Based largely on primary sources in the Russian language, this succinct volume cover the following aspects of Soviet foreign policy: world outlook, personalities and structures of the decisionmaking process, implementation of objectives, and a discussion of practices toward geographic regions as well as specific countries.
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USSR Foreign Policies After Detente
By Richard F. Staar
Hoover Institution PressCopyright © 1987 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
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SOVIET WORLD OUTLOOK
It has been suggested that Soviet behavior in the world arena can be explained as the product of simple opportunism or Realpolitik. If this were true, the USSR would in the end be no different from any other aggressive power that would like to expand its influence. Yet such an assessment could even be true at the operational level and still not explain precisely what motivates the decision makers in the Kremlin. Why do these men seek confrontation, and what drives them?
One key place to find answers for such questions is in the system of beliefs on the basis of which all Soviet leaders have operated since the small group of communists seized power in 1917. Working within the framework of this ideology, the current successors to the original Bolsheviks have a world outlook that differs radically from that held by Western statesmen. According to one of Moscow's leading ideologists, the "historic mission" of the USSR involves the following three aspects:
1. building socialism and communism in the Soviet Union;
2. providing assistance to those countries where this process is under way; and
3. supporting the struggle for "social progress" in all other countries. [Italics added.]
The importance of ideology had recently been re-emphasized in the Soviet Union by the decision that the heir apparent, Gorbachev, retain ultimate responsibility for questions in this field. In fact, even as general secretary he chaired the commission preparing a new world outlook for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) program just before the 1986 party congress. Since that time, the deputy general-secretary has been responsible for the ideological area within the Politburo and Secretariat.
The ideological framework within which the foreign policies of the USSR operate actually has as its point of departure the belief that the industrialized countries of the West are currently in the third stage of a general crisis. By positing this periodization of modern history, the Soviets project what is for them an optimistic image of the world, in which the areas under capitalist control are becoming constantly smaller and weaker. Correspondingly, in Moscow's perception, areas under "progressive" rule in the communist and lesser developed states are expanding and being strengthened (see Table 1.1).
Boris N. Ponomarev, at the time a candidate Politburo member of the CPSU and International Department head in its Central Committee apparatus, illustrated this belief when he summarized territorial advances made during the decade of the 1970s. He spoke of "the unification of Vietnam, the consolidation of people's power in Laos, the liquidation of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea [Cambodia]." He then added that "Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique" had "secured liberation ..." All of the countries listed above, he said, had carried out "major social transformations" and represented "advance posts of socialist orientation" — language generally restricted to so-called "revolutionary democracies" or governments well advanced on their way to communism. Ponomarev next stated that "South Yemen is playing an important role" in this field. He also mentioned Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iran, and Zimbabwe [formerly Rhodesia] as examples of "blows against imperialism" in the world revolutionary process.
PERIODIZATION OF HISTORY
According to Soviet ideology, stage one of the alleged crisis in world capitalism, guided by the "objective laws of social development," began with the First World War and the 1917 revolution in Russia. The next phase started during World War II and included the socialist revolutions in a number of countries of Europe and Asia. The third and contemporary stage commenced during the 1970s. An obvious difference between the current period and both preceding ones has been the absence of a general war involving the major powers. There is "a rough military-strategic parity between socialism and imperialism."
Competition and conflict between the two worldwide socio-economic systems is accompanied, in the Soviet view, by increasingly aggravated problems within all capitalist countries and the United States in particular: monetary crises, rampant inflation, decline in production, price increases, and unemployment. Such domestic problems supposedly represent only one of four basic contradictions affecting the capitalist world. The others involve the conflict between the newly emergent nations and former colonial powers, the competition among the so-called imperialist countries themselves (especially the United States, Japan, and West European members of NATO) and, most important of all, the struggle between what the Soviets call "socialism" [that is, communism] and "capitalism."
This last struggle, it is claimed, will be won by means of a policy based on the principle of "peaceful coexistence," which has been enunciated from time to time ever since the days of Lenin. For example, the Bolshevik government's Foreign Affairs Commissariat [Ministry] reported to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee [Council of Ministers] on 17 June 1920 that "our slogan was and remains one and the same, peaceful coexistence with other governments of whatever kind they may be." During the 1980s, it is called "a specific form of class warfare in the international arena between capitalism and socialism."
PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE AND THE BREZHNEV DOCTRINE
The reason given by politicians in the USSR for resurrecting this more than half-century-old principle of peaceful coexistence as one basis for Soviet foreign policy can be found in what they identify as the alternative, namely, a nuclear war. Thus, the concept of peaceful coexistence provides a relatively safe framework within which to support "wars of national liberation" in the underdeveloped areas of the world, on the one hand, and so-called "active measures" within the capitalist states, on the other. In terms of propaganda, peaceful coexistence is also useful as a slogan for mobilizing domestic public opinion within non-communist-ruled countries in support of Soviet foreign policy.
In this respect peaceful coexistence, according to Mikhail A. Suslov, the most prominent Soviet ideologist and a full member of the ruling party's Politburo at the time of his death in 1982, "has nothing in common with class peace between exploiter and exploited, colonialist and victims of colonial oppression, or between oppressors and oppressed." What this means, in effect, is that the USSR by definition will be on the side of any movement that has the objective of weakening and destroying governments not under Soviet control or influence. When he served as foreign minister, Andrei A. Gromyko made this clear in the following words: "International detente does not in any way suggest artificial restraints on the objective processes of the historical development and struggle by oppressed people for their liberation."
Previously, communist ideology had affirmed the "inevitability of a world conflict" between capitalism and Soviet-style "socialism." This formula prevailed as dogma until February 1956, when it was revised at the Twentieth CPSU Congress. There a new position emerged — that war is not inevitable — and the latter formula has been repeated at the three postwar world conferences of communist parties (1957, 1960, 1969), as well as the last four CPSU congresses (1971, 1976, 1981, 1986). Members of the international communist movement, some friendly and some not so friendly toward Moscow, send delegates to such meetings. The gatherings are used as a podium for making policy statements.
As for the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, when originally propounded a month after the USSR military occupation of Czechoslovakia, it limited the sovereignty only of those communist-ruled states within the USSR's reach. Every party inside the East European bloc was said to be "responsible, not only to its own people, but to all the socialist [that is, communist-ruled] countries and the entire communist movement." Moscow thus retroactively had fulfilled its "international duty" by invading Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and allegedly preventing a "counterrevolution" from taking place. Approximately 80,000 Soviet troops — five divisions — have remained in that country since they entered it on a "temporary" basis.
Brezhnev personally told a group of the highest-ranking party/government officials, arrested in Prague and flown to Moscow as prisoners during the invasion, that
We in the Kremlin came to the conclusion that we could not depend on you any longer. You do what you feel like in domestic politics, even things that displease us, and you are not open to positive suggestions. But your country lies on territory where the Soviet soldier trod in the Second World War. We bought that territory at the cost of enormous sacrifices, and we shall never leave it. The borders of that area are our borders as well. Because you do not listen to us, we feel threatened. In the name of the dead in World War Two who laid down their lives for your freedom as well, we are therefore fully justified in sending our soldiers into your country, so that we may feel truly secure within our common borders. It is immaterial whether anyone is actually threatening us or not: it is a matter of principle, independent of external circumstances. And that is how it will be, from the Second World War until "eternity."
In effect, the Czechs and Slovaks present were made to understand that the USSR's borders extended to the Elbe River and that the Soviets considered all lands conquered during World War Two as their own.
Not quite ten years later, a coup in Afghanistan brought a de facto communist regime to power. In the wake of the resulting twenty months of anarchy, the USSR occupied Kabul at the end of December 1979 and installed its own puppet as ruler. His predecessor, Hafizullah Amin, and most members of the deposed cabinet were murdered in the process. This could also be considered an application of the Brezhnev Doctrine, in view of the fact that the Soviet Union and Afghanistan are territorially contiguous neighbors. The subsequent annexation of the Wakhan land corridor has given the USSR a border with Pakistan, obviously a development of geostrategic importance.
What all of this means in Soviet eyes, apart from the claimed irreversibility of communist rule, is the following: (1) the "socialist [communist] commonwealth of nations" considers itself powerful enough to determine the course of world events; (2) the world balance of forces already favors a "socialist" encirclement of capitalism; (3) economic development has been subordinated to ideology, coercion, and the threat of force; and (4) no single country or geographic region remains immune to communism. Soviet writers do not hesitate to propound these conclusions openly in Russian-language publications, although naturally they leave the third point above unmentioned.
CORRELATION OF FORCES
One explanation why war is no longer considered inevitable can be found in a concept that has been enunciated by the CPSU Central Committee in a formal resolution, adopted at a plenary session, as follows:
Detente is the natural result of the correlation of forces in the world arena that has formed in recent decades. The military-strategic balance between the world of socialism and the world of capitalism is an achievement of principled historic significance. It is a factor which contains imperialism's aggressive aspirations and which meets the vital interests of all peoples. The hopes to shake this balance are futile.
This, of course, means that Kremlin leaders believe the West was forced to accept detente or peaceful coexistence because of a "correlation of forces" that has been changing to the advantage of the USSR. One pair of Soviet writers has explained this idea in terms of the relationship between (1) military-strategic capabilities of the two "antagonistic" social systems and (2) their sociopolitical potentials. The former issue is dealt with in subsequent chapters of this book. Only the latter will be considered here.
According to these authors, the USSR always has been opposed to the status quo for any country whose policy is not based upon the "objective requirements of world social development." This corresponds to the concept of internationalism as originally formulated by Lenin. Although the Soviet Union, "as is well known," does not export revolution, it always will give assistance to the "struggle for social progress." Only in this light can one evaluate the "revolution as well as events concerning Afghanistan, problems of the Iranian revolution, the [USSR] attitude toward the revolution in Nicaragua, and elimination [by Vietnam] of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea." The Soviet Union "has never made any secret of its interest in changing the correlation of forces within the world arena, so that it favors socialism [that is, communism] ...to the disadvantage of imperialism ..."
A perceived superiority in political, economic, social, and, above all, military factors allows the USSR to apply a double standard. From the Kremlin's point of view, a Western ideological offensive that threatened the "socialist" system, United States support for "anti-progressive" movements anywhere in the world, and NATO attempts to revise East European borders would all violate detente.However, the Soviets themselves accept no similar constraints, especially in areas which they consider off limits to the West, as can be seen in the definition of proletarian internationalism as "the fundamental principle of USSR foreign policy [which] means that this policy consistently upholds the basic interests of world socialism, of the forces of the international communist and workers' movements, as well as the national liberation movement." These are the major components of the "world revolutionary process," as described by Soviet writers and spokesmen. A more detailed explanation follows in the next section.
WORLD REVOLUTIONARY PROCESS
Moscow, nevertheless, cannot control all fraternal communist movements. At the most recent Twenty-seventh CPSU Congress, among the ruling parties, Albania and China did not send representatives, which limited the number in attendance from that category to thirteen. On the other hand, a total of approximately 84 delegations that could be identified came from communist parties in capitalist countries (two each from Australia, Iran, Ireland, India) or administrative units like West Berlin. The national liberation movement was represented by 33 "revolutionary democratic" parties and clandestine groups. Finally, there were about 23 left-socialist and social democratic delegations as well as members of the Congress and Center parties, from India and Finland, respectively.
The list above illustrates the diverse elements making up the "world revolutionary process." They are linked together because of a mutual enemy: imperialism. To reiterate, components of the process include (1) the world communist movement, (2) the national liberation movement and, implicitly, (3) the left wing of the socialist movement, in the Western sense of that term, and certain other organizations.
World Communist Movement
Communist and workers' parties, recognized by the CPSU, operate in 95 countries throughout the world, and their total claimed membership has surpassed 80 million. This total includes the Chinese, who claim approximately half the global figure. Only fifteen states are ruled by communist parties, and those comprise the "world socialist system." A so-called revolutionary democracy, Kampuchea, is not officially in this category. Two member states (Albania and China) are antagonistic toward the Soviet Union as well as toward each other, and three ruling parties are more or less neutral in the Sino-Soviet dispute (those in Romania, North Korea, and Yugoslavia).
The "socialist commonwealth" includes the ten full members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) plus Laos, with observer status only. Thus, except for Romania, the so-called commonwealth remains limited to the pro-Soviet core of communist-ruled countries. Albania has not been a member of the USSR bloc de facto since 1961 and de jure since 1968, when it withdrew from both CMEA and the Warsaw Pact after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia maintains associate status within CMEA, although it is not considered a member of the "socialist commonwealth" (see Table 1.2).
Excerpted from USSR Foreign Policies After Detente by Richard F. Staar. Copyright © 1987 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission of Hoover Institution Press.
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Table of Contents
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
SOVIET WORLD OUTLOOK
PERIODIZATION OF HISTORY
PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE AND THE BREZHNEV DOCTRINE
CORRELATION OF FORCES
WORLD REVOLUTIONARY PROCESS
World Communist Movement
National Liberation Movement
Left Wing of the Socialist Movement
THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
THE POLITICAL BUREAU
THE CENTRAL APPARATUS
SHORT- AND LONG-RANGE PLANS
THE SUCCESSION PROBLEM
THE ANDROPOV INTERLUDE
ASCENDANCY OF CHERNENKO
GORBACHEV AT THE TOP
IMPLEMENTATION OF FOREIGN POLICY
TRAINING AND ACTIVITIES
ACTIVITIES WITHIN THE UNITED NATIONS
THE ROLE OF THE PARTY
CENTRAL COMMITTEE DEPARTMENTS
THE PRINTED WORD
AID TO LESSER DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
ESPIONAGE AND ACTIVE MEASURES
PROMINENT ESPIONAGE CASES
DIPLOMATS AS SPIES
AGENTS OF INFLUENCE
SUPPORT FOR COUPS AND TERRORISM
DISINFORMATION AND MURDER
TYPES OF WARFARE
The USSR Versus the United States
Warsaw Pact Versus NATO
SOVIET MILITARY CAPABILITIES
Strategic Rocket Forces
The Air Forces
General Naval Forces
Air Defense Forces
FOREIGN TRADE DECISIONS
EASTERN EUROPE AND THE BLOC
THE NATURAL GAS PIPELINE
POLICIES TOWARD EASTERN EUROPE
THE MAVERICK STATES
WARSAW TREATY ORGANIZATION
COUNCIL FOR MUTUAL ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
THE SOVIET CRACKDOWN
EAST-WEST RELATIONS IN EUROPE
THE HELSINKI FINAL ACT
CONVENTIONAL FORCE REDUCTIONS
INTERMEDIATE-RANGE NUCLEAR FORCES
WEST-EAST TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
THE THIRD WORLD
CATEGORIES OF LDCs
BETWEEN THE MAGHREB AND INDIA
THE USSR IN EAST ASIA
Dispute over Nuclear War
The Border Dispute
VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA
CHINA AND EASTERN EUROPE
RELATIONS WITH NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN
SALT I AND II NEGOTIATIONS
THE START TALKS
THE INF TALKS
THE U.S. ASSESSMENT
INDEX OF NAMES AND ORGANIZATIONS
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