The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 3: Remarks by Leonid Brezhnev at a Meeting of Top
CPCz Officials, in Prague, December 9,1967 (Excerpts)

Source: Sb. KV, D VII—ÚSD, AÚV KSČ, File for A. Novotý; Vondrová & Navrátil, vol. 1, pp. 30–31.

Leonid Brezhnev's carefully worded speech conveys his caution against overtly siding with the
unpopular First Secretary Novotný. Although invited to Prague by Novotný as a way to bolster his flagging
rule, Brezhnev tried to avoid taking a decisive position in the CPCz leadership dispute—"did not come
to take part in the solution of your problems"and instead focused his remarks on restoring unity in the
fractious party. Some of Brezhnev's comments during his meeting with top CPCz officials on December 9,
especially about the proper role of the Presidium vis-…á-vis the Central Committee, were openly supportive
of Novotný against his opponents. But the Soviet leader's backing was far less enthusiastic than Novotný
had either hoped for or needed.

"Brezhnev first spoke about the good results achieved by the Soviet Union and then discussed the defense capability of the Warsaw Pact."

The Soviet Union is forced to allocate vast resources to defense. Although the budget officially refers to 22 percent, much more than that actually must be spent. Several institutes working for the defense industry are referred to as being civilian. That is why two recent plenary sessions of the CPSU Central Committee discussed international issues; the Soviet comrades are aware that concern for the defense of the USSR and the entire socialist camp must at all times have pride of place. The only thing ordinary people want is that there should not be another war, since the distress caused by the last war has not yet been fully alleviated. That is why we are continuously working to consolidate the Warsaw Treaty Organization and to ensure that unity on this question will prevail among all its members. No one can offer guarantees regarding the future course of events. Experience from the time of the civil war and the world war teaches us that we must have a powerful army. The reasons that the imperialists do not dare attack Czechoslovakia, Poland, or the other socialist countries, is that they are aware of the immense military strength of the Soviet Union. The Americans leave in peace those countries with whom the Soviet Union has concluded a treaty because they know only too well that we are superior. They constantly talk about a balance of forces, but they are fully aware of the actual disposition of forces. They do not even dare touch North Korea. The U.S. Air Force is bombing all kinds of targets in the Vietnamese Democratic Republic except for ports where Soviet ships are anchored, even though they know only too well that those ships are transporting arms to Vietnam. That is why unity on all military matters is essential so that we need not abandon our achievements.

"After dealing with the international situation, Brezhnev explained the circumstances of his present visit."

This time I am here under circumstances in which the situation has escalated, if that is how we are to characterize it. I have been briefed by Cde. Novotný, and I had talks with other comrades as well. What am I to say? I did not come to take part in the solution of your problems. We do not do this, and you will surely manage to solve them on your own. I consider what Cde. Novotný said was quite correct, namely, not to submit matters of principle to the Central Committee at least until such time as they have been adopted unanimously by the Presidium.12 That is the way

12 By endorsing this view, Brezhnev came down squarely on Novotný s side on a particularly contentious issue. The
anti-Novotný forces had been demanding a preeminent role for the Central Committee as opposed to the Presidium.

-18-

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