Courtesy Reuters

The Domestic Politics of the New Soviet Foreign Policy

There is hardly any doubt that the Soviet leadership has adopted a more flexible and more moderate foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis the Western powers. Some people already speak in terms of an "opening to the West." This change was apparently made in early 1969 and has been reflected, among other things, in the treaty between West Germany and the U.S.S.R. in August 1971; in the Berlin agreement of 1971; in President Nixon's trip to Moscow and the Soviet-American agreement signed there in May 1972; lastly and most clearly in the recent trips of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev to West Germany and to the United States. The agreements which have been concluded make it clear that this is not only a new, but a long-term policy. Moreover, the tone in which the Soviet press speaks about the West is much too moderate to be overlooked.

Any judgment or analysis of this new phase in Soviet foreign policy is hardly possible without considering the background of domestic affairs in the U.S.S.R. At first glance the situation seems curious, or even paradoxical: the moderation and flexibility which have characterized Soviet foreign policy since 1969 have had no echo in domestic affairs. The harsh internal policy which has affected all decisive aspects of Soviet society since Khrushchev's downfall has become even harsher in the last few years. This contrast between a more flexible and more moderate foreign policy vis-à-vis the West on the one hand, and a harsh internal policy on the other, has become a distinctive trait of the present Soviet system. A brief outline of the internal developments since Khrushchev's downfall and the present domestic situation in the U.S.S.R. indicates the possible causes which have motivated the Soviet leaders to adopt a more moderate policy toward the West, and the objectives which they seek to attain.


The internal development in the Soviet Union since Stalin's death has been characterized by one fundamental problem: the bureaucratic, dictatorial

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