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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 15: State Department Intelligence and Research Report: “Economic Reform in the USSR and Eastern Europe”, September 16, 1987

Texte intégral

1This succinct assessment from the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research reviews the progress of economic reform in the socialist countries and notes surprisingly that “[t]here is no apparent organized opposition in the USSR to Gorbachev’s reform” although “vested interests” will constrain reform in Eastern Europe. There, Bulgaria is the best prospect, according to the analysis, but the Poles could also “achieve some liberalization.” Missing in particular is a sense of the trade union Solidarity’s strength: within a year of this assessment, a renascent union would compel the Polish government to negotiate; within two years, Solidarity would run the government.



2Economic reform has proceeded at widely varying rates in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Prospects are uncertain given the political dynamics working in the individual countries. The systemic changes so far adopted by Yugoslavia and Hungary—with emphasis on decentralization and a role for market forces in decision making—have pushed those economies far away from the traditional Stalinist command economy. Other countries in the region have been less ambitious, content to streamline or otherwise tinker with the system in an effort to promote efficiency.

3The Soviet Union. Gorbachev is pushing the USSR into giving serious attention to systemic reform. Measures actually implemented have been minor, barely keeping the USSR apace with Poland and Bulgaria, the other bloc countries advocating limited systemic change. But prospects for reform in the USSR are greater, including a role for market forces. Meaningful reform of prices will be crucial to the success of Gorbachev’s efforts to restructure the economy.

4There is no apparent organized opposition in the USSR to Gorbachev’s reform. But reform threatens the interests of many bureaucrats and party apparatchiki and gives ordinary workers cause to worry about job security. These same vested interests constrain reform in Eastern Europe.

5Eastern Europe. Near-term prospects for further reform are best in Bulgaria (where obedience to Moscow coincides with genuine interest in reform). The Poles are receptive to reformist ideas; with prodding from Moscow and perhaps the International Monetary Fund—and luck with the domestic political situation—they could achieve some liberalization.

6Leadership resistance to reform is greatest in Romania—Ceauşescu clings to Stalinist methods of control—and among the East Germans, who believe that the German Democratic Republic has demonstrated that central planning does work. Glasnost is encouraging the reform-minded in Czechoslovakia, but hardliners fear they will be undermined by another “Prague Spring.”

7[Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Obtained through FOIA. On file at the National Security Archive.]

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