In This Review

The System: An Insider's Life In Soviet Politics
The System: An Insider's Life In Soviet Politics
By Georgi Arbatov
Random House, 1992, 380 pp

Of the memoirs we have from Soviet leaders and prominent public figures, this is the most interesting and most useful; not because the reader comes away convinced that Arbatov has told all or that he has been utterly candid (even with himself), but because it is an earnest and thoughtful effort to explain to an outside audience what it was like to operate at a well-placed level within "the system." Because the book's unifying theme is what insiders did to reduce the excesses of a harsh and often hidebound order, there is more than a small element of self-justification or, at least, self-explanation involved. But this is done without concealing those points where courage and insight failed and does not therefore detract from the many things that he adds to our knowledge. Arbatov, however, knows immensely more about the shaping of Soviet foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s than he includes here. Maybe in another book. That would be much welcomed.