The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
For the third time in a generation-1938, 1948, 1968-Czechoslovakia has transformed the political atmosphere of the civilized world. The eight- month "Prague spring," the Soviet invasion of August 20 and its grim consequences have stirred strong emotions throughout Europe and beyond. Not since the Hitler-Stalin Pact, perhaps, has the outrage at Kremlin policy been so general, embracing Richard Nixon and Herbert Marcuse, Chou En-lai and Josip Broz-Tito, Bertrand Russell and Yevgeni Yevtushenko, Luigi Longo and Paul VI.
However, the Soviet régime has in fact suffered many such "moral defeats," from its dispersal of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly in 1918 to its intervention in Hungary in 1956. It has, then and now, shown less concern for "bourgeois morals" and for "formalistic juridical" concepts of international law than for power. Lenin crystalized its fundamental outlook in the famous question Kto kovo? (Who rules whom?) Stalin asked, "How many divisions has the Pope?" Brezhnev declared on the fiftieth anniversary of Bolshevik rule that Marxism-Leninism was the science of "how to win"-and the Soviet press after the invasion of Czechoslovakia did not hesitate to quote Bismarck: "Whoever rules Bohemia holds the key to Europe."
It is clearly tempting now for the West to consign the Czechoslovak experience to the archives of historical tragedies and lost causes. Yet the West would do so at its own peril. For Soviet conduct in the Czechoslovak crisis has challenged several of the most important assumptions on which Western policy has been tacitly based. These assumptions concern the evolution of communist rule in Russia and its dependencies; such concepts as the status quo and spheres of influence; and the orientation of American policy toward the conflict between Russia and China. These assumptions have never been fully shared by the handful of seasoned experts with thorough personal knowledge of the Soviet Union; but they have nevertheless permeated popular Western opinion and thus, to a large extent, determined the policies of Western governments.
Surely the most striking aspect of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was the way it surprised even the closest observers. To be sure, many had perceived the danger of military intervention earlier in the summer-and particularly during the three tense weeks between the so-called Warsaw Letter (or ultimatum) of the Soviet leaders and their friends, and the climactic conferences at Cierna-nad-Tisou and Bratislava. Following these conferences, however, the entire world, including the Czechoslovak leaders themselves, believed that the crisis had been resolved by compromise agreement. This belief, consonant with the traditional rhythms of political crises over the centuries, proved completely false.
As Professor Leo Mates of Belgrade has observed, Czechoslovakia provided a case, virtually unique in modern history, where enormous military forces were unleashed after the climax in tension had passed, with scarcely any new preparation of world or Soviet domestic opinion for such drastic action. Professor Mates has stated the broad implications as follows: "If it is possible for unprovoked military intervention to follow negotiations and agreement, then the danger to peace is transferred to the domain of the unpredictable, which can but leave deep traces on the general behavior of states in international relations." For belief in the rationality, and therefore predictability, of Soviet as well as American conduct has been one of the pillars of international relations in the thermonuclear age.
Belief in Soviet predictability has been called into question not merely by the suddenness of the August 20 invasion but by the peculiar manner in which the decision to intervene appears to have been taken. There was the failure, both immediately before and for months after the invasion, to summon a plenary meeting of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee. There was the prolonged silence of the nominally highest leaders of the party and state, none of whom seemed to wish to identify himself publicly with the actions taken. There were the persistent reports that the senior Politburo members respectively charged with supervising Soviet relations with foreign governments and foreign communist parties-Alexei Kosygin and Mikhail Suslov-were among those who had opposed the invasion. There was the insistence, all spring and summer, by the Czechs and Slovaks that their most implacable foes had been the supposedly "second line" Politburo members, the Ukrainian leader Pyotr Shelest and party secretary Andrei Kirilenko. And, of course, there was the startling Soviet turnabout toward Alexandre Dubçek-embraced publicly by Brezhnev in Bratislava on August 3, arrested on August 21, anathemized by Pravda next day as a "right-wing opportunist" who had "betrayed socialism," brought secretly to Russia under armed guard, and then released on August 26 as a signatory of the Moscow "agreement."
These and other curious circumstances provoke two disturbing observations. First, the mysteries of Soviet decision-making appear even more inscrutable than during the Stalin era. For Stalin was an absolute ruler, and a careful reading of his personality and doctrines offered an accurate guide to perceptive statesmen of the calibre of Churchill and de Gaulle. There is no such personality today, and Soviet doctrines (including the most recent attempts to preach a "collective sovereignty") are more than ever impromptu, inconsistent rationalizations of actions hastily decided in the stress of internal and international struggle.
Second, collective leadership in the Kremlin is not, as some had thought, "intrinsically" and under all circumstances a force for conservatism and caution in Soviet policies, and therefore an element of stability in the world. In the crisis over Czechoslovakia, such leadership, anonymous as well as secret, proved to be a factor of instability, capable of generating rash, abrupt and objectively inexplicable turns. Indeed, for the foreign analyst seeking to discern Soviet intentions as well as capabilities, the current system of Soviet government-which one East European observer has labeled a system of "collective irresponsibility"-may well be the most dangerous possible. For it offers neither the relative clarity and continuity of traditional autocracy (Tsarist or Stalinist) nor the safeguards provided by an open society with autonomous, countervailing institutions and a free press. It need hardly be added that a system capable of such surprises as the invasion of August 20 is inherently capable of other surprises no less unpleasant. Not the least unfortunate consequence of the Soviet action will be to revive the "Pearl Harbor complex" among large sections of American public opinion.
Yet, even without the element of surprise, even had the Soviet armies marched a month earlier (that is, just after the Warsaw ultimatum), there would be ample grounds for rethinking more basic Western ideas on Soviet development. The most important such assumption has been the traditional liberal faith in the inevitability of progressive evolution of Soviet Russia after the death of Stalin.
To some degree, this faith was based on a misreading, or faulty memory, of George F. Kennan's measured hopes (expressed in this journal in 1947 and 1951) for an eventual "mellowing of Soviet power" and "erosion from despotism." Ambassador Kennan carefully grounded these hopes on the condition that the West found "the strength and resourcefulness to contain Soviet power over a period of ten to fifteen years." The policy of containment, as viewed by its author, involved not merely or even mainly an American arms race with the Soviet Union, but an unstinting political effort "to release and make effective all those forces in the world which, together with our own, can serve to convince the masters of the Kremlin that their grand design is a futile and unachievable one, persistence in which promises no solution of their own predicaments and dilemmas."
From the felicitous nouns "mellowing" and "erosion" rather than from Kennan's actual analysis, and under the impact of the Soviet Twentieth Party Congress and the peculiar charm of Nikita Khrushchev, it was, unfortunately, but a short step to illusions and pseudo-Marxist theories predicting that Soviet power would soon "mellow" and "erode" of itself. From 1956 onward, it was increasingly imagined that this withering of the Bolshevik essence would take place merely under the impact of the arms race, or of limited measures of arms control-without the West's playing its side of the political court, and with rhetorical expressions of willingness to negotiate in place of concrete, serious proposals for the future of the area in which the cold war originated: Central and Eastern Europe. It was largely believed that, however the United States might become absorbed in Southeast Asian jungles, Russia was progressing irreversibly toward rationality, restraint and traditional norms in its foreign policies, as well as toward more humane and responsive government of its own subjects.
To be sure, there were Hungary and Cuba, two Berlin crises and the ugliness of the Pasternak affair; yet these were viewed as unfortunate throwbacks to a Stalinist past which could never be revived. For each step backward (it was argued), there had been-or would be sooner or later-two steps forward. For the Soviet Union had advanced from famine and scarcity to relative economic abundance; the old Stalinist ideology had lost credibility and relevance; and the new generation of scientists, managers and technocrats was gradually compelling changes in the Soviet economic system which in turn would force modification of the political dictatorship.
Such beliefs captured popular imagination not merely because they suited universal hopes but because they contained more than a grain of truth. The Soviet ideology is, indeed, virtually indistinguishable from a crude, xenophobic Russian nationalism, and (as both cause and effect) the world communist movement is in a state of fairly rapid decomposition. The younger generation in Russia is largely free of both the misguided fervor and particular neuroses of its elders, who made and survived Stalin's bloody experiments. The Soviet intelligentsia, as its attitude toward Czechoslovakia showed, is as alienated from official policies as the Russian intelligentsia of a century ago. Straining for supremacy in armaments and space, Russia is losing the peaceful economic competition with the West which Khrushchev proclaimed; and, the longer her rulers resist profound social and political reforms, the more difficult and painful such reforms may have to be.
Nevertheless, despite changes, actual Kremlin policies over the last fifteen years have by no means conformed to a simple pattern of "two steps forward, one step back." A close reëxamination of the period since Stalin's death discloses three distinct phases: the great steps forward, crowned and symbolized by the Twentieth Congress, which took place almost immediately, in the disarray of the struggle over the succession; the seven years from the first Sputnik in October 1957 to the fall of Khrushchev, which witnessed sharply contradictory trends, now liberal and realistic, now dogmatic and adventurous, both at home and abroad; the Brezhnev period, which apart from modest corrections of some of Khrushchev's "hare-brained schemes" in economic management, has been marked by steady regression to Stalinist principles and methods in nearly all fields. If the publication in 1962 of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was rightly regarded as a sign of hope, the systematic persecution of that gifted writer since 1965 must be viewed with alarm. If the nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov's underground blueprint for peaceful coexistence disclosed serious political dissent among the Soviet scientific élite, then it should be recalled that, after Sakharov hailed the Czechoslovak experiment, the Politburo and Red Army crushed it.
To be sure, a full-fledged return to the mass terror and paranoia of the Stalin years still appears improbable. Yet the current régime in the Kremlin is as clearly a deliberate "restoration" of the "old days" as the reign of Alexander III embodied a conscious effort to reimpose the autocratic order of Nicholas I.
There are all too many explanations for the current regression. The Soviet Union is a great power stubbornly embattled on two fronts, Western and Chinese; its rulers fear that any domestic disarray would be exploited by their rivals abroad. The Soviet state is also a multinational empire, in which harsh centralism appears the simplest response to nationalist stirrings on the periphery. The ruling generation of Soviet politicians is one of particular mediocrity, for it consists of precisely those members of the party, state and police apparatus capable of surviving or rising during Stalin's blood purges. The older generations of the intelligentsia were even more thoroughly decimated, terrorized or corrupted, so that their juniors lack leaders. In fact, two world wars, the civil war, two emigrations, successive purges and leveling economic policies have "decapitated" Russian society as no other in modern history, destroying or atomizing the very groups and classes which elsewhere (including nineteenth- century Russia) set moral and cultural standards and were the bearers of liberal ideas.
Among the great Soviet masses, there has been a paralysis or atrophy of what might be called the political sense-the ability of an individual to relate the grim, inchoate details of social life to a larger, coherent political framework and to draw independent conclusions in theory and practice. This political sense, as well as the capacity for civil courage, has been deadened by decades of demeaning propaganda, censorship, police control, exaltation of brutality and thorough isolation from the living world outside. It is the kind of atrophy familiar to students of postwar Germany, where the "middle generation" was (with very few exceptions) hopelessly disoriented by only twelve years of Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler.
The disorientation in Russia is even more grave after half a century; and it is a kind of miracle that young men like Pavel Litvinov and Yuri Galanskov have nevertheless arisen to reënact the lonely protests and martyrdom of the first radical "circles" in Tsarist Russia a century ago. Yet such young men are relatively few, and those who sympathize with them are inhibited not merely by the sanctions of the Party and the KGB but by the indifference of the Soviet masses to purely political issues so long as the régime can continue the slow but steady raising of material standards.
All of this suggests that the prospects for positive evolution in Russia should be regarded with greater patience and caution; that neither technology, "prosperity" nor young people automatically produce significant political change in the short run; that the very existence of profound contradictions and rising libertarian aspirations in Russia may well (as they did a century ago) lead its rulers to repression rather than reform; and that a reassertion of police power, some form of military rule, or a new "strongman" must be considered as being at least as possible over the next decade as the "erosion from despotism" or the "violent upthrust of liberty" which Ambassador Kennan discussed at the dawn of the cold war. These may yet come to pass; but after the Czechoslovak experience, it would seem prudent to err on the side of pessimism.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia has also undermined a popular belief that liberalization in Eastern Europe could precede and compel change in the Soviet Union itself. This belief, based partly on the survival of certain East European traditions, partly on the indisputable appeal of Titoism, nevertheless ran counter to the facts of 1955-56, when it was Khrushchev, with his rehabilitation of Tito, spirit of Geneva and de-Stalinization at the Twentieth Congress, who set off the dramatic events in Hungary and Poland. The Czechoslovak experience shows even more clearly that the influence of Eastern Europe on the Kremlin is either limited or perverse. While the East German rebels of 1953 and the Hungarians of 1956 stood virtually alone, the Prague reformers in 1968 enjoyed the support of an "arithmetical majority" in Eastern Europe. They were openly supported by the communist governments of Rumania and Jugoslavia, covertly supported by Hungary, and enjoyed (for what that was worth) the indifference of Bulgaria and benevolent neutrality of Albania. None of this made any difference.
Indeed, a kind of Gresham's Law operated in the Eastern camp, with the dogmatists of occupied East Germany and Poland able to arouse the decisive support in Moscow of the forces of Soviet hegemonism and neo-Stalinism. Neither the legal, bloodless character of the Czechoslovak revolution nor the Prague Communists' repeated assurances of loyalty to the Warsaw Pact affected the outcome. It is realistic to assume, therefore, that no great change is possible in Eastern Europe without corresponding change in Russia itself-so long, that is, as the West (as in 1953, 1956 and 1968) refrains from trying to influence directly Soviet behavior in Eastern Europe.
There is no more thorny thicket in which to wander, in discussions of the cold war, than the complex of unexamined assumptions and ground rules conveyed by the phrases "status quo" and "spheres of influence." There is no need here to dwell on the particular controversies aroused by past misunderstandings (such as what did or did not happen at Yalta) or long- standing contradictions (such as the Allied refusal to recognize the Oder- Neisse frontier). It is sufficient to state broadly what has been the dominant Western view, namely:
That the aim of Western policy, in Europe and elsewhere, is the preservation and perfection of the existing order until such time as the Kremlin may be prepared to discuss more just arrangements.
That in Europe this status quo involves a clear line of East-West demarcation (originally drawn from Stettin to Trieste, now partitioning Berlin as well as Germany and rather fuzzy in Southeastern Europe).
That, rightly or wrongly, the communist-ruled nations of Eastern Europe form a Soviet game preserve, or sphere of influence, on which the West can impinge only marginally through conventional diplomatic, commercial and cultural exchange.
These assumptions largely determined the Western stance toward Czechoslovakia in 1968. They were shown there to be highly dubious, if not self-defeating. In the summer of 1968, what in fact was the status quo in Czechoslovakia? Was it the free, open society created by the communist reformation between January and April? Was it the Czechoslovakia of Novotny's last five years-clearly in the throes of decisive metamorphosis? Was it the era of pure Stalinism, which led the country to economic ruin and its communists to total disillusion by the early 1960s? Or was the status quo in Czechoslovakia that which had been defined in the Yalta period-namely, the Benes-Gottwald coalition régime of 1944-47, which represented the model for the most extreme aspirations of the non-party "counterrevolutionaries" of 1968? Only if Stalinism is considered the eternal norm can the Soviet intervention properly be called a defense of the status quo.
In fact, the crisis enabled the Soviet Union to make at least one very important change in the state of affairs which had existed since the end of the war. Between 1945 and 1968, Czechoslovakia had been free of Soviet occupation troops. As a result of the undeterred invasion of August 20, however, the Western powers will now be confronted indefinitely with a minimum of six Soviet divisions in Czechoslovakia, possessing the most modern Russian equipment. These forces may not greatly alter the overall strategic balance between the United States and Russia. However, like the steady attrition of Allied rights in Greater Berlin since 1945, the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia has considerably reduced the Allies' capacity for diplomatic man?uvre along the most critical sector of the East-West line.
The inadequacy of "status quo" thinking is even more evident in considering the current object of Kremlin pressures, Rumania. Which status quo should Soviet power be permitted to restore there in place of the increasingly independent Rumania of 1964-68? The loyal but unoccupied Rumania of 1958- 63? Or the Rumania occupied and controlled by Soviet armed forces before 1957? All may hope that Soviet pressures remain nonmilitary. Yet it should be recognized that the reëntry of Soviet troops into Rumania, a decade or more after their withdrawal, would surely create a new and serious threat to independent Jugoslavia-and (given Bulgaria's traditional posture) probably to Greece and Turkey as well.
It will doubtless be argued that, whatever the wishes of its rulers or people, historically Rumania has, like Czechoslovakia, become part of the acknowledged Soviet sphere of influence. This sphere was most candidly defined by Stalin when he told Djilas in 1944 that each side imposed its system as far as its armies could march. It was formalized by Khrushchev's organization of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Its immutability has been tacitly accepted by the West in the belief that organization of Europe into two neat military blocs provides greater security than any attempt to risk the free play of political change.
Several objections must be made to this view. First, the frozen bloc system leaves at least four nations-Finland, Albania, Austria and Jugoslavia-in an anomalous position. The West has no obligations whatever to Finland or Albania; and to Austria, only the obligation to consult among the Big Four. Jugoslavia's position is ambiguous. There is no formal Western commitment to its independence; yet the establishment of Soviet military power on the Adriatic could hardly be tolerated. There are grounds here for tragic miscalculation.
Second, permanent acceptance of Soviet control over the Warsaw Pact nations not merely forecloses significant internal change within them but condemns all Europe to the dangers and frustrations arising from the unnatural division of that continent. There have been three major crises over Berlin in the past two decades, and there is little reason to suppose that the Kremlin and its East German agents will not try again. Soviet policy toward West Germany itself has been disquieting. Although Khrushchev sought in 1955 and again in 1964 to open a dialogue with Bonn, his successors have reverted to Stalin's tragic "the worse, the better" strategy of the 1930s. Moscow has done all in its power to keep West Germany in a state of frustration and tension indefinitely, with the obvious hope of stimulating the sort of right-wing nationalist reaction which would either isolate Bonn morally from its allies, or lead to the fulfillment of the eternal dream of anti-Western reactionaries in both Germany and Russia-another Tauroggen, Rapallo or Hitler-Stalin Pact in which the price for some relief of legitimate German national aspirations would be the expulsion of Western influence beyond the Rhine.
Yet, even should these Stalinist tactics toward Germany fail, acceptance of the division of Europe into two hostile armed camps, with no reasonable hope for an abatement of the cold war, involves the condemnation of yet new generations (in the United States as well as Europe) to a future without horizons-to the lifelong strain of the ever costlier, deadlier armaments race. Quite apart from the danger of nuclear and rocket accidents, such prolongation of cold-war frustrations can breed all too easily among the young a spirit of nihilism which might well foster irresponsible illusions or dangerous adventures. Memory is short; and already to "new left" and anarchist students in 1968, the cold war was some kind of myth conjured up by the Western "Establishment" rather than the tragic result of the Soviet armed presence in the heart of Europe.
Finally, Western acquiescence in permanent Soviet rule east of the Elbe may well be, over the long run, a prescription for ultimate suicide on a global scale. For Western respect for the Soviet sphere of influence has been a purely one-sided undertaking. The Kremlin has not hesitated, whenever opportunities arose, to move into areas formerly part of the Western sphere. Despite the Monroe Doctrine, the Kremlin took advantage of the Cuban Revolution to win a new ally and create a center of Latin American mischief ninety miles from the U.S. coast. Similarly, in the wake of three Israeli-Arab wars, the Soviet Union has gained a political influence in the Middle East and a naval presence in the Mediterranean previously denied to both the Tsars and Stalin. Nor did Khrushchev's successors hesitate to pour an estimated billion dollars annually into Vietnamese communist military operations which, by enmeshing the United States in a hopeless quagmire, produced deep fissures in American society itself.
Similar opportunities will doubtless occur in the future, if only in the undeveloped world, where the population explosion, tribalism, falling raw material prices and the inadequacy of received tradition are an invitation to demagogy and adventurism. Yet even in the West, the stability, prosperity and alliance of the last two decades have not been divinely decreed as eternal. It does not take great imagination to foresee all sorts of possible crises in the future-American absorption in domestic racial conflict, a breakdown in the world monetary system, new civil conflict in Spain, war over Cyprus, political instability in France or Italy. Can anyone doubt that the Kremlin would seek to exploit any such opportunities- as well as the certain emergence of new Castros, Lumumbas and Sukarnos-to the maximum disadvantage of the West?
Peace rests ultimately on a balance of power which is political as well as military. The political balance is a subtle tissue composed of diverse elements including hope and will; and it can collapse as rapidly as the Versailles system did between 1934 and 1938. The longer the Kremlin is free to scavenge among the unresolved conflicts of the West and the Third World, while its occupation of half of Europe is permanently guaranteed, the greater the danger that sooner or later the precarious political balance will be upset. Even the best football team cannot indefinitely survive a game in which its adversaries are entitled to recover all its fumbles as well as all their own, and in which movement is permanently restricted to one end of the field.
In such a perspective, and especially when the United States has begun to weary of "playing the world's policeman," the time has surely come to reappraise the West's thoughtless and inconsistent passivity toward the future development of Central and Eastern Europe; and to elaborate, with the aid of the genuine democratic forces in Germany as well as the independent neutral states of Europe, a constructive and realistic approach to the problem of a German peace treaty. The details of concrete proposals are clearly beyond the scope of this article, but they would inevitably involve modification of the existing bloc system as well as some measure of disengagement of American and Soviet forces from Central Europe. Although in the present mood of Kremlin intransigence no such proposals would soon be accepted, they are necessary to clarify European realities-to isolate irrational, chauvinistic elements in Germany and Poland as well as in Russia, and to provide future Soviet leaders with an honorable alternative to the present Germanophobia and military rule of Eastern Europe.
At the same time, it would be tragic if the West did not now realize the necessity of framing a qualitatively different response for the next "Czechoslovakia" or "Hungary," with regard both to the Rumanian case already at hand and to future eventualities. It is neither necessary nor desirable to return to the "dirty tricks" approach symbolized by the Albanian "insurrection" entrusted by Western statesmen to Kim Philby; nor to the misleading "liberation" propaganda conducted by some Western radio stations in the 1950s; nor indeed to any form of interference, overt or covert, in the internal affairs of East European nations.
However, if and when in future the legitimate authorities of any of the East European nations make clear their desire for greater independence, the West should be prepared, swiftly and decisively, to deter Kremlin reprisals by extending to such nations the same assistance and protection which it offered to Jugoslavia in 1948. What is required is neither military bases, pacts nor conspiracies, neither restoration of the old order nor Utopian promises-but prompt, vigorous defense of the right to independence and nonalignment of communist as well as other sovereign states.
The largest of the independent communist states is, of course, China.
In the Balkans, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend;" and in the days of Aristotle and Machiavelli, Metternich and Bismarck, it was a principle of statecraft that, if a great power had two adversaries, it supported the weaker against the stronger, accepting the risk of abetting a potential future menace in order to check the immediate one. Future historians may well be perplexed as to why the United States, in the 1950s and 1960s, failed to apply this principle to the growing divergence between Russia and China, indeed, bemused itself with the notion that the good offices of a benign Kremlin would be required to cope with Peking.
The future researcher will discover many irrational elements: the remnants of "yellow peril" prejudice; the trauma of America's disappointed love affair with China; the tragic persecution of the very experts who predicted, in 1944-45, that the Chinese Communists would both win the civil war and prove independent of Russia; the skill of Khrushchev in persuading the West-even while he was launching two Berlin crises, meddling in the Congo and installing missiles in Cuba-that the Kremlin stood for peaceful coexistence while China was aggressively bent on world revolution.
The historian will also be obliged to wade through mountains of quotations, culled from Chinese periodicals and interpreted by Western analysts, to draw the most frightening conclusions about Chinese reality. He will inevitably be struck, however, by the contrast between Peking's wild words and its relatively sober deeds.
For Peking's actual performance on the international stage has been that of a power with discreet and limited aims. Mao has made no attempt to impose his system as far as his armies could march, nor to create subservient vassal states corresponding to the Soviet "sphere of influence." In the Korean War, Chinese troops intervened only after MacArthur reached the Yalu, and only in sufficient strength to restore the prewar partition. The Chinese forces were withdrawn from North Korea a few years afterwards, in contrast to the "temporary" Soviet Army still present in Hungary. In the two border clashes with India, Chinese forces made limited advances in accordance with Peking's historic view of the frontier controversy. China did not seize or claim any territory historically and indisputably Indian.
In Viet Nam, China made no attempt to intervene directly, either in the "French" or the "American" phases of the war, although Viet Nam is as close and "vital" to China as Czechoslovakia is to Russia. Furthermore, the Chinese doctrine of "relying on one's own forces" was an explicit admonition to the Vietnamese Communists that they alone should make their revolution, and a firm rejection of the Soviet thesis that all authentic revolutions require "fraternal aid" and a guiding hand from the "international communist movement" (i.e. the Kremlin and, when possible, the Red Army).
The West automatically echoed the Soviet view that the Chinese "cultural revolution" was a lurch toward radicalism and "leftist" extremism, with some Western analogists immediately recalling Stalin's purges of the 1930s. However, several important facts cast doubt on such interpretations. The revolution was accompanied by the final rejection of Brezhnev's appeals for "unity of action" against the United States. Its principal victims in the leadership were precisely those most firmly dedicated to military alliance with Russia (Teng Hsiao-ping, Liu Shao-chi, Lo Jui-ching, Peng Chen). Its principal survivors thus far have been Chou En-lai, Chen Yi and others previously considered more moderate, flexible and realistic.
There is room for legitimate controversy over many aspects of Chinese policy, but certain fundamentals should at last be clearly recognized: China is (like Jugoslavia) an independent communist state which has made its own revolution and successfully resisted Soviet hegemony. Its foreign policies have been no more aggressive, provocative or irrational than those of the Kremlin. The injuries its leaders have received at the hands of the Soviet Union are more recent, personal and vivid than those inflicted by the United States. Although China might eventually acquire the potential to inflict military damage on the United States, the Soviet Union already possesses the capacity to obliterate the United States and all its major allies. While the conflict between Moscow and the West over Germany and Eastern Europe involves historic dilemmas of unusual complexity (not susceptible to easy solution even with the best of will on all sides), the single outstanding issue between the United States and China-the future status of Formosa-might far more readily yield to compromise in the course of a broadening dialogue.
This is not to suggest that the United States, having unconsciously opted for the Soviet side in the Moscow-Peking dispute, should now consciously swing to the other extreme and uncritically embrace China as a noble ally against unholy, incurable Muscovy. Certainly the United States should have no part of Chinese territorial claims against Russia. The door should always remain open to Russia to reach honorable settlements of issues great and small, on the basis of principles once proclaimed in Moscow as well as Bandung and Peking: peaceful coexistence, sovereignty, national independence, mutual respect and noninterference.
Nevertheless, there is little to be lost, and much to be gained, in according to China treatment fully equal to that given the Soviet Union in recent years. This involves respect for Chinese pride, for Chinese civilization and for the genuine accomplishments (as distinguished from the follies) of the communist government. It involves conscious, patient efforts to end China's isolation and restore its rightful place in the international community (i.e. normal diplomatic relations and a permanent seat in the Security Council). It involves serious, direct negotiations on the problem of Formosa. In short, the President of the United States should be as ready to treat with Chou En-lai as with Khrushchev, Kosygin and their successors.
Such efforts are long overdue in any case, and the end of the Viet Nam war should make them politically feasible. The Czechoslovak tragedy will not have been completely in vain if it serves to bring Washington and Peking closer in recognition of a common interest in containing Soviet hegemonial ambitions. More than perhaps any other single step, the pursuit of good relations with China might help the United States ultimately to persuade the masters of the Kremlin that their grand design is futile and unachievable-and that such actions as the repression of Czechoslovakia lead neither to the "inevitable triumph of Marxism-Leninism" nor to a global condominium of the two superpowers, but to dismal isolation.