Is Soviet Glitter All Gold?

By Coughlin, James F. | Security Management, September 1990 | Go to article overview

Is Soviet Glitter All Gold?


Coughlin, James F., Security Management


IS SOVIET GLITTER ALL GOLD?

A WELL-KNOWN CLICHE contends that things are not what they seem. If that's true, what is it we are really witnessing east of the Elbe? The old cliche may never have been more true than in this age of glasnost.

Recent events in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries have raised more than a casual eyebrow in the West. The free world is increasingly optimistic about the radical social and economic reforms being instituted by the Soviet government and the strengthening of democracy's foothold in Eastern Europe.

At the risk of being labeled a neo-cold warrior, I believe these cataclysmic events deserve a deeper look. Some would say we are living through one of the most revolutionary philisophical upheavals in history, while others could legitimately claim the West is being deceived by a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign by the masters of that art.

Amid the social and political reforms, what reductions have been made in the great Soviet war machine? Short of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, the Soviet Union continues its worldwide ideological expansion and buildup of arms at home. Should the Soviet military presence in Europe be reduced or eliminated and the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the Soviet Union would remain the same great military threat it was during the darkest days of the Cold War.

A trusting attitude toward these previously inconceivable changes in Eastern Europe prevails in the United States. A debate has even developed about whether we actually need a national defense. Congress continues to slash the strategic defense initiative (SDI) budget, and some members advocate direct economic aid to the Soviets to ensure the success of their reforms.

The congressional call for large reductions in defense spending has even reached the White House. And though President Bush has announced cuts in the defense budget, he is being chastised for not pushing for even more drastic cuts. The cover story of the February 14, 1990, issue of Time states, "Bush is finally cutting defense. But with a clearer vision of American responsibilities in a changing world, he could save billions more."

High-ranking officials in the US intelligence community also feel the Soviet Union's increased openness has reduced its military threat to the United States, and it is commonly believed the military enemy in Eastern Europe has disappeared.

Former Warsaw Pact adversaries are now considered neutral or even allies. A unified Germany will be welcomed with open arms into the NATO alliance. Could the fox, or more appropriately the bear, be given a more direct entry to the hen house?

What has motivated this historic reversal? Quite possibly it is a not-so-subtle attempt by the Soviet Union to secure a Western bailout of its foundering economy, a goal the Soviets appear very close to attaining. As a result of the dramatic events unfolding throughout the Soviet empire, many Americans now believe the Soviets are our friends. …

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