How Russians Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War
The Pliant Majority Sustaining Putin’s Rule
Even in an age of nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles, the states of Eastern Europe now dominated by the Soviet Union constitute an important element of Soviet national security, a kind of cordon Stalinaire. The one hundred million people, and the resources their governments command, contribute a significant increment to Soviet economic, technological and military power. Soviet control of these areas provides forward military bases and possession of the traditional invasion routes into Western Europe, especially across the northern plains. The Soviet position, in fact, constitutes a threat to the security of Western Europe, a pistol held at its head.
The division of Europe and the perpetuation of tension have assisted the Soviet Union by restricting the role which West European states play in world politics and by increasing the American burden. At the same time, the Soviet position provides a veto over the unification of Germany and also over the reconstruction of Europe as a whole. Soviet control over East Germany maintains the fear of another Russian-German alliance and provides opportunities for Soviet diplomacy. It almost guarantees crises over West Berlin, in circumstances the Soviets choose. In short, Eastern Europe remains at the heart of the struggle between the Soviet Union and the NATO states.
On the surface, Soviet control over Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland appears tighter and more effective than ever, and the independence of Rumania in foreign policy is severely hedged by its geographical position. The close ties between the parties and the governments are supported by chains of command which run from Moscow into the various capitals through the armies, the police, the trade unions and the diplomatic service. Soviet armed forces are stationed in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
From two-thirds to three-quarters of the trade of each of these countries except Rumania is bound to the Soviet economy, and Soviet hegemony is exercised also through the coördination of economic plans. East European leaders, except those in Rumania, accept the Brezhnev Doctrine, which provides the Soviet Union formal authority to interfere in the affairs of the other states. Finally, of course, the force and skill with which Soviet- led forces crushed Czechoslovakia in 1968 demonstrated that the Soviet Union is ruthless, and will not tolerate significant modification of the Soviet position in those countries.
Even so, however, Soviet authority in these states has declined notably since its peak late in 1947, when Stalin said, "I will shake my little finger and there will be no more Tito. He will fall." Tito survived, and Jugoslavia has emerged as an independent national communist state with significant influence within Eastern Europe and among communist parties throughout the rest of the world. The political and ideological shifts connected with de-Stalinization and the rise and overthrow of Khrushchev have weakened the Soviet grip on other communist states and parties. The emergence of deep hostility between the Soviet Union and communist China has promoted polycentrism.
Unfortunately for the Soviet rulers, the problems reflected in the Polish uprisings in 1970-71 and in the earlier Czechoslovak crisis represent only one of a large number in an area which lacks uniformity and whose peoples have always proved troublesome to rule. Rumania, for example, has a staunch authoritarian government, but it maintains a resolutely independent foreign policy. Jugoslav relations with the Soviet Government on occasion have been friendly, but Jugoslavia remains irrepressibly free, little subject to Soviet influence. Tiny Albania has even withdrawn from the Warsaw Pact and is a kind of mouthpiece of the People's Republic of China in its violent hostility to the Soviet Union.
On the other hand, Bulgaria represents no problem for the Soviet Union, except for the small subsidy it requires, and the economic and political recovery of Hungary under Kadar constitutes a bright spot. Hungary is experimenting successfully thus far with economic reform, careful to ensure that its changes do not spill over into the political system from the economy or make Hungary too conspicuously liberal or successful.
The most critical problems reside in the so-called "Iron Triangle": East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Poland's problems were illustrated by the riots and strikes. The Soviet Union crushed Czechoslovak socialist humanism in 1968 with remarkable speed and skill, and it has quietly supervised the removal of Dubcek, Smrkovsky and their chief supporters and introduced substantial change in the Czechoslovak leadership and political system. The Soviet Union, in short, has carried out an effective political counterrevolution, but the economic and social problems which created the "spring" in Czechoslovakia remain more serious than ever.
Finally, the German Democratic Republic represents special difficulties, symbolized by the Berlin Wall, now almost ten years old. Few governments could more resolutely maintain control over their society. On the other hand, Ulbricht was an extremely stubborn defender of the interests of the German Democratic Republic, and he succeeded in delaying Soviet initiatives in its relations with the Federal Republic. Above all, the political situation in East Germany is most unstable, and the Soviet rulers must wonder whether Honecker will follow Novotny and Gomulka, both of whom also seemed secure in their positions.
The situation within Eastern Europe cannot be isolated from that in the remainder of the communist world. The Twenty-fourth Party Congress was in many ways soothing and reassuring. However, a number of important communist states, including the People's Republic of China and Jugoslavia, were not represented, and Soviet policy was criticized by leaders of parties as important as those of Rumania and France. The French and Italian parties in particular exercise a significant influence throughout Eastern Europe.
Finally, communist China has now decided to return to the world and to great-power politics, increasing again the attractions of national communism as well as the ability of the East European régimes to man?uvre against the Soviet Union. Its recent tactics have elevated ping-pong to an important position in international diplomacy, and the Soviet nightmare of a combination of China and the United States must now recur more insistently. In addition, the communist Chinese, who maintain five embassies in Eastern Europe, have set out to reduce Soviet authority there.
The basic Soviet problem in Eastern Europe is simple: its military and political role is threatened by powerful economic, social and intellectual forces not susceptible to the controls which have proved effective in the Soviet Union (and which will remain effective within that country). First of all, nationalism is a rising force throughout Eastern Europe, as it is in most other parts of the world. The peasants kept it alive during the dreadful years under Stalin and his puppets. The affection for the national history and culture, and for the national interest, has now been adopted by the workers, the professional groups, and the students, all favored by their régimes. In fact, communist success in creating new classes has helped to erode the earlier gratitude for liberation from the Nazis. Many direct more of their animosity against the Russians for recent restrictions than against the Germans, who were the hated enemies for the first two decades after the war, especially in Czechoslovakia and Poland.
At the same time, the economic achievements have enabled the peoples to devote their attention to issues other than simple survival. The approaching retirement of that generation which felt most grateful and loyal to the Soviet Union as well as the population explosion have created a homogeneous and predominantly youthful population with ideas and interests quite different from those who ruled or even survived in the 1940s and 1950s. (More than half the Polish population, for example, is under 30.)
The economic problems which produced the "spring" in Czechoslovakia and the riots and strikes in Poland remain unresolved. Basically, the East Europeans at enormous effort, including the sacrifice of most civil liberties, have modernized their economies quite significantly and have made substantial progress in industrial production. However, they have found that the command economy methods have "taken them as far as they can go," and that the West Europeans in the same two decades have moved into a new economic era, one which leaves East Europeans further behind than before.
Moreover, the economic and social problems of Czechoslovakia and Poland are even more fundamental and challenging now than before the crises. In fact, the invasion of 1968 deepened the Czechoslovak depression, and the sterile and bleak leadership worsens it. The troubles in Poland have simply indicated that massive economic reforms are mandatory. Internal resources to meet the economic needs do not exist. In addition, neither the Czechoslovak nor the Polish Government has the intellectual understanding, the political sense, the popular support, or Soviet approval now necessary to carry out economic change. At the same time, the Soviet Union lacks the material resources and the understanding to provide assistance. Indeed, it is hampered by the same scientific and technical lag. Consequently, the stagnant Czechoslovak economy must stagger on, with a working class ever less disposed to obey the commands of its rulers and with an industrial base ever less competent to meet the demands of the last third of the twentieth century, when the revolution of rising expectations will become ever more important throughout Eastern Europe.
In addition, an intellectual and philosophical vacuum has grown. Briefly, Marxism-Leninism is considered less and less relevant even by communist leaders in those countries. Many of them now consider Western management techniques and equipment more useful for their ailing economies than ideas imported and imposed from the East.
Above all, Eastern Europe is unstable because of the remarkable recovery and the growing vitality of the neighboring states in Western Europe. At a time when the silence in Russian culture which Sir Isaiah Berlin noted 15 years ago has become even more profound, Western ideas and ideals are overwhelming Eastern Europe and producing a significant impact upon the Soviet Union as well. Movies, music, fashions, novels, economic theory, social relations between generations, and the qualitative achievements of Western science and technology are known, respected and envied. The sunflower turns to the West now rather than to Moscow. Moscow must on occasion see Eastern Europe as a carrier of Western infections rather than as a barrier.
Unfortunately, from the Soviet point of view, Eastern Europe cannot be isolated from Western Europe and the rest of the world as it was during Stalin's time. The striking changes in transportation and communication and the massive expansion of education, even highly technical education, have created interests, appetites and needs which have shriveled the old controls and increased Western influence. Indeed, the very highest levels of the communist parties have been deeply affected by Western ideas and this influence has spilled into the Soviet Union as well, especially among the minorities, such as the Jews and Ukrainians. Louis XIV's comment that nations meet only at the top does not apply in an age of mass culture, increased education, international travel and study and a series of revolutions in communications. However, nations still meet first at the top and foreign influences are absorbed first by today's political leaders and scientists, as they were earlier among aristocrats. Soviet dissidents, such as Sakharov, Medvedev and Amalrik, were all influenced by developments in Eastern Europe and in the West.
In some ways, the Soviet dilemma in Eastern Europe is like that which the régimes of Alexander I and Nicholas I faced one hundred fifty years ago, except that the Soviet Union is more deeply involved in European state politics and more influenced by European ideas and economic vitality than was the other old régime. The Decembrists and the Polish Revolt in 1830-31 alarmed the early Tsars just as the Budapest, Prague and Polish revolts have frightened their successors. Today's dilemma is even more fundamental, because the communists are trying to catch up with Western Europe on the material plane and to shake off its influence on the political and psychological plane. As Christopher Dawson pointed out years ago, "Given the nature of Western political philosophy, which is a philosophy of freedom, this dilemma, and consequent conflicts are inevitable."
Those who make Soviet policy decisions with regard to Eastern Europe are, first of all, Soviet communists, with a view of themselves, of the world, and of history which derives from their interpretation of Marxism-Leninism. Seen through Soviet-tinted glasses, Eastern Europe has no doubt been undergoing slow, steady progress, hampered on occasion by "capitalist remnants," which caused difficulties such as those with Jugoslavia in 1948 and the various eruptions since that time. The forces of history and the guidance of Big Brother, however, will thrust into the dustbin of history those not sufficiently loyal or submissive. They will also assure that the danger threshold will never be crossed and that these states will continue their progress toward communism under vigilant Soviet leadership.
This view, which reflects imperfect knowledge of the peoples in this complex area as well as the inability to understand others which paralyzes all of us, is a serious limitation on Soviet policy. Moreover, the Soviet Government is profoundly conservative and unimaginative, handicapped by its philosophy and persuaded that force in the last analysis will overcome any shortcomings. In addition, the Soviet Government is to some degree restricted by the Soviet public, which was convinced by the Second World War that Eastern Europe, especially East Germany, remains essential to the security of the Soviet Union. The millions of veterans in particular would fail to understand a Soviet policy which surrendered or weakened the Soviet position. Moreover, the "hard-liners" in the party, particularly at the upper levels, have a significant impact on Soviet decisions in this central area and therefore limit the options available.
The Soviet Government also realizes that the national interests of each of the states of Eastern Europe differ frequently from those of the others and that they cannot be treated as a bloc. It also assumes that the leaders of these states are experienced in Soviet ways of dealing with others and that, even though loyal to the Soviet Union, they will on occasion defend their national interests against insistent Soviet pressures. Moreover, while Moscow retains the capability to use ancient dislikes and current ambitions to divide Budapest from Bucharest and Warsaw from Prague, and even to use anti-Semitism, it must know that the leaders of these states on occasion will band together to defend their interests, perhaps simply by stalling. The Soviet leaders also realize from experience that their relations with these leaders can no longer be shielded even from the rest of the communist world. Jugoslavia in particular obtains access to even the most confidential information, thus demolishing one of the great strengths the Soviet leaders used to enjoy.
The existence of other independent communist states, particularly communist China but Jugoslavia as well, also exerts a limiting influence upon Soviet policy. The Chinese charge that "peaceful penetration of Western capitalism" into Eastern Europe is occurring under the blind eye of the Soviet Union. Its other charges of ideological softness naturally affect Soviet views and policies, as do those of Western communist parties alert to Soviet "sectarian, dogmatic attitudes" and harsh, restrictive Soviet policies which will affect their own electoral prospects. The Soviet Government can and usually does ignore these criticisms or protests, but such actions exact a penalty and in the long run can circumscribe Soviet freedom of action.
Above all, the Soviet Government must fear Western influences and the effect any relaxation of controls in Eastern Europe would have throughout that area and within the Soviet Union as well. The "Great Fear" is that any unbinding of Soviet power in this critical borderland would erode communist power within the Soviet Union and begin a withering away of the myth that international communism led from Moscow is an invincible wave of the future. It would destroy the true faith of communists and at the same time encourage the "savage" Americans and Chinese. Thus, any weakening in Eastern Europe would be interpreted by the Soviet rulers themselves as an assault upon the inexorable forces of history, as well as upon the ultimate security of the Soviet Union.
To help meet the various challenges posed, the Soviet leaders have a number of choices. Thus, with regard to arrangements between those states and the Soviet Union, they might reconsider establishment of a socialist commonwealth of nations, including the states of Eastern Europe, except for Albania and Jugoslavia, and any other communist states which might wish to join. This dramatic and vague proposal, made originally just before Soviet armed intervention into Hungary, would bind the various states of Eastern Europe more closely to the Soviet Union in an ostensibly free federation. It would help establish clear lines of policy and political arrangement. It would divide those who supported the Soviet Union from those who refused to join it. It would also establish a framework into which a repentant or revised Rumania and a new Jugoslavia, Albania and communist China could join.
On the other hand, Rumania would almost certainly refuse to join such a "federation" and would resent its establishment. Some of the other states would certainly fear that such a commonwealth would constitute a step toward absorption as a Soviet Socialist Republic. Jugoslavia, Albania and communist China would not only refuse to join but would attack it as the reëstablishment of the Cominform, while those foreign communist parties already critical of Soviet efforts to establish a coördinating system would be vociferously critical.
Another option-incorporation of one or two of the states of Eastern Europe into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics-would enable the Soviet Government to deal most effectively with the people so absorbed. The Soviet Government apparently considered the incorporation of Slovakia in 1968 as one way of resolving the Czechoslovak issue. However, such an action would create enormous opposition throughout Eastern Europe and among other communist states and parties. It would especially create fear and hostility among Germans, East and West, for they would conclude that it meant that the German Democratic Republic might one day also be swallowed, thereby ending "forever" any hope of German unity.
A third option is maintaining the status quo throughout Eastern Europe, supplemented by a gradual and almost imperceptible general tightening of control within each country and of Soviet hegemony over all the countries. This slow and almost invisible kind of re-Stalinization would be concealed by amenities and would consist of small steps, with the carrot always concealing the stick. It might be reflected in revised treaties such as that concluded with Czechoslovakia in May 1970, which increased Soviet authority and obligated Czechoslovakia to assist the Soviet Union in conflicts even in East Asia.
Such a general tightening would strengthen Soviet controls, at least temporarily. It would alienate the privileged classes which Russia seeks to persuade. It would also, of course, arouse communist parties such as those of France and Italy, and it would clearly raise tensions throughout Europe and the world, thereby endangering the détente and Soviet hope for increased trade and for Western technological assistance to the U.S.S.R.
Economic stagnation, especially in Czechoslovakia and Poland, the ever more visible lag of the science and technology of Eastern Europe behind that of Western Europe, and the pressure for diversion of increased resources to satisfy the needs of the urban classes constitute the most direct and serious challenge throughout Eastern Europe. The Soviet response, and that of the Novotnys and Gomulkas, has not been impressive. When the Soviet Government has provided substantial aid, as it did in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and in Poland in 1971-after crises had erupted-it has done so on a crash basis. So far as we know, it has never considered anything like the Marshall Plan, or any long-term proposal which sought to advance the interests of each country in a coördinated long-term aid program designed to raise the general economic level.
Such a policy is beyond the capacity of the Soviet leaders. Their interest in the Soviet Union and in Soviet advance is single-minded. They have a pyramidal view of world communism, with the Soviet Union at the top, at the highest stage of development. Stalin's view concerning the construction of socialism in one country still fetters them, as the Chinese communists discovered a decade ago, when they urged that all states ruled by communists share resources and move toward communism at the same pace. Moreover, both the Soviet economies and those of the East European states are in such straitjackets from centralized controls that a multinational program would be immensely difficult to administer, even if the political will existed.
Another possibility is transforming COMECON, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, into a joint supranational economic organization of the communist states, one designed to establish a "socialist integration." Such an approach, which would probably be modeled on the Common Market, is also beyond practical Soviet capabilities. Establishing a supranational organization of reformed and unreformed economic systems would be extraordinarily difficult. It would require each state to surrender part of its sovereignty, which Rumania already has refused to do. Each country would have to introduce substantial institutional changes, remove entrenched bureaucracies' grips from the national economy, and coördinate its own national economic plans with those of the other countries. Each currency would have to be revalued, and a uniform price system established which escaped from the arbitrary and inflexible national systems which now prevail. Above all, the communist states would have to establish a multilateral payments system with a convertible ruble. These steps are almost inconceivable, so that COMECON is condemned to stumbling along as it has since 1949, with slow and minor improvements.
Another possibility is Soviet promotion of economic reform along the lines which the Kadar government in Hungary is now following or those which the Czechoslovak Government sought to establish in 1968. This would decentralize the economies, give more authority to individual enterprises and to the market, provide increased national incentives, and elevate the role of qualified specialists as compared to bureaucratic party managers. It would pay significantly greater attention to consumer expectations, and it would lead almost inevitably to relaxed controls.
The Soviet Government is likely to tolerate some economic reform in Poland and Czechoslovakia, if the trusted governments of those countries can overcome fears of change within their own beleaguered administrations. However, the Twenty-fourth Congress of the Soviet Party in March 1971, especially the speeches of Kosygin, "the reformer" within the Politburo, revealed that the Soviet Government itself has turned against economic reform. It instead reëmphasized administrative centralization, spiced with devices modeled upon American business schools such as the Institute for Management of the National Economy, and Western technology acquired through increased trade and through arrangements with firms such as Fiat.
Thus, the Soviet rulers believe that "Liberman reforms" almost inevitably lead to Sik and that Sik almost inevitably leads to a crisis such as that of August 1968. Moreover, reformed communism represents a direct threat to traditional socialist planning. The bureaucrats who would lose power and positions would oppose it, as would those who fear the impact of reform upon communist party rule. Continued success in Hungary without any threatening political consequences alone offers hope. However, even the Hungarian reform involves increased trade with the West, and Western investment, and raises the specter of the influence of foreign ideas. Moreover, the Hungarians must walk a very narrow path, somehow containing their changes within the economy and not becoming so successful as to attract the fear and wrath of Soviet or East German conservatives.
Another possibility is significantly increased trade with the West, including Japan and the United States. In fact, rejection of internal economic reforms would increase the need for expanded trade, because the centralized command economy could be revived only through Western technology-but Western equipment and ideas could be acquired only through trade. However, from 60 to 75 percent of the foreign trade of the East European states is committed to the Soviet Union by long-term agreements, so they have little freedom of action. The arrangements which the Soviet Union has established constitute a form of imperialism which further cripples the Poles, the Hungarians and others in trade with the West: generally, the East European states are obliged to ship their finest industrial products to Moscow, receiving in return various raw materials, such as oil, gas and iron ore. In addition, the quality of the goods produced in Eastern Europe is generally below the level sought by Western consumers, and East Europeans lack the marketing skills international trade requires. In short, prospects for greatly increased trade are dim. Increased Western aid is also unlikely, for economic as well as political reasons.
The East European states not only lack the capacity to increase trade significantly with the West, but the Soviet leaders realize that trade is a most serious cause of infection. It would introduce fresh air, new contacts, and ideas. Moreover, any increase in trade would lead inevitably to pressure to reform the economy in order to produce the kind and quality of goods and services required in payment by the West As Toynbee revealed in his "Study of History," no society can borrow an idea, a technique, a piece of equipment from another society without also importing that society's spirit and values.
In contemporary terms, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are a closed system facing a modernization crisis of special severity because it is compounded by imperial problems. The Russians are facing a hazard which de Tocqueville foresaw for any autocratic government which sought popularity or greater productivity. In an old Russian phrase, "They seek a fire which will not burn." Moreover, this new fire might not succeed in warming up the stagnant economies but might only stimulate appetites and intensify problems.
During the past few years, the Soviet Union has followed a policy called détente, one designed to weaken the resolution of Western Europe, to break up NATO, to weaken and destroy the Common Market, and to remove American forces and influences from Western Europe. The Moscow treaty between the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Germany in August 1970, the trade and aid agreement completed in October between Bonn and Warsaw, and the agreement signed in Warsaw in December 1970 between Germany and Poland are the outstanding illustrations thus far of this process.
However, neither the Federal Republic's Ostpolitik nor the Soviet Union's Westpolitik has yet passed the major test, because the Moscow agreement has not yet been ratified or even placed before the West German legislature. In fact, the absence of progress in West Berlin has increased opposition to the treaty. German ratification of the August 1970 Moscow agreement still depends on a satisfactory solution of the West Berlin situation, one in which the Soviet Union would recognize special ties between West Berlin and the Federal Republic and guarantee access of West Germans to West Berlin and of West Berliners to East Berlin. If the Soviet Union should reach agreement on West Berlin, the Moscow and Warsaw treaties would be ratified, thereby providing official West German recognition of the permanent boundaries of Poland and acceptance of the German Democratic Republic. It might also lead to a European Security Conference, which would strengthen the apparent legitimacy of East Germany and would, in short, provide apparent additional security on the Soviet western borderland at a time of prolonged tension with communist China. It would also lead to increased trade and substantial loans from Western Europe, perhaps even from the Common Market, to the economies of Eastern Europe, a goal even more important to the Soviet Union than legitimacy.
On the other hand, as the Soviet rulers no doubt realize, the policy of détente raises serious hazards. It would expose the Soviet western borderlands to developments they may be unable to control. Basically, West German acceptance of the present boundaries of Eastern Europe represents no real change: no Western states hope to change those boundaries, and no treaty can guarantee their permanence, any more than the Congress of Vienna ensured the permanence of the status quo of Europe then. Moreover, the West German agreements with the Soviet Union and Poland, the trade agreements completed in 1970 with five countries of Eastern Europe, and the discussions going on with Czechoslovakia reveal that Eastern Europe no longer fears that West Germany seeks to revive Nazi ambitions. Indeed, even if the Moscow and Warsaw agreements should not be ratified, no one in Eastern Europe could doubt that the goal of the Federal Republic's policy is peace. This new relationship might even lead to genuine understanding and reconciliation with Poland and especially with Czechoslovakia, completing the isolation of East Germany. It might even lead to the abolition of the Berlin Wall, a prospect which no Pankow government could face without fear. Thus, the "outbreak of peace" would destroy the ideological foundations of the German Democratic Republic. The desire for reunion, shown by the tumultuous greeting given Willy Brandt on his first visit to East Germany, would exert tremendous pressures for some form of German reunification, even if the German Democratic Republic had been recognized as an independent state and were a member of the United Nations. In short, Soviet controls lose their justification and some of their potency when fear is reduced, while those elements of Western strength become ever more effective as peaceful relations are more widely accepted.
Another possibility for Soviet diplomacy is linking disarmament and German unification. Reducing armaments would help lessen tension, significantly decrease the heavy military burden on the Soviet budget, enable the Soviet Union to devote more attention to China, and weaken the resolution and verve of the West. It might also lead to large credits for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as Western Europe and the United States relaxed their fears.
However, no contemporary Soviet government could accept a reunified Germany, even if disarmed, because such a Germany would raise such uncertainties in the center of Soviet defenses. In addition, a unified Germany, even a neutral and unarmed Germany, would open Eastern Europe to increased Western influences. It would be interpreted by the Chinese communists as a defeat for the Soviet Union, and it would reflect the first step backward from the massive expansion of communism which began after the Second World War.
The Soviet Union must have made preparations for opportunities which may arise in Jugoslavia after the retirement of Tito. It must assume that the end of Tito's rule will expose the Jugoslav Federal Republic to very heavy internal pressures and that the Republic may break up, providing the Soviet Union with an opportunity to make arrangements with one or another of the republics or with groups of Jugoslav communists who seek Soviet support to advance their own interests. An action such as this would have enormous advantages for the Soviet Union. It would end the threat of the heresy and even the examples posed by Tito. It would encircle Rumania and bring it back into the Soviet fold. It would strengthen Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe and provide a new threat toward Albania, Greece, Italy and the Mediterranean. It would increase enormously the threat to Western Europe, while at the same time it would diminish the attraction of national communism and would vault the Soviet Union into a stronger position throughout the communist world.
Such an action could be undertaken only under most favorable auspices: an invitation from a Jugoslav Republic or from a group of Jugoslav "leaders" for aid; extreme disarray in Western Europe because of national elections, the presence of weak governments in critical countries, or some crisis within the West or in a part of the world critical to the West; and a divided, irresolute, and unprepared United States. In fact, a situation might occur similar to that which led to Munich in September 1938 or to further Nazi action, without opposition, in March 1939. However, in spite of the immense advantages such a step would offer, the circumstances would have to be most favorable to persuade even a dynamic and vigorous government to intervene. Moreover, Soviet intervention in Jugoslavia would raise difficulties similar to those encountered by the Nazis and would create a world crisis even more tense than the Cuban missile threat in 1962. Such intervention does remain an option, though, as the Jugoslav and Rumanian alerts after August 20, 1968, demonstrate.
Pressure against West Berlin, such as that which led to the blockade of 1948-1949 or to the Khrushchev ultimata of 1958 and later years, constitute another Soviet option, the likelihood of which will increase as the advantages of détente decline. West Berlin remains such a critical point and symbol for the West that significant harassment is unlikely, unless another crisis within the West should occur. In fact, the critical factor with regard to West Berlin will remain visible, unified Western determination to secure its security and Western access. If the Soviet Government has no doubts concerning Western resolution, neither it nor the German Democratic Republic will create significant pressure.
The Soviet Government now holds the commanding heights in Eastern Europe. The advantages of maintaining the status quo are immense, ensuring the Soviet government the benefits outlined earlier and increasing the time for transforming and integrating the area and eroding the peoples' hopes. Moreover, in time, the strength and power of the West, especially the United States, may wither. In this situation, an occasional crisis might even be salutary, enabling the Soviet Government to identify the flowers of opposition as they bloom and to demonstrate Soviet determination.
However, maintaining present arrangements is not possible, while actions taken to resolve pressing issues are almost certain to raise even greater hazards. Control of the commanding heights provides political hegemony without security in an era as profoundly revolutionary as that of the Renaissance and Reformation. The vast changes under way threaten Western societies too, but Western Europe and the United States are equipped for change, lead in it, respect it, assume it. This is one world for the Soviet Union as well as for the United States. In the contest between the old titans, geography and force, and lively new ideas, the great changes in education and communication spread these ideas and help undermine the bases of all established, conservative systems, including that defended by the Soviet Government.
These changes are occurring at the same time the world is entering a new diplomatic era, one as pregnant with change as the 1850s and 1860s, when the Concert of Europe and federalism collapsed. Soviet diplomacy will no doubt remain skillful, but progress toward some form of West European unity, the emergence of Japan as a great power, the return of the People's Republic of China into world politics, and the steady rise of countries such as Mexico, Brazil and India will create a new situation, one which will help unbind all bonds of empire. This will give the East European states more man?uvrability at the same time it makes the Soviet role less defensible. Thrashing critical leaders, crushing rebellions, and providing lavish short-term economic aid will not meet these issues, any more than tightening the command economy will stimulate innovation and new energies.
These changes and challenges are likely to strengthen the instinct of the Soviet leaders to make the system more repressive, darkening prospects of the Soviet peoples for greater freedoms and more consumer goods. The Soviet leaders, as the Twenty-fourth Party Congress demonstrated, will thus seek to "safeguard and strengthen" their rule. The new "impersonality cult" will seek the gray middle of the road, buttressed by the conservative instincts of an elderly ruling group which feels itself threatened. Policies reflecting these postures will not provide economic dynamism, respond to growing claims for the right to self-determination, or provide other acceptable solutions, even safety-valves, to the problems posed by Eastern Europe.
Thus, the Soviet position in Eastern Europe is an unstable one. Fundamentally, this reflects the conflict between the ideas of Wilson and those of Lenin concerning the ways in which societies should be organized and should deal with each other. No area in the world is more important than Eastern Europe in resolving these great issues, and none under Soviet hegemony is more precarious.