Soviet Foreign Policy

Soviet Foreign Policy

Soviet Foreign Policy

Soviet Foreign Policy

Excerpt

It has been only three years since the Academy of Political Science published its last volume on the Soviet Union (The Soviet Union in the 1980s, ed. Erik P. Hoffmann). Since then, a great deal has happened in the USSR, much of it a direct result of Mikhail Gorbachev's selection as general secretary in March 1985. New political terms have been introduced, and Sovietologists have been hard at work trying to give meaning to what has been taking place within Soviet society. This volume reflects the Academy's effort to contribute to that discourse.

Gorbachev's novoye myshleniye (new thinking) has had a pronounced effect inside the Soviet Union. There are signs of government reform; bureaucrats have been removed, military leaders replaced, and competitive local elections held. Domestic political changes include free enterprise projects, accountability in state enterprises, broader political expression, and increased foreign influence on popular culture. And, inevitably, the change within the Soviet state affects foreign affairs. Indeed, as V.I. Lenin himself once put it: "There is no more erroneous or harmful idea than the separation of foreign from internal policy."

Gorbachev's "new thinking" comprises a number of other concepts. Perestroika (restructuring) embraces the new economic concepts that Gorbachev hopes will revitalize the stagnant economy, while demokratizatsiya (democratization) describes the process of change overtaking many Soviet institutions. The concept of glasnost (openness),however, has captured the imagination of the West. Is this "openness" a sign of change that will transform Soviet foreign policy and the USSR's world outlook? Or is it a device to forestall change and give the Soviets peredyshka (breathing space) so that they can concentrate on the domestic problems that Gorbachev has identified as critical to the modernization of the Soviet Union?

Obviously, the war in Afghanistan and the military budget have taken a significant toll on the ability of the USSR to meet the need for a higher standard of living. These foreign obligations are becoming heavy burdens. The Soviets have, after all, retreated from aggressive and expansionist foreign-policy goals, only to reestablish their traditional ways once domestic needs permitted, or required, the change. Nikita Khrushchev's "peaceful coexistence" in the late-1950s is the most recent example, but V.I. Lenin and Joseph Stalin practiced the policy as well. There . . .

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