensual desire concerns the overwhelming need to strengthen social discipline, to enforce law and order more decisively, in place of the unraveling of societal and political discipline which occurred in the last years of Brezhnev’s rule. Those very strong hopes and desires clearly point to the expectations that the new top leader will be strong and decisive. Clearly, there is nobody in the present Politburo who fits those elite yearnings better than Andropov, whose tenure of leadership in the security and law-and-order field is longer than that of any of his predecessors. (Of course, the law-and-order yearnings of the elites are directed toward society at large and not their own bureaucratic fiefdoms. In this respect the various bureaucracies may well be surprised when and if Andropov applies the discipline and law-and-order formula to their own behavior, as is likely.)
Finally, there is a major segment of the various elites who see their most productive middle years passing by and who feel frustrated by the seniority blockage established by Brezhnev; they hope for a quick retirement of the old generation of officials and quicker promotion for themselves. It is very likely that Andropov will respond to the expectations of those Soviet “young Turks” and will build his most effective power base on their gratitude and personal loyalty.
(6) Successions are a period in Soviet politics and policies when both the new leader and his opponents court the Soviet public and engage in old-fashioned election politics with its exaggerated promises and popular programs. We do not know how and why, but during the initial stages of the succession the popularity of the top leader or of his opponents represents a power resource even in the authoritarian Soviet system.
One may expect also in the initial state of the present succession that Andropov will present to the Soviet public a number of attractive programs which will promise more of the good things in life in exchange for greater work discipline and effort. Yet, in this succession the margin of maneuver available to the top leader is much narrower than in past successions, which took place during higher base levels of growth. Today a major effort to improve the Soviet standard of living visibly and quickly will require deep cuts in the level of growth of investments or military spending, and therefore the alienation of elite constituencies which Andropov needs in his initial period of leadership consolidation.
A long-term effort in this direction would require major struc-tural and policy reforms, the results of which, with very few exceptions, will not be visible in the short run; moreover, reforms would probably demand initially greater austerity from the Soviet consumer. In contradistinction to the previous post-Stalin successions, there are very few economic irrationalities connected with the old regime, the abolishment of which can produce significant improvements in the Soviet standard of living while preserving the existing system. There are no quick fixes available to Andropov in this respect. His choices are either to engage in a long-range transformation of the Soviet economic system, or to strengthen the repressive features of the system, or, what is most likely, both, with the increased repressiveness of the system providing the background and condition for initiation of major economic reforms.
One has to note that while Andropov will probably court the Soviet public with attractive consumer programs, one has the impression that the expectations of the Soviet public in this respect are rather low, much lower than during the last two successions. What the man on the street expects, and even hopes for, however, is, curiously, the same thing that the elites hope for: a strong leader who will hold tightly the reins of government. Of course, the man in the street hopes that the strong leadership of Brezhnev’s successor will be used not to enforce his own discipline but to control and prevent the abuses of the immense Soviet bureaucracy. It may well be that the Andropov leadership will try and partly succeed at both.
(7) The personality, the vision, and the style of the new top leader make a very major difference in Soviet politics and policies. As political scientists, we often say with regard to major political leaders that the context in which those leaders act is as important as the man who occupies the position. But as often we forget that this means that the man is as important as the context within which he acts. The new top leader is obviously restricted by the parameters of the Soviet system in which he acts, but the range of political styles and policy directions within those parameters is very broad indeed. The man occupying the top position in the Soviet leadership is, of course, molded by his bureaucratic environment, but at the same time he molds this environment in accordance with his personality, his vision, and his style.
What do we know about Yuri Andropov that would help us to anticipate the type and direction of his leadership? The biography of Andropov is quite well known and does not need a detailed recounting here. He is a Russian, born in 1914, the son of a middle-class railroad employee—the first top Soviet leader since the time of Lenin who is not of worker or peasant origin. He belongs to the Brezhnev generation of political activists for whom Stalin’s great purge opened possibilities of quick advancement. From age 32 to age 37 he was a professional functionary of the Young Communist League and then the party apparatus. From 1951 till 1967 he worked in the department of the party’s Central Committee concerned with East European affairs, where, after a four-year stint as the ambassador to Hungary at the time of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he rose to the position of the secretary of the Central Committee responsible for the Soviet “external” empire. In 1967 he was appointed by Brezhnev to the allimportant post of chief of the Soviet secret police and intelligence service, the KGB, a position which he held longer than any of his predecessors.
Andropov’s formal education is very spotty. Aside from graduating from a vocational school of inland water transportation, he attended both a provincial university, where he studied Marxist- Leninist philosophy, and the highest party school in Moscow, but he did not finish either. Yet by all accounts he is a sophisticated individual, whose knowledge and taste have been acquired through selfeducation. Despite the fact that he never set foot in a noncommunist country, his preparation as the head of the secret service to guide Soviet foreign policy is impressive. His experience in managing the troubled and troublesome Soviet East European empire is second to none. His knowledge of internal Soviet policies and politics, including the politics of the non-Russian areas, is extensive. Through his experience in the KGB he is the leader most qualified to enforce law, order, and discipline in Soviet society.
Where he lacks direct experience is in the management of the Soviet economy. In this respect he will have to rely heavily on the present directors of Soviet economic specialists. Andropov is a complex individual, a strong leader with an extraordinary political sense and subtlety—a major departure from the shrewd but simple leaders who preceded him in the post-Stalin era. He is both respected and feared among the Soviet elite. This much we know about Andropov, but we do not and cannot know with certainty the direction in which he will push and pull the Soviet Union.
In a highly centralized and authoritarian state like the Soviet Union, where the views of the top leader are sacrosanct and where relations with him have to be based on highly personalized loyalties, the second-ranking leaders are safe only if they keep to themselves their ideas on how the Soviet Union should be run. Only when Andropov has been in office for a while will we gain insight into the direction of his policies. It would be just as foolish to judge him on the basis of his role in the bloody repression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 or his position as Moscow’s top enforcer of conformity as it would be to ignore these experiences altogether. Yet, only in his pressent and future actions and decisions will his views about how to run Russia emerge—views shaped by his present vantage point as the top leader could be quite different from those he held as chief of the KGB. We should be prepared for many surprises, which may be not long in coming.
(8) Every succession represented a major change in either do-mestic policies or political structures or both. Every succession provided the platform for new policy initiatives and new configurations of the major political sectors. Successions were periods of renewal and reexamination of established policies. If we consider both the strength of the man who replaced Brezhnev and the seriousness of the crisis facing the USSR and reflected in the issue agenda of the present succession, the Soviet Union may well be at a turning point comparable to that of the late 1920s, when the New Economic Policy was replaced by the Stalinist “revolution from above” with its clarity of purpose, extremist policies, and mass coercion and terror; or to that of 1953—57, when there began the hybrid system, combining Stalinist totalitarianism and traditional authoritarianism, that exists today.
That the Soviet leadership recognizes the need for change is clear, if only from the appointment of Andropov with his reputation for strong leadership. That the accumulated Soviet internal problems will exert pressure for change is certain. Yet whether a far-reaching change in the Soviet system, especially in the economy, will take place is an open question, because the political price of such changes is very high, maybe higher than the price of trying to muddle through.
In my opinion the most probable domestic changes to be ex-pected in the next few years are the following. Andropov clearly has a mandate from his colleagues to arrest, and if possible to reverse, the rot that has set in within Soviet society, both in the center and at the periphery. It seems highly probable that he will try drastically to improve social and particularly labor discipline. One can expect a crackdown on dissent, absenteeism, alcoholism, bribery, corruption, and theft of governmental property. The policies of Andropov will be concerned with law and order in the difficult economic times which lie ahead and, far from liberalizing the system, they will lead to a strengthening of the authoritarian character of the Soviet state.
With regard to Soviet agriculture, the most important and most The Political System ailing input into the mass standard of living, there is a high probability of far-reaching structural change. Instead of throwing immense sums of money at the agricultural problem, which the Soviet economy can no longer afford, Andropov may start a transformation of Soviet agriculture very similar to that of China and to some experimental Soviet efforts in the past decade. Specifically, while preserving the collective farm as an administrative unit, Andropov may concentrate on the family unit as the basic working group responsible for a specific part of the collective farm’s land, the cultivation of which will be rewarded according to its productivity; or, less likely, he may adopt the Hungarian example, which transformed the collective farm into an independent enterprise that acts as a capitalist establishment for all practical purposes. In the short run, the increase in size and investments of the private plots of the collective farmers would also bring an improvement in the food situation.
Efforts by Andropov to reform radically the industrial sectors and the entire system of planning, management, and incentives are much more dubious. We know for certain that in the last few years major economic institutes in the Soviet Union have worked on reform options to be presented to the post-Brezhnev leadership. There is no doubt also that major discussions about reform and improvement of the Soviet economy will be initiated by Andropov. Yet, I feel that while small-scale experimentation and marginal reforms will result from those discussions, no fundamental reforms will take place in the foreseeable future.
One should not minimize the effects of marginal reforms, such as the privatization all but in name of new service establishments (restau-rants, repair shops, etc.) or the creation of a separate segment of industry which works solely for export, with rights and privileges reserved until now for only the military industry. Such marginal reforms, which may well be initiated by Andropov, may help to arrest for a while the declining growth of the Soviet economy.
The idea, however, that Andropov will try to transform the Soviet economic system according to the Hungarian model is highly improbable. The size of the Soviet Union, the importance of its military-industrial complex, the multinational character of the Soviet state, the lack of economic reserves for a transitional period, the devolution of political power involved in such reform and many other weighty reasons argue decisively against the implementation of the Hungarian reform in the Soviet Union. We have yet to meet a Soviet economist or official who believes that the Hungarian model is adaptable to Soviet conditions. To sum up then, on the domestic scene Andropov’s leadership may be innovative and reformist, it may improve somewhat the Soviet economic picture, and it will almost certainly reinforce Soviet political and social stability, but it will not radically reform the way in which the Soviets do business.
Politics and Foreign Policy in the 1980s
The Soviet leadership regards the world outside the Soviet Union as an environment contaminated by ideas and structures inimical to the Soviet system and hostile to the Soviet Union. It is the world of “vashi” (yours) as compared to “nashi” (ours), a place in which the Soviet Union can never be a full participant. What has changed and is still changing is recognition that this outside world not only contains dangers but also provides major opportunities.
Tradition, ideology, and nationalism reinforce each other to create the powerful and unique Soviet concept of security. As Thomas Wolfe suggests, Soviet rulers see the world in terms of an inevitable systemic struggle that international agreements cannot “annul” and are equally convinced that the security of the Soviet Union, the principal Communist state, must be preserved at all costs. Wolfe continues:
The common denominator in both instances seems to lie in seeking to eliminate or reduce potential sources of threat to the Soviet Union. What might be called, in strategic parlance, a “damage limiting” high philosophy thus seems to permeate Soviet behavior…. This philosophy finds expression in Soviet military doctrine and policy, as well as in Soviet diplomacy. Whether at bottom such a philosophy owes more to ideolog-ical imperatives than to those of Soviet national interest remains a moot question. For that matter, the impulse to limit damage to one’s interests is not peculiar to the Soviet leaders; they simply seem to carry it further than most, as if satisfied only with absolute security. Thus, the really relevant point seems to be that to the extent that negation of potential military and political threats to the Soviet Union involves measures that other states find inimical to their own vital interests, the Soviet proclivity to seek absolute security tends neither to promote global stability nor a fundamental relaxation of tensions within the international order.5
Ironically, the Soviet quest for total security, the Soviet ultimate defensive policy, brings us full circle, to the question of sources of Soviet expansionism. The inferior Soviet international situation in the past led many to hope that the insecurities due to power inferiority would slowly disappear with the ascendancy of international power. This has not happened. It is ridiculous to speak today about an attack upon the Soviet Union from the West or the East. Neither Western nor Soviet leaders believe any longer in such an eventuality, under any circumstances. The danger to the Soviet Union, if any, is from within. Yet the Soviet concept of total security requires that no great power or combination of powers equal to the Soviet Union remain on the face of the globe. Only then will the Soviets feel really secure. International circumstances have provided a modifying influence on foreign policy behavior and on the intermediate-range strategies, as well as on tactics, but no one knows whether or not they have modified the far-reaching, basic Soviet view of security.
The Brezhnev era is the first in Soviet history to bring this truth home with great force, because it is the first in which the Soviet deterrent to an attack by any combination of outside forces has been more than adequate. This quest for total security, reinforced and fed by Russian messianism and Soviet belief in the “historical process,” and the need to legitimize party supremacy among the elites, in their combination provide the drive for Soviet globalism.
The sources of Soviet expansionism are rooted in the domestic Soviet system, not in the international situation, which provides primarily temptations and opportunities. In the late 1950s, the marked American superiority in nuclear weapons created the Soviet Union’s greatest challenge, the threat of annihilation. From the time when the Soviet Union acquired a reasonably secure second-strike capability and finally strategic parity with the United States, the nuclear balance presented the Soviet Union with its greatest opportunity for expansion. On the one hand, nuclear weapons made it imperative that the Soviet Union promote its international interests and expand its power and influence without provoking confrontations which might lead to war or to a loss of Soviet credibility, as in the Cuban crisis. In this sense, nuclear weapons exercised a restraining influence on Soviet international behavior. On the other hand, more importantly, achievement by the Soviet Union of strategic parity with the United States has provided the Soviet Union an unprecedented opportunity for extension of its power and influence on the international arena by canceling many of the West’s military and nonmilitary advantages.
Nuclear weapons act as a major equalizer between the Western alliance and the Soviet empire, power coalitions not equal in terms of military potential. The conventional military potential (not mobilized military power) of the West, measured by the indices of population, industrial output, technological advancement, and scientific achievement, not only is much higher than the Soviet Union’s, but may have improved in the West’s favor in the last quarter century.
Though nuclear weapons do provide a deterrent against attack on the West, it is possible to argue that the Soviet Union has benefited more from nuclear weapons than have its adversaries because nuclear weapons negate the value of the superior mobilization potential of the West. The Soviets have acquired freedom from fear of attack against their homeland and their empire. Through nuclear weapons, through the umbrella of nuclear parity, they have also acquired the ability directly and indirectly to use force in the international arena in areas the NATO defense treaty does not cover. This ability is as yet unchallenged, partly for political and historical reasons and partly because of Western fear of escalation of conflicts in the Third World into direct U.S.-Soviet warfare.
The Soviet leaders proclaim their commitment not to be the first power to use nuclear weapons, not only because their mobilized con-ventional forces in Europe and in the eastern hemisphere are stronger than those of the West, but also because they know that in protracted war such a commitment means nothing, especially to the losing side. Moreover, they know that the United States realizes this and therefore use the campaigns of no first use and of nuclear freeze as useful political maneuvers.
Aside from nuclear weapons, other obvious international factors exercise enormous influence on Soviet foreign policy. The turmoil in Third World countries and regional conflict connected with the postcolonial developments present the Soviet leaders with temptations and opportunities to which they often submit. The collapse of detente between the United States and the Soviet Union, but not between Western Europe and the Soviet Union, creates splendid opportunities. Yet the semi-alliance of the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and China reintroduced into Soviet thinking fear of encirclement, from which they have attempted to escape by military intervention on the south and southeastern sides of their borders. The Polish situation, for which the Soviets have yet to find an answer, creates a dilemma on how to reconcile weaknesses close at home with expansion in faraway places.
The roots of foreign policy are intertwined with domestic fac-tors—capabilities, politics, and beliefs—all discussed in detail earlier in this chapter, or in other parts of the volume. The first group includes assessment of Soviet economic strength, the level of technological development, overall military potential, actual noncivilian expenditures, allocation of foreign assistance and its utilization, contribution of Soviet allies to Soviet strengths, and degree of Soviet dependence on international cooperative arrangements and foreign trade.
The second group of factors—politics—concerns the institutions and processes of Soviet foreign policy making; the nature and quality of the informational inputs that enter this process; the power and personalities of the key actors who participate; the identification of major pressure groups that have vested interests in foreign policy decisions, the degree of their access to the foreign policy making process, and their influence in shaping foreign policy making and its changing orders of priorities; and the more or less pronounced divisions within the Soviet leadership and elites regarding the main foreign policy line and separate foreign policy issues.
The third group of factors—beliefs—deals with the basic outlook of decision makers on international affairs; the beliefs they share in common, shaped by tradition, experience, and value system; the as-sumptions about themselves and other international actors with which they approach activities in the international arena; the process of learning by which they slowly adjust these assumptions; their principal concerns about foreign relations; and their fears and hopes.
The various elements which reflect Soviet strengths and weak-nesses propel Soviet foreign policy in diverse directions. The economic situation, the partial loss of the system’s immunity to social pressures, and concern for internal stability, together with the leadership’s preoccupation with security and its recognition and fear of dangers inherent in great power confrontations, all argue against an unrestricted arms race and for increased elements of conventional and strategic arms limitation and reduction. At the same time, attainment of strategic parity with the United States and acquisition and expansion of elements of global capacity push toward a policy that will permit the translation of these capabilities into a wide-ranging influence in world affairs.
Domestic economic difficulties, present and projected, in con-junction with the leadership’s unwillingness to engage in restructuring the Soviet economic system of management, controls, and incentives, press toward development of cooperative arrangements with democratic industrial societies, especially those that contribute advanced technology on advantageous terms. The intensity of these pressures varies with changes in the domestic Soviet situation and its international environment. In the final analysis, it depends on Soviet leaders’ perceptions of the international environment and on the options that Western policies create, that is to say, on the opportunities and costs associated with different policies.
The indisputable compartmentalization of foreign and domestic policy issues and the attendant tendency toward greater participation and access of diverse political groups in foreign policy making seem to have produced a situation in which no institutional group, such as the defense complex, achieves preponderant influence. While the Soviet leader still possesses greater freedom of action in the foreign policy field than, say, the United States executive, his freedom of action seems more limited than in the past.
Some evidence suggests the existence of differences of opinion within the leadership and among top elite groups, if not about the general course of foreign policy, then about particular steps. Some differences derive from the particularistic interests of bureaucratic groups and some from predispositions and orientations that cut across functional and organizational lines. The evidence, however, is insufficient to identify particular leaders with specific views or to posit the existence of diverse long-range foreign policy orientations among various bureaucratic complexes.
Moreover, the streamlining of the foreign policy process has not produced a clear-cut and consistent foreign policy line. As a matter of fact inconsistencies, ambiguities, and drift characterize the policies of the late Brezhnev period. These are partly a result of the feedback into the policy-making process of the unintended consequences of foreign policy plans and actions. To some extent they also reflect the nature of policy making in the Brezhnev era, with its sensitivity to diverse internal pressures and stress on compromise solutions.
The main policy line the Soviet leadership adopted on the eve of Brezhnev’s succession reflected the diverse pressures and the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in its multidirectional thrust. The result is a policy of continuing detente with Western Europe and of trying to restore detente with the United States, in which the relative weighing of constituent parts constantly changes. This policy combines commitment to SALT, avoidance of direct confrontation with the United States, and eagerness to engage in cooperative economic arrangements with a strong competitive military and political impulse toward expanding the sphere and magnitude of the Soviet influence in the international arena.
The third group of factors, beliefs, is primarily cultural in nature and consists to a large extent of ideological and nationalistic factors. I have already discussed the decisive aspect of these factors, the relationship between ideology and Soviet nationalism. One can now add only two points. The first concerns the impact of ideology on the Soviet elites and leadership; the second, the mechanism of the continuity of elite beliefs in the Soviet Union.
In Soviet ideology and leadership behavior, the choice is not between hardened, cynical politicians and doctrinaire fanatics. If that were so, in the first case one would be able to make far-reaching deals or buy off the cynical politicians; in the latter case, their actions and evaluation would be self-defeating. One should not equate ideology with doctrine. Ideology is a broader term than doctrine and is inclusive of doctrine. With regard to doctrine, present and future Soviet leaders are almost illiterate and are averse to theorizing, let alone to serious theoretical analysis. In all probability, Khrushchev was the last Soviet leader who took doctrine seriously. But one should not conclude that ideology is unimportant in Soviet behavior.
Ideology derives from doctrine, but at a much lower level of generality, specificity, and structure or consistency, and with a different, nonintellectual mechanism of acceptance by groups or individuals. The language of ideology is that of slogans, feelings, emotive symbols, and commitments. Moreover, ideology contains the distilled historical experience of the politically dominant groups of a society. It is in a way an adaptation of the doctrinal essentials to the historically formed conditions of its adopted country.
Ideology, in other words, is a cultural phenomenon. The main channel of its adoption by groups and individuals is through cultural socialization throughout early life and careers. The ideology of Soviet elites is not what they read, but what they are and what surrounds them, the selective spectacles they use and what they derive from their reading. Ironically, the modes of behavior, discourse, and analysis of most of the emigre dissidents from the Soviet Union, individuals of great personal courage and anti-Soviet convictions who are conditioned nevertheless, by Soviet ways of thinking, best reveal the influence of Soviet ideology understood as a cultural phenomenon.
The constant reinforcing link that makes Soviet ideology the mode of thinking of the elites and leadership is its interconnection with their interests. It provides justification for the system and for the self-replicating, dominant role of the political elite. These interests make ideology viable from generation to generation, and ideology justifies and provides a higher meaning for these interests. It would be foolish, however, to think that acceptance of ideology is cynical. It is rather a process of internalization that provides the congruence between material power and status interests of the elite and their conscience and feeling of self-esteem.
The precepts of Soviet ideology concerning international rela-tions are well known. They pronounce the long-range irreconcilability of Communist and capitalist societies; they describe an historical process which their actions serve; they accept a strategic and tactical flexibility combined with long-range commitment to historical goals and belief in power as the ultimate arbiter of historical conflicts.
This ideology, intertwined with Russian nationalism, prevents the Soviet Union from becoming a satiated or status quo power, even when it has reached a secure and exalted position in the international community. Intertwined with Russian nationalism, it ensures that re-lations with the Soviet Union now and for the foreseeable future will remain highly competitive, complex, difficult, and unstable. It makes a mockery of the assumption of certain Americans that the Soviet leaders “are the same people as we are.” Of course, we must negotiate, and we should communicate with Soviet elite members and experts. But we must first recognize that they are not “the same people as we are”—not superior, not inferior, but greatly different. Only then can we hope to influence their outlook.
Past Soviet successions have exercised greater impact on the do-mestic scene than on Soviet international policy, and foreign policy has reflected most clearly the capabilities of Soviet power. The degree of continuity of Soviet foreign policy from one succession to another, from one generation to another, is more striking than its discontinuities. However, successions have had an impact on foreign policy, and the present succession will probably be no exception.
First, the key preoccupation of the new leadership is to insulate the domestic political process and the still unstable leadership configuration from challenges from abroad and from international crisis situations. In Soviet foreign policy it is the time of carrots rather than sticks. During the last two years Soviet foreign policy was already in a holding pattern and was relatively passive. The key reasons for this passivity were Soviet overextension in the international arena, the desire to preserve detente with Western Europe, the desire not to provide any ammunition to the American administration on the eve of deployment of theater nuclear forces in Europe, and, finally, the effects of the onset of succession, with the decline of Brezhnev’s power and ability to rule and with the development of the struggle within the Politburo for his position.
It may be expected that the passivity of Soviet foreign policy under Andropov’s leadership will not last long but that the generally defensive and rather benign direction of this policy will be initially preserved. One may expect low-cost gestures of reconciliation toward the United States, for example the release of Sakharov from his exile, or an amnesty and expulsion of some prominent Soviet dissidents. One may expect friendly speeches and expressions of desire to improve Soviet-American relations. Most of all one may expect a virtual “peace offensive,” with new proposals in the arms control and reduction area with a major propaganda effort in Western Europe and the United States to sell the nuclear freeze and non-first-use proposals, reinforced by some new Soviet concessions.
Finally, one may expect for some time to come a low-profile Soviet foreign policy concerning regional danger spots where a Soviet-American confrontation is most likely, for example in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. One may expect that the phase of retrenchment rather than expansion will continue for a while until Andropov’s leadership is consolidated and a higher threshold of Soviet resistance to engaging in foreign adventures is established when low-risk opportunities and temptations do occur.
Secondly, a major tendency of Soviet foreign policy during the internal transfer of power is to hold on to vital international positions. The new leader will want to concede as little as possible with regard to Soviet international influence and foreign holdings. In the case of Andropov, the key international holding where few compromises are possible is Poland. While martial law in Poland has be lifted sooner than previously expected and the militarization of Polish political life may begin to be reversed sooner than planned, there seems in my opinion no chance of the restoration of even a modest, limited, and truncated free “Solidarity” movement. One should also expect that in case of new troubles or explosions in Poland, the Soviet reaction, direct or indirect through their Polish viceroys, will be swift and powerful. Andropov certainly does not want and cannot afford to “lose” Poland.
Another major Soviet international position to which the new leadership will try to hold even at a high price is detente with Western Europe and particularly West Germany. With detente with the United States unraveled, and with the prospects for a new Soviet- American rapprochement apparently not promising, the preservation and strengthening of the existing detente with Western Europe are more important than ever. The minimal expectations of Soviet West European policy is to use Western Europe as the means of pressuring the United States to change its Soviet policy; the maximal role of Soviet West European policy is to tear the alliance apart on issues of military policy and on the question of attitudes toward the Soviet Union. One may expect that in the near future Andropov will try to exploit the differences within the Western alliance to the hilt and will meet with West European leaders or even travel to Western Europe while using a soft approach and stance of injured innocence as far as Soviet-American relations are concerned. Yet, the attempt to concentrate on their West European connection should not be construed as the decline of the centrality of U.S.-Soviet relations in the minds of the new leadership. The concentration on Western Europe is simply the second best policy at a time when chances for rapid improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations are very low.
Third, an important tendency of Soviet foreign policy during the period of succession is to cut their losses in the international arena and attempt seriously to reverse the unsuccessful policies and approaches of the departed leader. The succession process is a time of reevaluation and reassessment and the advancement of new initiatives. This may be especially true with regard to Andropov, whose knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs seems to be much deeper than that of his two predecessors. One may expect, therefore, that the new overtures to China to gain normalization of relations which had started in the last month of Brezhnev’s rule will be intensified, that new major compromise offers will be ceded to the Chinese leadership (e.g., partial troop withdrawal from the Sino- Soviet border), and that even some dramatic moves like a trip by Andropov to Beijing can be anticipated. It seems likely that the Chinese response will be positive and that the process of normalization between the two powers will start.
Fourth, the new leader cannot afford to respond weakly and indecisively to foreign challenges to Soviet international position and prestige. During the period of consolidation of his power a show of weakness in the case of an external challenge would compromise his standing among his colleagues and provide ammunition for his opponents. The simple truth is that in the Soviet Union only a very strong and established leader can afford to respond in a conciliatory way to challenges from abroad. In this sense the temptations which some members of the Reagan administration may have to test the USSR and to push it at a time of its transition of power could be quite dangerous and miscalculated. What the Soviet leadership probably fears more than anything else is to be considered weak and irresolute; its answers to such challenges may try to overcompensate for those fears.
Of all the issues on the agenda for the new government, dilemmas of Soviet military policy remain not only the most directly meaningful for the West but also the most different in substance from these same issues in previous Soviet successions. The extraordinary Soviet buildup on the western and eastern borders, strategic parity with the United States, global reach for Soviet armed forces—these were the major accomplishments of Brezhnev’s regime. Before these goals were reached, they were clear and unchanging, not subject to significant disputes. The present succession differs from the others by the extent of awesome military power which it places under the control of the new leaders. We do not know how Andropov will use those powers. In all probability in the longer range he will try, as his predecessor did, to translate military power into political power and influence in the international arena.
At the same time, and in the shorter run, one cannot deny that now, when the long-term aims have been achieved (or, as others would argue, even overachieved, clearly beyond the range of traditional defense needs), there will probably be signs of an incipient attempt to redefine national security interests, or of arguments about military policy aims under new circumstances. In the 1980s the Soviet military burden will be relatively heavier than at any time in the past twenty years, and the relative cost will increase dramatically. The Soviets must choose among their guns, their butter—and their longterm investments.
Moreover, the change in the East-West military balance has brought from the Western alliance, particularly from the United States, a major reaction, which, if countered by the Soviets, will undoubtedly start a new, major, and uncontrollable arms race spiral. This prospect could initiate a reevaluation of Soviet military policy by the new leaders and by the experts advising them. It seems to me that the inertia of Soviet military policy may be broken, and at least the question of its redefinition may enter the political agenda of the 1980s. The successor leadership, under enormous pressure from competing elite constituencies, may no longer appropriate ever- increasing funds for the military as a kind of “conditioned reflex.” This may be especially true of the up-and-coming younger members of the Soviet leadership, who in the course of their advancement have developed fewer ties with the military-industrial complex than their old-guard predecessors.
The predictability of short-term Soviet foreign policy during the succession, which may provide even more dramatic Soviet peace and reconciliation moves than this, does not mean that American leaders should dismiss them as tactical maneuvers. Even if they are only ma-neuvers, they will probably be effective in influencing public opinion and the leadership of some West European countries, particularly West Germany.
After the initial period of succession, when and if the new leader consolidates his position and the divisions and factions within the leadership and central elite become more cohesive, a new foreign policy may emerge. Past successions do not provide help here. The new policy may be a continuation of the old, with marginal changes in targets, methods, and intensity, as was the case in Brezhnev’s foreign policy after Khrushchev’s ouster. It may be a policy in which changes in strategy are substantial, as was the case in Khrushchev’s policies after Stalin’s death. Whether one or the other will occur in the present succession depends on so many variables that it would be irresponsible to predict. One can analyze a few key factors in the present succession that may influence the formation of Soviet foreign policy.
The present succession, especially in its later stages, will involve an influx of a new post-Stalin generation of elite members into the top, particularly at the intermediate level of power positions in the party, the government, and key functional bureaucracies, which will exert some influence on the domestic style of leadership and direction of policies, especially if their entrance into the leadership is not spread through a long period of time but is massive and condensed.
However, I have the impression that their impact on the conduct and direction of Soviet foreign policy may not be decisive for a number of reasons. First, a small group of men at the apex of the hierarchy, served by a very large staff of advisers and officials, monopolize Soviet decision making with regard to foreign policy, as distinct from domestic issues. The overwhelming majority of the political elite, as represented, for example, by the Central Committee of the party, is isolated from foreign policy making. The leaders inform the large group on the policies in the foreign area they have adopted, rather than ask what the foreign policy should be. In the Secretariat of the Central Committee, the general secretary alone is involved in the overall conduct and direction of Soviet foreign policy. Among the other secretaries, none is responsible for or specializes in Soviet foreign policy proper.
Even if the Politburo or Secretariat coopts some members of the new elite generation, it will be long before they enter the inner circle of foreign policy makers, who all belong to the old generation. Advancement of the new elite generation will occur almost exclusively in the area of domestic policies, in which individuals can claim expertise. In the foreign policy area, most senior officials below the top leadership, for example, the first deputies of Foreign Minister and Politburo member Gromyko, belong to the old generation. Even if a man of the new generation replaces Gromyko when he dies or retires, there is almost no chance, considering his age and credentials, that he will be selected for Politburo membership. Finally, one should recognize that the members of the new elite generation are provincial in their outlook and knowledge. When they do participate actively in shaping foreign policy, they will have to learn about foreign policy before becoming effective.
In short, one should not overestimate the importance of the new elite generation in shaping foreign policy. Yet, for a moment, assume that this “new” group may have some indirect influence and that at some point in the future they will bear direct responsibility. What do the relevant elements of their collective makeup reveal about the direction of their probable influence? From this point of view, its most important aspect could be their apparent preoccupation with domestic problems. Their movement into the leadership circle could redirect the focus of attention from global ambitions to internal problems. One should be aware, however, that a shift will occur in the focus of their interests to balance their domestic preoccupation with foreign policy problems as these individuals rise in power. In other words, the preoccupation of this group with domestic problems is a function of the level of its activities and may change with a rise in the hierarchy.
Another important element is that members of the new elite generation were born to power and do not feel in their bones the sacrifices a generation of Soviet people made to bring the USSR to its position. They seem more arrogant and self-assured about Soviet actions and Soviet ambitions, more certain about Soviet entitlement. Ironically, this could help to make relations with the Western world more equitable if it makes them less insecure and less influenced by the subconscious inferiority complex of the older generation. It may prevent overreaction to real or imagined slights and help to moderate bluster and machismo. This depends to some degree on the policies of Western governments in denying the Soviets opportunities for low- risk expansion and, especially, in ensuring an equitable balance between Western and Soviet military capabilities. In a situation where the balance of military power between the Soviet Union and the West moves too far in the Soviet favor, the assurance of this new generation of the Soviet elite and their feelings of entitlement could lead to higher risks and a more ambitious Soviet foreign policy.
The turnover of personnel in the succession will involve not only the leadership and the political elite but also the foreign policy advisors who, along with the intelligence services, provide the leadership information, evaluations, and position papers on options. One group of those advisors, a very small one, consists of full-time assistants to the core leaders, not unlike the National Security Council staff in the White House. Little is known about this group except that they exist and that one can be reasonably sure that the new leaders will bring their own people to the new jobs. This may be very important. One can only hope that those whom they appoint will be sensible and that the West will be able to evaluate their views and tendencies.
Another group consists of the leading functionaries of the Cen-tral Committee Secretariat departments concerned with certain aspects of foreign policy, international information, Communist movements and Communist parties in power, and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Foreign Trade. The views and preferences of many of these men are known. One may expect that they will remain in office when the succession unfolds and that they will provide partly the recruitment pool for the leader’s personal foreign policy staff.
The third group of advisors, who are best known, consists of men in institutes of the Academy of Science which conduct research on foreign countries and international relations, such as the Institute for the USA and Canada, the Institute for Economic and International Affairs, the Far and Middle Eastern Institutes, the Latin American and African Institutes, and the Institute for the Study of Socialist Countries. The leading figures of these institutes often prepare position papers on specific request from the leadership, help write speeches, and provide evaluations of international events. There are no evident reasons why this group of advisers should change in the process of succession. Some will join the full-time staffs of the leaders or at least work in close association with these staffs. These advisers in the Foreign Office, in the Central Committee staff, and the academic institutes will provide continuity of input and judgment into foreign policy making during the process of succession and after.
A number of American experts on the Soviet Union, inside and especially outside of government, are in contact with the third, and to some extent, the second group of Soviet policy advisers. Some know, sometimes in detail, their views on policy issues and are able to trace the evolution of their ideas. Some can understand their positions with regard to the general state of Soviet-Western relations and to specific events.
At the same time, evaluating the importance of what we know and what we can judge concerning this group is most complicated. The experts on international relations represent a range of differentiated views on most issues. It is not certain whether the views of these individuals reflect those of the leadership or whether they are personal evaluations, which may or may not reach the leadership and may or may not influence the leadership’s perception of international issues. Even so, knowledge of this group of experts is important, in the first case as a mirror of the range of policy opinions circulating near the top, and in the second place as an input into Soviet foreign policy making. I believe that the first case, the experts view as a reflection of views within the leadership, is probably close to the truth.
From many years of observation and contact, I have no doubt that the differences of views among Soviet academic experts reflect differences at the level of the working staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the international departments in the Central Committee Secretariat staff. Were it not for the fact that the present system of foreign policy preparation is quite broad and that a degree of professional autonomy exists for the academic experts that is higher than in the past, one should be inclined to believe that differences at the top among the patrons of the different experts sanction these differences. Today, however, this does not seem as likely as in the past.
Whatever the relationship of these experts’ views to the views of the leadership, one can be fairly certain that the range of differences in the leadership is not broader than the range of differences among the academic experts and in all probability is narrower. The range of opinion among Soviet experts on international affairs may delineate the limits of views and preferences with regard to policy held by the Soviet leadership in times of such a divisive succession as that of the 1980s will be.
Should the new leaders decide not to proceed with basic reforms, they will have very little new to offer the elite and general population as far as economic, political, cultural, or social well-being is concerned. In such a situation, with its lack of domestic “quick fixes,” one should ask whether the new leadership will not decide to utilize the tried method of regimes in domestic trouble, continue to strengthen the armed forces, threaten its already frightened neighbors, and engage in foreign adventurism to distract attention from domestic ills. One cannot assert with certainty that the new set of leaders will not contemplate or adopt such a course. The arguments against adventurism, however, are strong.
First, if the Soviet leaders decide to engage in a major foreign adventure for home consumption purposes, and only a major adventure would be effective, they must prepare for a confrontation with either the United Stales or China, or both. However, both before it gained strategic parity with the West and after, the Soviet Union has traditionally been a low-risk power even when it engaged in foreign expansion. This dominant low-risk attitude is one of the most essential characteristics which divides Soviet policy from that of Nazi Germany.
It is possible, but highly unlikely, that the new set of Soviet lead-ers will bring into office, or be pressured to adopt, a different set of attitudes. Yet, the individuals who will continue to occupy the core leadership positions belong to the old generation of leaders for whom caution is an ingrained characteristic. Moreover, the roots of the cautious attitude still remain in force: the leaders’ knowledge of Soviet weaknesses and of the relative overall superiority of the West in the “correlation of forces,” which includes economic strength, technological advancement, and reliability of alliances, in addition to military forces; fear that a gamble to gain some advantages abroad may lose all; apprehension that the leadership may lose control over events, which could then develop spontaneously, a terrible eventuality for leaders with a strong fear of spontaneity.
Second, the Soviet leadership will be preoccupied in dealing with problems in their East European empire, and a major foreign adven- . ture would overextend them dangerously. Poland in particular should exercise a severe restraining influence for at least several years.
Third, the Soviets, especially the Russians, are very patriotic and respond quickly in defense of their country. However, they are not attracted to offensive adventures in faraway places. The difficulty that the Soviets have trying to explain their Afghanistan invasion is only one of many pieces of confirming evidence.
A major Soviet adventure would endanger the Soviet—West European connection, which is absolutely essential, even though the Soviets probably appreciate that nothing short of a major expansionist move would change the West European attitude of preserving detente with the Soviet Union at almost any price. Finally, the leadership can attain a high degree of nationalistic political mobilization without resorting to dangerous foreign adventures. The propaganda machine can whip up chauvinistic emotions to a high pitch and easily promote an aggressively nationalistic mentality in the country. One cannot be sure that the new leadership will not engage in foreign adventures. However, if it does so, strategic and foreign policy reasons, not domestic purposes, will be the cause.
In summary, we should ask first whether the Soviet Union finds itself at a potential turning point in its history. Will the 1980s produce a crisis of leadership or of system, or both? Will any crisis turn the system inward or outward?
A number of key ingredients for such a turning point are present in the succession, which overlaps with many critical decisions that the new leadership will have to consider. Other important ingredients are missing. Above all, the Soviet leadership and political elite clearly have the will to rule the Soviet Union and the Soviet empire by traditional means, and also to expand Soviet influence and power globally, to benefit from the decades of sacrifices and development. In the equation of foreign policies of opposing powers, the capacity to act and the will to act are partly exchangeable; the greater will to act may overcome the shortcomings of a nation’s capacities.
With regard to the internal Soviet political system, one may hope for change, but one cannot expect fundamental shifts. After all, no successful political elite in history has liquidated itself.
However, one can conclude that the 1980s constitute such a crit-ical juncture that the Soviet Union will decline politically, socially, and economically if its leaders do not implement major economic reforms. The famous “muddling through” model, applied to the Soviet future without basic reforms, should be supplemented by two options, “muddling up” and “muddling down.” The latter will describe the Soviet Union in the next decade without major reforms. One should keep in mind, though, that a power such as the Soviet Union may decline internally for a long period and produce in the meantime tremendous mischief in the international arena, as long as it main tains its armed strength and its leaders and elite have not lost their nerve and possess a will to expand.
This gives rise to a second question: is the Soviet system on the verge of economic bankruptcy and political disintegration, as some Western observers believe? Everyone knows the predictions of some Westerners about “the coming revolution in Russia,” the imminent “revolt of the nationalities” and the Soviet “internal” empire, and the spread of dissidence which “will engulf the Soviet intelligentsia,” and of which we see only the tip of the iceberg.
Those scenarios are possible but most unlikely. What has been built through generations with much blood, sacrifice, ruthlessness, cunning, and conviction will not simply disintegrate or radically change because of critical problems. In the coming succession, the Soviet Union may face a leadership crisis and an economic crisis, but it does not now and in all probability will not in the next decade face a systemic crisis that endangers its existence. It has enormous unused reserves of political and social stability. Gigantic economies such as the Soviet Union’s, presided over by intelligent and educated professionals, do not go bankrupt. They become less effective, stagnate, or experience an absolute decline for a period, but they do not disintegrate.
When analyzing the Soviet domestic and imperial situation at the beginning of the 1980s and its probable impact on foreign policy and projecting its development for the rest of the decade, I am drawn inescapably to the conclusion that we will witness the external expansion of an internally declining power.
From the Soviet point of view, the most favorable scenario over the remainder of the decade would contain the following elements. The Soviet Union will emerge from the present succession with a strong leader who will remain in office for the remainder of the decade. Any struggle within the leadership and central elite would be brief and would not involve major purges or a leadership crisis. The oligarchical nature of the Soviet leadership and the will of the leadership and political elite to rule and to expand would remain strong. Through a number of economic reforms on the margin of the system, the Soviet economy would avoid stagnation and the ratio of its growth would remain at the maximum projected levels of 2.5 percent.
Docility within the working class, the political apathy of the population, the centrifugal forces in the “internal” empire, and the career in-system orientation of the professional class would continue, though within a narrower margin of safety, safeguarded by increased au-thoritarianism of the domestic order and buttressed by nationalistic appeals. Within the East European empire, the population and disaf fected elite groupings would remain quiescent and present Soviet power with limited challenges in only one country at a time. Finally, the leadership would be able to insulate its continuous external expansion from its domestic and imperial troubles.
From the Soviet perspective, the least favorable scenario of the domestic and imperial situation for the remainder of the decade would contain the following elements: the Soviet Union would witness in the 1980s two successions of leadership and would remain throughout the decade without a strong and secure leader; the struggle over power and policies among the leadership and central elites would resemble the post-Stalin succession in its intensity; the oligarchical nature of the leadership, rule by a committee, would be stronger and would reduce the flexibility of domestic and foreign policies; economic policy making would be of an emergency, stopgap nature and would fail to prevent virtual stagnation of economic growth; the social stability of the 1960s and 1970s would be replaced by sporadic, perhaps violent worker unrest and by the further systemic decline of the work ethic, along with an increase in corruption; irredentist pressures among the elite and the population of the non-Slavic nationalities of the “internal” empire would increase significantly; the deteriorating economic situation in the East European empire would lead to massive social and political unrest in a number of countries which military force would have to suppress; the commitment of the leadership and political elite to expansion of power and influence in the international arena would remain intact, but domestic troubles, the agony of Eastern Europe, and the leadership’s fear of overextension would limit it.
In either case, the West will face an active and expansionist Soviet foreign policy. The Soviet Union is still in an ascending phase of its great power global ambitions; it still possesses an awesome and growing military machine, and its foreign policy will increasingly play a legitimizing role for rule at home. However, in either case, the domestic economic and social costs of a continuous military buildup and of an expansionist foreign policy will increase dramatically in comparison to that of the 1960s and 1970s.
Soviet foreign policies are rooted in internally determined polit-ical, economic, and cultural tendencies and sources. Yet the policies of Soviet adversaries can influence Soviet development and policies. In the late 1980s, the potential Western leverage on Soviet behavior, particularly international, and on the costs of Soviet policies will be much greater than at any time during the Brezhnev era. The Western influence on Soviet domestic policies can be, at best, marginal; but its influence on specific Soviet foreign policies may be very important.
The transformation of Western leverage from potential to actual depends partly on the revitalization of the Western alliance and on coordination of its economic and defense policies. Above all else, it depends on whether the United States, the only barrier to Soviet international appetites, will restore a domestic equilibrium shattered by the political and cultural crises of the 1960s and 1970s, regain its confidence and that of its allies, reverse the negative trends in the Soviet-American military balance, and pursue a patient and tempered long-range policy without the swings of the policy pendulum so char-acteristic of the 1970s.
The Soviet Union and its empire have already entered upon the road of systemic decline, but the effects of this decline on Soviet international strength and behavior may take some time to become observable. The key guideline for American policy in this period is to avoid actions that may arrest or slow this decline and to promote actively its acceleration. It is an open question whether the United States will be able to pursue such a policy, and whether, instead, the waning years of this century will witness the dangerous and unpredictable parallel process of competitive decay of the two superpowers and their alliances.
1. Valerie Bunce, Do New Leaders Make a Difference: Executive Succession and Public Policy under Capitalism and Socialism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 173-74.
2. Gertrude E. Schroeder, “The Soviet Economy on a Treadmill of Re-forms,” in U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, Soviet Economy in a Time of Change (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1979), vol. 1, p. 313.
3. Joseph S. Berliner, “Economic Prospects,” in Robert G. Wesson, ed., The Soviet Union: Looking to the 1980s (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1980), p. 108.
4. Hugh Heclo and Aaron Wildavsky, The Private Governance of Public Money (London: Macmillan, 1974), p. 220.
5. Thomas W. Wolfe, “Military Power and Soviet Policy,” in The Soviet Empire: Expansion and Detente, William E. Griffith, ed. (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath & Co., 1976), p. 149.
I should like to express my appreciation to George Breslauer, Thane Gustafson, and Myron Rush for the information and critical comments they provided.