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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 41: Memorandum from CC CPSU International Department, “On a Strategy for Relations with the European Socialist Countries”, February 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1This fascinating analysis from the new combined International Department, headed by Valentin Falin, is one of the results of the Politburo’s January 21 discussion (see Document No. 39)—in effect, the first serious attempt at a systematic analysis of possible Soviet strategy towards Eastern Europe. In practical terms, these analyses already are late in coming, since the Polish Roundtable begins to meet this month and would shortly agree on relatively open elections as soon as June. Still, this memo is indicative of the new thinking and the new candor of glasnost. For example, here is the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party admitting that the socialist model is in the midst of a prolonged crisis, and that the WTO, far from being a true alliance, “effectively represents a Soviet military headquarters with the purely formal presence of representatives of other countries.”

2The memo is cautiously critical of Gorbachev’s non-interference policy since “it creates an impression in the eyes of our friends that we are abandoning them,” while the role of Eastern Europe as a security belt for the USSR “remains unchanged to some extent.” The authors agree “it is very unlikely that we would be able to employ the methods of 1956 and 1968, both as a matter of principle, and also because of unacceptable consequences.” Yet, while this “[p]resupposes our affirmation of the principle of freedom of choice … at the same time, it should retain a certain vagueness as far as our concrete actions are concerned under various possible turns of events, so that we do not stimulate anti-socialist forces to try to ‘test’ the fundamentals of socialism in a given country.” Significantly, the memorandum recommends that Moscow move away from a policy of non-engagement, resume the mantle of leadership in Eastern Europe, and begin to “actively seek channels for establishing contact with all forces that stake a claim to participation in the realization of power in the socialist countries.” Also noteworthy is the caution expressed with respect to East Germany, warning that the GDR could not survive its own perestroika.

3Yet with all its candor, even this document provides only a minimum program for Moscow, essentially admitting that the USSR has little leverage, and that the Kremlin faces a choice between “preserving by all means the ruling communist parties at the wheel of power” and “preserving alliance relations with those countries.” By declining to use force, Gorbachev essentially is choosing the latter.



41. Our relations with the socialist countries, including our allies in the Warsaw Treaty Organization, have entered a difficult and critical stage. The transition to the principle of equality and mutual responsibility, which began in April 1985 and was affirmed during the working meeting in Moscow in 1986, gave us an opportunity to remove many old layers, and to eliminate the perceptions of our conservatism. Perestroika, the development of democratization and openness, has confirmed the role of the Soviet Union as the leader in the process of socialist renewal. More and more, we are influencing our friends by our own example, by political means.

  • 1 Here and elsewhere in this document, emphasis is in the original.

5However, having broken with the former type of relations, we have not yet established a new mode1 And the problem is not only that the process of restructuring interactions between socialist countries on the basis of a “balance of interests,” which we have proclaimed, is objectively difficult, and that subjectively it creates an impression in the eyes of our friends that we are abandoning them—abandoning the priority of relations with socialist countries. The problem is [also] that the transition to a “balance of interests” is seriously aggravated by the prolonged crisis of the socialist model, whose main features were developed in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time and then transferred to the countries that were liberated by us, or with our decisive participation. Their political system still suffers from a lack of legitimacy, and this stability-oriented socio-economic system is incapable of providing an adequate response to the challenge of the scientific and technological revolution.

6The relaxation of tensions, the diminishing of the threat of war, to which the socialist countries have contributed in a decisive way, has caused deep changes in their national security priorities. The economic factor, the ability of a country to join and to assimilate into the world economy, has moved to the top of their priorities, because no single country can overcome the widening gap on its own individually, and because socialist economic integration is clearly in a stalemate so that if these countries remain with it they will risk being left out of world development. This constitutes the primary national interest of the majority of the socialist countries right now, and it should be taken into account above all in our relations with them.

7The European socialist countries have found themselves in the powerful magnetic field of the West European states’ economic growth and social well being. Against this background, on the one hand, their own achievements have dimmed, and on the other hand the real problems and difficulties that exist in the West are practically imperceptible. The constant comparing and contrasting of the two worlds, of their ways of life, production and cultures, have entered our life thanks to mass communications, and there is no way around it. We are speaking about countries in which they still remember times when they were close to, or on the same level of development with, the West European states. The influence of this magnetic field will probably grow even stronger with the introduction of the common European market [in 1992].

8As a consequence, in a number of socialist countries the process of rejecting existing political institutions and ideological values by these societies is already underway. Nonconformity is spreading more and more widely among the youth, and it is moving from a passive, home-grown level toward a civic and political one.

92. The difficult and transitional character of this stage comes from a situation in which the ruling parties cannot rule in the old way any more, and the new “rules of the game”—of managing the group interests that are pouring out, and of finding a social consensus—have not yet been worked out. And to the extent that this process is being postponed and prolonged, the parties could find themselves in a more and more difficult situation.

10In the context of general tendencies that are observable in all socialist countries, there are specific features in specific countries, which require a differentiated response from us.

11In Poland and Hungary, events are developing in the direction of pluralism, toward the creation of coalition and parliamentary forms of governance. In these circumstances, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (HSWP) and the Polish United Workers’ Party (PUWP) can count on preserving their positions only within the framework of political alliances. A lot will depend on whether they are able to involve a part of the opposition in constructive cooperation. Taking into account the fact that a considerable part of the population of Poland is tired of crises, the probability of evolutionary development here is higher. In Hungary, at the same time, notwithstanding their seemingly better living standards, the situation might unfold in most unexpected ways.

12Some of the party activists in both the HSWP and the PUWP have expressed their willingness to use force in case of a rapid deterioration of the situation. There is no unity of opinion on all of these issues in the leadership of the HSWP and the PUWP; therefore, we should expect a rise in factional fighting there.

13In Czechoslovakia, tensions have risen considerably in recent times. Here the 1968 syndrome is still present, which interferes with the party’s ability to define its position toward perestroika, especially in the sphere of democratization and openness.

14A significant part of the leadership leans toward employing administrative measures in the struggle against opposition moods. In general, there is a tendency to begin to make changes in the economy and to postpone reform in the sphere of democratization and openness until a later stage.

15The stabilizing factor is that so far they have managed to preserve a relatively high standard of living in the country, although they are achieving this with more and more effort now.

16In Bulgaria, there is, in essence, a simulation of perestroika, which is to a large extent a consequence of T. Zhivkov’s personal ambitions. The loud declarations about a comprehensive reconsideration of Marxist-Leninist theory and about the creation of a new model of socialism in principle lead in practice to endless reorganizations and shuffling of personnel, and to a further tightening of the screws. All this discredits the party and socialism, and casts a shadow on our perestroika. Nonetheless, T. Zhivkov still controls the situation rather well by employing methods of political manipulation and by relying on a well-developed administrative apparatus, even though discontent is growing in the party and in the country.

17In the GDR, a particularly complex situation is developing against the background of apparent well-being. Even though the GDR can be distinguished from other socialist countries by the better state of its economy and standard of living, the country’s economic situation is deteriorating. There is the pressure of debt and growing dependence on the FRG. The party leadership, to a large extent under the influence of personal ambitions, is striving to avoid problems of renewal. In making critical assessments of the conservatism of the GDR leadership, one has to keep in mind that it has some objective basis. The GDR was founded not on the national, but on the ideological—on a class basis; therefore, a rapid transition to democratization, openness, and free speech might be accompanied by special problems in this country.

18In Romania, there is still the oppressive atmosphere of the personality cult and of Ceauşescu’s authoritarian rule. Striving to isolate the country from our influence, he is now trying to dress in the robes of a “fighter for the purity of socialism” and is making indirect arguments against us. Some eruptions of discontent are possible in that country, but it is unlikely that they will become widespread now. The situation will, most likely, change only with Ceauşescu’s departure, which could bring with it quite painful developments.

19Yugoslavia has entered a phase of political crisis in the context of very deep economic problems; this could lead to a substantial weakening of the positions of the UJY [Union of Yugoslav Communists] and even to a split within the federation.

203. Several possible scenarios of the further development of the socialist countries are distinguishable now. One of them is a smooth movement toward democratization and a new form of socialism under the leadership of the ruling parties. Under this scenario, some concessions cannot be excluded regarding the issue of governance, a significant growth in self-governance, and a strengthening of the role of representative organs in political life bringing constructive opposition to the governing of society and possibly even its transformation into one of the forces contesting for power. This road toward a parliamentary or a presidential socialist republic in certain countries (PPR, HPR, ČSSR) would be preferable for us. If the initiative for democratic change originates with the ruling party, the chances of preserving internal political stability and alliance commitments are high.

21Another possibility is a scenario of intermittent development, which would be a direct continuation of the preceding development, in which the ruling party makes concessions after a new mini-crisis. This scenario lets us avoid the worst—a political eruption—but it moves the party away, to the sidelines of political life, strengthens pessimism and skepticism about socialism, stimulates demands from the opposition, and gradually prepares society for abandoning the framework of socialism. The transition of a country to a traditional mixed economy and the free play of political forces would not, in all cases, lead it to abandon its obligations to its allies, but in such a case the foreign policy orientation of that country would become the subject of intense political struggle.

22In the end, a third way is possible too—the preservation of the existing system of governance in society along with the suppression of the social and political activity of the masses. Under this scenario, it would be characteristic to take an openly conservative course, to limit reforms, mostly in the area of management of the economy, and to actively reject Soviet perestroika. In the future, such a course does not exclude a violent resolution of the crisis by way of a social explosion with unpredictable consequences for the country’s domestic and foreign policy. The main catalyst of such a crisis could be an increase in dissatisfaction among the population as a result of economic deterioration and worsening living standards.

234. In this critical transitional period, our relations with the socialist countries remain our priority. But not in the sense that we implied before, when the Soviet Union and its allies were, in essence, in international isolation; and so our relations with each other considerably outweighed our ties with the rest of the world. Since then, the new political thinking and the energetic efforts by the USSR and its allies in recent years have rapidly changed the international situation. It is natural that the relative weight of our relations with the socialist countries in our foreign policy has changed. However, that does not alter the fundamental fact that the degree of our interdependence with the socialist countries remains higher than with the rest of the world, or that the internal stability and influence of socialism in world affairs depends on that.

24From a geopolitical standpoint, the importance of the European socialist countries for the Soviet Union used to be determined by the fact that from the very beginning they acted as a kind of security belt that created a strategic cover for the center of socialism. Today, notwithstanding all the changes in the international situation, this role of Eastern Europe—especially of the GDR, Poland and Czechoslovakia—remains unchanged to some extent.

25It is a complicated question—what could and should be the forms of our influence on the socialist countries under the new conditions?

26Authoritarian methods and direct pressure have clearly outlived their usefulness. In the political sphere, even in the case of a sharp deterioration in one of the countries—and we cannot exclude that possibility today—it is very unlikely that we would be able to employ the methods of 1956 and 1968, both as a matter of principle and because of unacceptable consequences. The use of force would be admissible only in one case—if there were direct and clear armed interference by external forces in the internal developments of a socialist country. Therefore, essentially, our methods of leverage can only be our political and economic ties.

275. The state of economic relations is assuming growing political importance. Their role is evident for the majority of socialist countries. And for us they have great importance also. We should decisively discard the stereotype that those countries are our dependents. In contrast to routine perceptions, the economic effects of our trade with the European CMEA countries are rather favorable to us. This can be seen from the following examples.

28The share of goods imported from the CMEA countries in the overall volume of goods consumed in the USSR:

29Metal rolling machinery—40-50 percent; food technologies—40 percent; textile technology—50 percent; chemical industry technologies—35 percent; lumber and woodwork equipment—about 30 percent; polygraphic equipment—more than 40 percent; meat, meat products, vegetables and other produce—up to 10 percent; non-food consumer products—10-15 percent.

30According to our calculations, we get up to 4 rubles of profit for each ruble of oil sold in the CMEA countries (the profitability of oil exports to these countries in 1987 was 493 percent [sic]). Apart from that, by buying food products and consumer goods in those countries, we gain a substantial budgetary profit when we sell them in the USSR at our retail prices. Thus in 1987, for each ruble of expenses on the import of meat and meat products, we had the following profit from domestic sales—96 kopecks; cotton textiles—1.76 rubles; coats and dresses—2.24 rubles; leather shoes—2 rubles; personal care items—2.92 rubles; china—2.81 rubles; furniture—89 kopecks; and so on.

31Conditions for grain purchases, in particular, in the CMEA countries (Hungary, Bulgaria) are more favorable for us than on the world market. For example, we need to sell approximately 1.45-1.5 tons of oil to buy a ton of wheat on the world market for convertible currency; to buy it in the above-mentioned CMEA countries we would need to sell approximately one ton of oil.

32At the same time, the old forms of economic cooperation have been exhausted to a large extent. The volume of commodity turnover is decreasing. The USSR is already unable to satisfy demand from the CMEA countries for increases in fuel and raw materials deliveries; and on a number of vitally important resources—oil, for example—we are actually planning to decrease deliveries in the coming five-year period. We are also unable to provide these countries with modern technology. As a result of a drop in prices for energy resources (mostly oil) by the end of the next five-year period, the Soviet Union could end up with a negative trade balance with the European CMEA countries of more than 7 billion rubles.

33The issue of a transition to integration has already been raised. It is especially acute for our CMEA partners. Without actively joining the processes of international economic integration, they would simply be incapable of ensuring a radical renewal of their economies.

34It appears that the strategic policies established earlier for this sphere—the course for creating a CMEA common market and appropriate instruments (currency convertibility, wholesale trade, and others)—continue to be entirely relevant. However, their realization has been unsatisfactory. Many joint decisions notwithstanding, industrial cooperation is clearly stagnant. The comprehensive program of scientific and technological cooperation among CMEA countries, which raised such hopes, has effectively been thwarted.

35After the Working Summit in 1986, the joint work of CMEA countries picked up somewhat. Direct ties between enterprises were developed, and joint enterprises were established. However, the new forms of interaction have not had any significant impact on the volume and structure of exchange (direct ties represent less than 1 percent of the turnover volume).

36The temptation to reorient the economies of the socialist countries toward the West is growing stronger. Exports of top-quality products to the West have become the norm. CMEA countries often compete with each other in capital markets.

37Experience shows that it is impossible to solve the problem of economic integration with the help of general programs, even the best of them. It is necessary to accumulate relevant financial, organizational, legal, and other types of prerequisites in all countries. Success here will depend, first of all, on fundamental changes in the Soviet economy, in its structure, in the economic mechanism, and in the expansion of its export potential, which would take at least several years.

38What can we do under current conditions? First of all, we should not allow our prestige as a reliable economic partner to decline. Each breach of contract—and such cases are becoming more frequent—puts the socialist countries in a difficult, sometimes even hopeless, situation. The accumulation of similar facts in the economic sphere leads to unfavorable political consequences for us. We should overcome this illness, to the point where we should reconsider our ministries’ proposals on a complicated issue such as the volume of our oil deliveries during the next five-year period. This should be done in the spirit of our former agreements.

39The coordination of efforts to convert the military economy could become one of the new channels of economic influence on the socialist countries, especially because the military-industrial complex in the socialist countries is integrated to a higher degree than their civilian economies. One more opportunity would be to develop a common concept of alleviating foreign debt, which is extremely large in a number of socialist countries.

40Lastly, when we intensify our economic ties with the West, it is important to try actively to bring our socialist partners into those contacts in order to overcome the impression, which some of them have, that we are no longer paying attention to the fraternal countries. We should probably hold a specific discussion with them to talk about the possibility of their joining in projects that are carried out with the help of Western credits, and to elaborate finally a coordinated strategy for integrating the socialist commonwealth into the [network of] global economic relations.

416. A number of new tasks has emerged in the sphere of political cooperation. Just several years ago we would have considered many of the developments that are underway now in the socialist countries to be absolutely unacceptable for us. Today we need a deeper, more flexible, and differentiated approach to what is useful for us, what is admissible, and what is unacceptable. At the same time, it is important that we realistically assess our opportunities, find out exactly where we can realistically have an influence and where our interference could only aggravate the situation.

42The measure of socialism in the transformations that are underway now in the socialist countries is a difficult question. Some of them are allowing not only extensive development of market relations but also forms of private property and the widespread influx of foreign capital. And still, it appears that we should not exaggerate the danger of one of the countries simply switching to the capitalist way of development. The roots developed by socialism are very deep. Such a transition would mean a rapid breakup of the entire economy [and] its structures, the development of crises, and a rapid deterioration of living standards for the majority of the population. And it is very unlikely that the West would be inclined to take on countries whose economies have been marked by crisis elements and heavy foreign debt.

43It is characteristic that the ideas that are presented from time to time about the “marshallization” [i.e., a new “Marshall Plan”] of certain socialist countries (in particular Hungary and Poland, for example, converting their debt into foreign investment) have not enjoyed any noticeable support in the West so far. [This is] due to the volume of expenses and the unpredictability of the economic and political consequences. Although we should not completely discard this possibility in the [future], we should be more concerned about the possibility of an economic collapse or anarchic explosions in the context of social tensions and the lack of [future] prospects. This concerns countries where the regimes continue to stay in power by further tightening the screws (Romania, the KPDR [North Korea]).

44We need to give special comprehensive consideration to the processes of forming structures for political pluralism of the coalition type and parliamentary type and to the processes of legalization of the opposition that are unfolding in a number of countries. Of course, this is an uncharted road that requires the parties to possess both strength of principle and tactical flexibility, as well as the ability to lead the process and not leave it up to the opposition forces.

45The lessons of several crises have shown that the main danger posed by an opposition [force] is not the fact of its existence in itself, but that it could unite on a negative, destructive platform all kinds of forces and movements in the society that are dissatisfied with the existing situation. Therefore, pulling a portion of the opposition into the official structure and assigning it responsibility for constructive solutions to the problems that have accumulated could play a stabilizing role.

46In the existing difficult circumstances, the processes of our perestroika exercise a special influence on the internal processes of the socialist countries. There also, in some sense, it has created a new situation. Whereas before, any mass expressions of dissatisfaction with the existing situation that flared up from time to time in the socialist countries assumed an anti-Soviet character almost automatically, now such a direct relationship has disappeared. A serious blow has been dealt to the idea that it is impossible to reform a one-dimensional form of socialism based on the experience and example of the Soviet Union.

47Perestroika has brought us objectively closer to the countries that are trying to reform their economic and political system (China, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary); but at the same time it has created certain problems in relations with some of our traditionally close allies whose leadership continues to rely on administrative and command methods.

48In this situation we have to face the question of how to build our relations with the parties and the national leaderships that exhibit a reserved attitude toward our perestroika (the GDR, Romania, Cuba, KPDR). Here, clearly, we need patience and tolerance, we need to understand the positions of such parties as the [SED] and the Communist Party of Cuba, which due to their specific and sometimes even front-like circumstances of development, experience particular problems in accepting and implementing the processes of economic restructuring and the democratization of society.

497. The general development of world politics and the increased differentiation of the national interests of the socialist countries require that we make corrections in our approach to coordinating our joint steps in the international arena.

50Most importantly, the process of reducing confrontation in the world, the decreasing weight of military-strategic factors and the increasing weight of the political factors of security are objectively increasing the role of our friends. And it is not only because conventional weapons reductions in Europe have moved to the forefront of the all-European process in all its dimensions, taking into account the new quality that was conferred on it by the Vienna meeting. Without the active and positive participation of our allies, progress on those issues is simply impossible. Therefore, we can talk about not just mutual information, about providing information sometimes at the last minute, but about the preliminary coordination of our actions.

51However, the problem is much bigger. Essentially, the period when a reduction in the military threat was achieved primarily within the framework of Soviet-American relations is not that far from its logical conclusion. The internationalization of major international issues is growing. And if that is so, then our friends’ advice [and] consultations with them should involve not only the specific topics under consideration but the entire complex of issues involving the world economy and politics. Only in this case can they experience a real, not just an affected, feeling of belonging to the development and implementation of a common socialist foreign policy. At the same time, our initiatives would become more respectable, and in some ways, considering the experience of our friends, more substantive.

52However, there is also another side of this. The pluralism of interests of different socialist countries is more and more noticeable. The reduction of military budgets in some of those countries is moving at a rate that is ahead of our own; in other countries it creates anxiety over the future of their own rather developed military industry [that is] integrated with ours. In a similar fashion, the humanization of international relations and the introduction of human rights in international relations are perceived by some of the governments as a threat to socialism; for others it serves as an additional impulse to set off on the road to “openness” in their own countries.

53Differences of opinion sometimes lead to flashes of nationalist feelings that aggravate relations between countries (Romania-Hungary). It could be anticipated that internal socio-economic and political difficulties would strengthen the desire to play on the sensitive strings of nationalism within the leaderships of certain countries.

54Taking into account all these different interests, it is not at all necessary to try to achieve consensus as a goal in itself at any price during our discussions and consultations with our friends. We should not allow a situation in which one of the countries would tie our hands as a matter of their national ambitions. Each country should have a right to preserve its freedom of action, of course, along with explaining its position to the allies and substantiating it. Also, it is not in our interest to transfer any kind of aggravated nationalist tensions between our friends onto a multilateral level, especially if such an “argument” involves us directly. Of course, it is a different matter if we are faced with opposition to our actions on the part of many or even the majority of the socialist countries; in that case it would be a signal for us to have another look at whether that step was the right one.

558. In spite of the fact that we have repeatedly stressed that we have discarded our administrative-command approach toward the socialist countries, the syndrome of such an approach persists in the thinking of our friends. At the same time, the conservative factions of the leadership would like, in essence, for the Soviet Union to continue its role as a kind of “protector” of the socialist countries. However, a significant part of the public is expressing its anxiety over the existing situation in which they see vestiges of that kind of paternalism. This finds its expression in different attitudes toward the presence of our troop contingents in the socialist countries, and it is linked with the influence on internal processes, not with external threats to their security. There is continuing anxiety about how the Soviet Union would react in a political crisis in one of the countries in which the ruling party’s control of the situation was threatened. There is dissatisfaction with the ongoing inequality in the military apparatus of the Warsaw Treaty, the leadership of which effectively represents a Soviet military headquarters with the purely formal presence of representatives of other countries.

56Herein lies a significant reservoir of possible steps for removing the above-mentioned “irritants,” including ensuring real participation by our friends in the military procedures of the Warsaw Treaty, and eliminating the negative domestic political aspect of the presence of our troops, possibly through “internationalization.” It would be advisable to direct our efforts toward achieving a situation where in some countries, where necessary, they would deploy joint formations of troops from those Warsaw Treaty countries which agree to do it, rather than Soviet troops.

57It is most important to work out a balanced approach to the problem of the possibility of our interfering in one of the countries in the event of a political crisis. This presupposes our affirmation of the principle of freedom of choice as a universal basis for world order. But at the same time, it should retain a certain vagueness as far as our concrete actions are concerned under various possible turns of events, so that we do not stimulate anti-socialist forces to try to “test” the fundamentals of socialism in a given country.

58Finally, it is necessary to take into account the growing attention of our friends to the still remaining “white spots” in our relations; this interest will most likely become even more pronounced this year in connection with the 50th anniversary of the onset of World War II and the signing of the Soviet-German pact. It would be expedient to work on our interpretation of the nature and the origins of World War II employing newly defined approaches to the assessment of our policy in the 1930-40s, and to discuss it with our friends ahead of time.

599. In the present circumstance we could formulate the following “minimum program” for our relations with the socialist countries in the transitional period:

60First of all, we should have a balanced and unbiased analysis of the development of the socialist countries and of their relations, and we should prepare scenarios for our reaction to possible complications or sharp turns in their policies ahead of time, while simultaneously decisively rejecting the old stereotypes and avoiding willful improvisations that caused us a lot of harm in the past. We should step up our joint study of and efforts to find ways out of the existing crisis, as well as our studies of the new vision of socialism and of modern capitalism, and of the possibilities and limits of their interaction, mutual influence, and mutual assimilation.

61Second, we should keep in mind that our contacts with the party and state leaderships of the socialist countries remain just as important as, if not more important than, before, particularly in light of the possibility that our friends may develop an “abandonment complex,” and the suspicion that our claim that relations with our friends are a priority is not filled with real meaning. Inter-party contacts, if they are accompanied by an open analysis of problems, discussions, and an exchange of information about intentions, would allow us directly to feel the pulse of the fraternal parties, and to give them moral support.

62Third, in explaining the essence of perestroika policy, we should carefully try to avoid any artificial projection of our experience onto other countries, which they could perceive as a reversion to administrative-command methods and a restriction of their independence, and could eventually lead to undesirable circumstances.

63Fourth, by strictly adhering to our obligations we should preserve the existing ties that link the socialist countries to the USSR and try to ensure that the inevitable process of integrating the socialist economies with the West, which is to a certain extent beneficial to the common interest, develops in a balanced and coordinated way; that it is not accompanied by unacceptable economic and political costs; and that it would strengthen the processes of integration among the socialist countries.

64Fifth, taking into account the key role of the armed forces in case of a deteriorating situation, it is important to keep up a genuine partnership among the armies of the socialist countries both on a bilateral basis and in the framework of the Warsaw Treaty by eliminating all elements of inequality.

65Sixth. We should continue our policy of lowering our military presence in the socialist countries, including the possibility in the future of a complete withdrawal of our troops from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. We should consider a scenario of “internationalizing” the remaining troops, and creating joint formations.

66Seventh. It is certainly in our interest that the changes that are ready to occur in the socialist countries, with all their possible variations, develop as much as possible without extra shocks and crises in the framework of socialist solutions. But we have to account for the possibility of a different course of events. In that situation, it would be important that ideological differences over the renewal of socialism and over finding ways out of the crises that have manifested themselves in the socialist world do not assume the character of a conflict and do not have a negative influence on relations between our states, nor lead to antagonism toward the Soviet Union.

67This presupposes making a distinction between the interests of preserving by all means the ruling communist parties at the wheel of power and the interests of preserving alliance relations with those countries.

68Eighth. By making use of the favorable opportunities created by perestroika, which have overturned the stereotypes of “Moscow conservatism,” we should actively seek channels for establishing contact with all forces that stake a claim to participation in the realization of power in the socialist countries. Contacts [with] churches are becoming more important because church influence is on the rise in the socialist countries.


69In general, at this stage, it is particularly important to reject the old stereotypes in our approaches that have outlived their usefulness. If a country disagrees with us, sometimes even seriously, this does not necessarily mean it is turning to the West; if the role of the party in one of the countries is questioned, this does not yet determine that it would definitely distance itself from us. The dialectics of the real processes, as our experience has shown, are much more complex. Yugoslavia and China “distanced” themselves from us some time ago, but they have not turned into capitalist states. In Poland, the party could realistically become just one [component], and perhaps not even the main one, in the structures of power; however, the geopolitical situation of the country is such that even the opposition understands the necessity of preserving some form of alliance with our country.

70All this presupposes studying and trying to predict concrete scenarios for the development of the situation in every country, including the most extreme ones; making decisions as to what those scenarios could mean for our relations; and implementing them in a practical form on that basis.

71[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation. On file at the National Security Archive, donated by Professor Jacques Levesque. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]


1 Here and elsewhere in this document, emphasis is in the original.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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