Armed Forces and Political Power in Eastern Europe: The Soviet/Communist Control System

By Bradley R. Gitz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Erosion of the Soviet/Communist
Control System

INTRODUCTION

Despite the unrest provoked by Solidarity in Poland, the Soviet/Communist control system must have appeared fundamentally stable to the Soviet and East European leaderships at the beginning of the 1980s. Indeed, the Brezhnev era had, at least on the surface, witnessed an unprecedented expansion of Soviet military power and political influence, as well as a noteworthy increase in the economic well-being of Soviet and East European citizens. By the time of Brezhnev's death in November 1982, Moscow had also made considerable progress in institutionalizing its once blatantly exploitive relationship vis-à-vis its East European allies. By using the CMEA to regulate economic intercourse and the WTO to monitor political-military developments, the USSR seemed to have produced a workable foundation for the conduct of bloc affairs.

As outlined in previous chapters, a key component of this process of institutionalization involved creating an elaborate control system to guarantee the internal and external reliability of East European armed forces. Because those forces were increasingly viewed as essential to maintaining the region's Communist regimes and as integral to the successful conduct of offensive operations against NATO, the Soviets and their East European counterparts developed and refined the range of coercive and socialization mechanisms discussed in chapters 3 and 4. Although Western analysts continued to harbor doubts as to the effectiveness of this effort, the attempt to create a suitably "red" and "expert"

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