The Soviet Union after Brezhnev

By Martin McCauley | Go to book overview

8 Soviet-East European Relations

George Schöpflin

The first principle of Soviet-East European relations is that this particular relationship is not to be confused with other forms of international and inter-state contact. There may be superficial similarities to the practice of international relations in other parts of the world, but the reality of Soviet-East European relations - East-East relations for short - is qualitatively different, and this difference is insisted upon by the Soviet Union in the corpus of doctrines called the Brezhnev doctrine. Hence, as a first proposition, the concept of state sovereignty, for example, does not apply to East-East relations.

The basis of that relationship must, therefore, be sought elsewhere. Here the central concept of significance is the Soviet conception of power and its derivative in this context, the Soviet concept of alliance. To oversimplify a lengthy argument, the essence of the Soviet (and before that, the Russian) concept of power is concentration. In this perspective, power should be centralised as far as possible and monopolised. And above all, the wise ruler acting by this precept will do everything to prevent the emergence of competing centres of power ( Szücs 1981). In the field of domestic politics, this has become the leading role of the party, the political monopoly of the communist party, which acts as the single legitimate political aggregator in the state and, indeed, seeks to merge with the state.

In international affairs, this aspiration to create a monopoly of power is not (yet) possible, but the frame of values which has had its domestic expression in the leading role doctrine infuses the international field as well. The essence of this is that the Soviet Union lacks a concept of alliance and only understands subordination. Subordination is thus a pragmatic substitute for the complete submergence of other interests, which is regarded as the ultimate aim of monopolising power. In official language, this is called the coming of full communism.

The post-war era of East—East relations is full of examples of the rejection of any real alliance with the East European states by the Soviet Union and on its insistence on subordination ( Kende 1982). In Hungary in 1956, a viable compromise between Moscow and Budapest was feasible, had the Soviet Union been willing to accept that a neutral Hungary would remain within the Soviet orbit. Other crises of the system ( Czechoslovakia in 1968, Poland in 1980-81) provide the same

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The Soviet Union after Brezhnev
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Soviet Union After Brezhnev *
  • Contents *
  • Maps and Tables *
  • The Contributors *
  • Preface *
  • I the Post-Brezhnev Era *
  • 2 Leadership and the Succession Struggle *
  • 3 Dissent, Opposition and Instability *
  • 4 Soviet Economic Prospects: Can the Soviet Economic System Survive? *
  • 5 Agriculture *
  • 6 Foreign Trade Policy: the Ussr, the West and Eastern Europe as an Eternal Triangle *
  • 7 the Military Build-Up *
  • 8 Soviet-East European Relations *
  • 9 Sino—soviet Relations *
  • 10 is Détente Dead? *
  • References *
  • Index *
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