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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 93: Memorandum from Georgy Shakhnazarov to Mikhail Gorbachev regarding Military Detente in Europe, October 14, 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1This policy memorandum marks a kind of apogee for “new thinking” which combines a vision of a post-Cold War Europe with a concrete proposal for the unilateral withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The author, Georgy Shakhnazarov, is enough of a realist to argue that the Soviet Union needs to take the initiative before either its domestic political opponents—or, more likely, the new governments in Eastern Europe—demand such withdrawals, leaving Moscow on the defensive. Shakhnazarov indulges in some wishful thinking about the dissolution of both NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization by the end of the 20th century, but also gives very pragmatic reasons for the pull-out—among them, that their “function of scaring the opposition” “has now disappeared,” and that domestic Soviet reaction would be enthusiastic because of the “substantial savings” to be gained. But events in Eastern Europe would continue to take the initiative away from Moscow, and all Gorbachev can do (in his November 30 speech at Rome city hall just before the Malta summit) is call for a re-convened Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as a replacement for the two opposing blocs.


2Mikhail Sergeyevich!

3I present for your consideration a proposal for our new move on military detente in Europe. I have in mind a proposal to give the process of weakening the confrontation between the military blocs a more plan-based quality, presupposing the liquidation of the WTO and NATO by the end of the XX century. Within the framework of this process, it would be expedient to outline several intermediate stages, the most important of which should be the abolition of the military organizations of the two blocs by 1995.

4Similar ideas literally fill the air. One can have no doubt that this proposal will find a positive response, and will define clear timelines in the future development of the European process. It is important that in this case the initiative will be ours.

5However, this proposal will sound much stronger if it is supplemented by our concrete actions to limit the military activities of the blocs. What I have in mind is a unilateral withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

6The following arguments support this decision:

7First of all, the military significance of the units stationed in those countries under current conditions is not great. In essence, they used to serve the function of scaring the opposition, [a function] which has now disappeared.

8Moreover, the continuing presence of our military units is becoming an “irritant” in the development of normal interstate relations with the new regimes that already exist in Poland and Hungary, and obviously will emerge in Czechoslovakia in the very near future.

9We should not have any doubts that sooner or later, the new governments of Hungary and Poland will present us with demands to withdraw our troops. Therefore, it would be better to do it on our own initiative, and not withdraw under pressure, accompanied by our enemies’ whoops and howls.

10Secondly, if the troop withdrawal is carried out under pressure, it would look like a capitulation by the Warsaw Treaty Organization, one more indication of the failure of communism, and—especially dangerous—a dismantling of the system that came together in Europe after World War II (or, as we say, postwar European realities).

11However, if we start withdrawing troops on our own initiative, then it will look like a sign of peace-making and one more indication of the effectiveness of our new political thinking.

12Thirdly, it is very important that our allies, having received the satisfaction of the withdrawal of Soviet troops, at the same time will be “tied down” by the plan to liquidate the military blocs by the year 2000, which would be codified by an agreement among all states. It would be simply unseemly [neprilichno] to violate such an all-European consensus. This, in essence, will eliminate the question of [their] leaving the WTO now, which is an obsession of the extremist wing of the Polish and Hungarian opposition.

13Fourthly, one more winning element related to such an initiative on our part will be a colossal increase in trust toward Soviet policy with all the favorable circumstances resulting from that.

14Fifth, we should state openly that under current conditions it is not yet possible to withdraw Soviet troops from the GDR, but:

  • we are willing to reduce them in accordance with the agreement that will be reached at the negotiations in Vienna;
  • we will be ready to withdraw them immediately, the moment the USA agrees to withdraw their troops from the FRG.

15Sixth, this initiative will find even wider support if it includes a proposal, along with the dissolution of the military blocs, to liquidate all foreign military bases on the territory of the European states before the end of this century.

16And lastly, in addition to the foreign policy effect, this action, without doubt, will be met with enthusiasm in our own country, primarily because it will mean a substantial savings of the resources that we now need so much.

17By the way, it is quite possible that if this initiative is not proposed from above, it could be proposed in the very near future by all kinds of party opponents or simply by reasonable people’s deputies. In that case, we would have to take the step anyway, but the political victory would belong to others.

18And the last [thought]. It seems to me that it would be expedient to unveil this large-scale proposal in Rome, because it is precisely in that country [sic] that it would be received with greater enthusiasm than anywhere else. The time factor is important as well.

19The month-and-a-half left before the trip to Italy will not delay our proposal of this significant measure by too much, and at the same time it will allow us to conduct the necessary work on this idea inside the country and in coordination with our allies.

20[Source: Published in G.Kh. Shakhnazarov’s Tsena svobody [The Price of Freedom] (Moscow: Rossika-Zeus, 1993), pp.423-425. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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