and National Interest
Soviet troops have gone into Czechoslovakia—
friendship knows no boundaries.
Why did they send our troops into Afghanistan?
They were going alphabetically.
The State therefore must make a choice: either to give up its continuous
effort and doom its borders to continuous unrest . . . or else to advance
farther and farther into the heart of the savage lands . . . where the
greatest difficulty lies in being able to stop.
—Chancellor Aleksandr Gorchakov, 1864
BY REDEFINING IN 1968 the notion of what constituted a "counterrevolution," the Brezhnev leadership sought to institute a fundamentally new era in socialist bloc relations. Under this altered regime, the Soviet leadership identified a threat to traditional socialist norms anywhere in the bloc as a menace to its prestige and stability. Moscow effectively guaranteed communist rule in Eastern Europe against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, by explicitly subordinating the national interests of its allies to the welfare of the entire socialist community.
This outlook informed the Kremlin's effort to deepen socialist integration on the grounds that common interests demanded common policies. Economic integration, political consolidation, a return to ideological orthodoxy, and inter-Party cooperation became the new watchwords of Soviet bloc relations. Failure to hold fast to this general line anywhere would theoretically constitute a danger to socialism everywhere, particularly as the bloc faced a rapidly changing international environment. Consequently, the threat of military intervention hung perpetually over Eastern Europe like the sword of Damocles throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. The Soviets and their allies referred to this consolidation under duress as "socialist internationalism." In the West, it was regarded as a predictable consequence of the new Brezhnev Doctrine.
One can discern two distinct phases within the Brezhnev consolidation era. The first, from 1971 until mid-1976, witnessed a renewed stability and optimism in the bloc, as Eastern Europe entered a period of new prosperity and higher living standards. By contrast, the period between 1976 and the early 1980s saw the entire region decline rapidly into serious economic and political instability. Government efforts to maintain social order as living standards began to fall failed to prevent open disaffection