The Strategy of Reform
DESPITE Mikhail Gorbachev's bold language about economic reform, relatively little such reform occurred in his first year and a half in office. Many Soviet intellectuals and western observers pointed to the obstacles outlined in the previous chapter as the reason for the difference between words and deeds. Then in the winter of 1986-87, the regime ratified a series of potentially quite radical decisions that legalized private labor, independent cooperatives, and joint ventures based on foreign investment. Most analysts still insisted that political opposition would prevent these measures from being carried out to any significant degree. The June 1987 plenum of the Central Committee, with its decision on economic reform and its three additions to the Politburo, temporarily stilled this talk of major opposition, but talk of defeats and opposition recurred in the fall.
Possibly the dire predictions for Gorbachev will prove to be correct, but, as noted earlier, a policy-relevant analysis must begin at another point. Since Gorbachev told the editors of Time that "foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy,"1 it is important to understand the steps that he has taken in his first years. Many western analysts assumed that he was learning on the job and improvising. This may be true of minor steps, but the evidence strongly suggests that he has had a general strategy of reform--and a general foreign policy strategy to go with it. A failure to grasp this strategy risks serious foreign mistakes on the part of the West.____________________