USSR: BREZHNEV AT 75

Created: 12/18/1981

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

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Vhnr. President Brezhnev observesh birthday tomorrow, ke .can look beck with considerable pride onyear tenure. Be is not an indispensable leader, and there have always been collective restraints on his authority. Brezhnev, however, is the regime's pivotal figure, the primary architect of policy, the main roadblock to policy initiatives taken by others, and the chief arbiter of differences within the Politburo. tjtM

Under Brezhnev's stewardship, Soviet power and influence have expanded substantially. The USSR has attained strategic parity with the US and has hadsuccess in influencing government and public opinion in NATO countries on key defense issues, jjj^^

Moreover, Moscow haseasure oflegitimacy for the postwar division of Germany and the status quo in Eastern Europe. In the Third World, the Soviets aided North Vietnam in delivering the US its worst foreign policy defeat of the postwar period, strengthened relations with Cuba, expanded Soviet power into Afghanistan, and facilitated the installationarxist government in Angola.

These gains were achieved without direct military confrontation with the US. This was partly because the USSR, through the use of allies and surrogates, has been able to avoid employing its ground forces except in Afghanistan. Brezhnev's success in establishing arelationship with the US was another contributing factor.

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Performance

Por most of the period since Brezhnev assumed power, the USSR has experienced considerable political and social tranquility. This stability has been based on economic progress, careful accommodation of major elite interest groups, andimprovements in the population's material welfare.

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Brezhnev's firstears in power, the USSR was able to achieve overall economic growth, while making major gains both for the consumer and in military spending, Brezhnev discarded Khrushchev's "populist" reforms that had unsettled professionals and repressed open dissent. By rewarding political conformity with personal securityising living standard, his regime won popular acceptance.

Orderly procedures and careful marshaling ofsupport for cautious, incremental policy steps have been hallmarks of Brezhnev's tenure, lie ended Khrushchev's assaults on powerful institutions. He also avoided sweeping personnel changes, excessiveand radical alterations of resource allocation priorities.

To conciliate the party, Brezhnev gave officials job security. He has used largo defense budgets to keep the military content, and his emphasis on internal secu-rity tasks has restored the morale of the1KGB.

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Aspects

Brezhnev bears responsibility for the growingof the political system and for the continuing failure to deal effectively with the economic slowdown. Economic problems will create serious difficulties for Brezhnev's heirs and cast doubt on whether his policies will long survive him.

Failure to satisfy the appetite of the increasingly materialistic Sovietappetite whetted by his greater access to information from theeroding the regime's legitimacy. The adverse effect on labor productivity of this failure undercuts efforts to turn around the falling GNP growth rate. j

The economic pinch threatens to unleash potentially disruptive friction between competing claimants forafter Brezhnev departs. Moreover, the economic slowdown increases the burden of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, of Soviet support for clients andin Third World areas, and of Soviet military spending.

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In neglecting to prepare for his succession, Brezhnev has increased the chancesivisive power struggle after he is gone. His failure to rejuvenate the aging elite probably ensures the future departure of mam senior officialshort period of time.

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among contenders for Brezhnev's job has already begun. He may survive another year or more, during which the paralysis of internal policy will con-6Hcl-il-Hm tinue. If his successors arc to build upon Brezhnev's

accomplishments, however, they must turn their attention to dealing more effectively with domestic problems particularly, the economy.

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Original document.

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