EXECUTIVE BRIEF: HOW VULNERABLE IS GORBACHEV? ( NIC 00600-89)

Created: 5/30/1989

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE AS SANITIZED

The Director at Central Intelligence 9

Won. DC

National

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EXECUTIVE BRIEF

HOW VULNERABLE IS GORBACHEV?

With the removal of the "dead souls'* from the Central Committee, Gorbachev has enhanced his ability to push reforms more aggressively and made it harder for his more orthodox opponents to remove him.

But the continuing bad news on the economy, the assertiveness of various nationalities, and the assault on the party apparatus during the recent elections have created serious frictions within the regime and could eventually leadajor challenge to his position as well as his policies.

The intelligence agencies disagree over the probability ofhallenge during the next three or four years and also over the appropriate degree of confidence to attach to such assessments.

NIO/USSa State/INR, DIA, and NSA, noting Gorbachev's recent political successes and continuing ability to push significant initiatives at home and abroad, arc reasonably confident that his odds of remaining in power during this period are0 percent).

CIA/SOVA holds that the problems in the country are so serious and the political situation is so volatile that no judgment can be made with much confidence. It seeshance of Gorbachev's surviving unless he retreats significantly from his reform policies.

This Executive Brief reflects thc views ol the Intelligence Community expressedarning meeting heldt was draftee! by the National Intelligence Officer for thc Soviet Union and Informally coordinated within the Community.

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HOW VULNERABLE IS GORBACHEV*

is substantial agreement among the Intelligence Community agencies on most issues related to the Soviet leadership.

Most analysts agree, for example, thai Gorbachev turned the recent elections to his favor andhis position with tho removal of the "dead souls" from the Central Committee at tho April Plenum.

These changes show considerable ability to control thc Politburo,ove against him more difficult, and will help him push the reforms more aggressively.

Thererowing disparity, however, between Gorbachev's power to make personnel changes and his ability to demonstrate that his policies are making things better. Compromises on economic policy are very evident and more radical reforms have been put on hold.

The party apparatus is under challenge; nationality unrest is increasing and potentially could threaten tho system; and economic policies have failed to improve the economy or the consumer's lot.

esult, tensions within the regime and society have risen and couldhallenge to Gorbachev's position as well as his

policies.

Thereignificant disagreement among agoncies, however, on the probability ofhallenge over the next throe to four years and the degree of confidence to place in such assessments.

NIO/USSR, Stato/INR, DIA. NSA, and some analysts from various agencies acknowledge that uncertainties arc greator now but are reasonably confident that thc odds of Gorbachev remaining in power over this period arc0 percent).

They point to Gorbachev's political skills and the weakness of the opposition, the results of the Fall end April plenums, the continuing effort to press political reform, and the ability to push significant initiatives in foreign and security policy.

While acknowledging political risks inherent in some reform policies and the more volatile political and social environment in tho USSR, thoy judge that these problems will likely be manageable and don'trisis sufficient to cause Gorbachev's removal in this time frame

They believe that support for change at home (ovidont in the elections) and Gorbachev's foreign policy successes have substantially increased the stakes and costhallenge and made one less likely.

Alternatively. CIA/SOVA and other analysts believe the political situation is now so volatile that no judgment about Gorbachev's position beyond the next few months can be made with much confidence.

While recognizing Gorbachev's strength and skill, they soo anof the leadership struggle and resistance to his policies becoming more open and threatening.

The threats to order unleashed by Gorbachev's reforms along with the seeming intractability of the economic problemsthe country are in their viewery unpredictable environment in which events could readily spin out of control and give Gorbachev's more orthodox opponents thc upper hand.

While not arguing that such an atiack will necessarily happen, they believe the conditions are right and the threat is alroady great. They seehance of Gorbachev's surviving unless he retreats significantly from his reform policies.

Indicators

These two views reflect different perspectives on what and how evidence should be weighed and evaluated.

Those whoore upbeat assessment of Gorbachev's prospects consider the broader setting of leadership politics today, but rety more on indicators of power in theto mnko personnel changes, trends in

policy, tho exercise ofwell as foreign policy accomplishments ond domestic policy initiatives as the keys to assessing staying power. Had Gorbachev not scorod dramatic successes last fall and more recently, Gorbachev's prospects would not look so solid to this group.

The other view is shaped more by the greater volatility of the political and social scene now than in the past, the mounting domestic criticism of Gorbachev's policies, the failure to show positive results from his program, and the lessons of Khrushchev's ouster. While agreeing that Gorbachevajor victory in May, they focus more on the unpredictable and risky environment his policies have created.

Short of Gorbachev's removal or significant decline in power, this disagreement will likely persist.

In effect, tho more dramatic nature of change in thc Soviet Union and the turmoil it has created have cracked the earlier consensus on how best to judge Gorbachev's prospects.

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