The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview
82.
See the account by Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Il'ichev of the deliberations of a section on "Policy Toward Developing Countries and Regional Conflicts" at this conference, in ibid., October 1988, pp. 49-50.

43 Soviet National Security
Under Gorbachev

BRUCE PARROTT

When Mikhail Gorbachev was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, few Western observers anticipated major alterations in Soviet external policy; today, most believe that the changes since 1985 have been dramatic, and even spectacular. Gorbachev has elaborated a sweeping vision whose postulates about military power and security contradict the views of recent Soviet leaders. In superpower arms negotiations the USSR has agreed to drastic arms cuts and intrusive verification measures which have no precedent in past Soviet practice. Meanwhile, the party leadership, once apparently under the sway of the military high command, has downgraded the military's public role and encouraged a cadre of civilian defense analysts to propose radical revisions of inherited military policy. In addition, reformist party leaders have begun to reappraise the role of the Committee for State Security (KGB) and have subjected that once sacrosanct institution to public criticism. These changes have been accompanied by a whirlwind of daring foreign-policy innovations that Gorbachev's immediate predecessors could scarcely have imagined, let alone carried out.

The feverish pace and occasional inconsistency of the Soviet initiatives have spawned disagreements among Western analysts. Some view the proclamation of "new political thinking" as a fundamental shift in Soviet security policy, whereas others regard it primarily as a rhetorical exercise designed to lull the West. 1 Analysts also disagree over whether the recent foreign-policy changes are designed to be permanent or are temporary expedients to allow the regime to cope with domestic difficulties before returning to a more confrontational policy toward the West. Closely linked to this issue is the disputed question of whether the professional officer corps has supported or opposed Gorbachev's new approach to security and budgetary priorities. 2 Less often discussed but no less important is the attitude of the KGB. Have KGB views on security matters paralleled or diverged from the military perspective, and how has the relationship between the two hier

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