KONSTANTIN CHERNENKO: HIS ROLE IN THE BREZHNEV SUCCESSION

Created: 6/1/1980

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Foreit-

Konstantin Chernenko: His Role iii! the Brezhnev Succession

An [nfflliience AummM

Research foe this report was completed on

The author of this paper fa I

Office of Political Analysis. Comment armre welcome and

IQUC

should be directed to the

.on ;

This paper was coordinated with the Office of Central Kc fcrc nee and the National Intelligence Officer for USSR and Eastern Europe. (

The political rise of Brezhnev's former aide und close confidant, Konstantin Chernenko. into the upper ranks of the leadership has been spectacular. Afterears working behind the scenes as the leadership's top administrative officer. Chernenko was promoted three times between6 anduring the process he became one of four in the SovietAndrey Kirilenko. and Mikhail Suslov arc thearc both parly secretaries and full members of the Poli'buro. the USSR's top policymaking body.

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Brezhnev has givenyear-old bureaucrat many opportunities to improve his chances of becoming the nest General Secretary. Although these efforts hove met with mixed success, Chernenkootential

candidate to succeed Brezhnev.

ko probably owes his rapid advance to Brezhnev's growing reliance on him. particularly when strains seem to have developed between Brezhnev nnd those who once had been his closestKirilenko nnd Brezhnev's Ukrainian colleague. Vladimir Shcherbitskiy. The evidence suggests that at the root of this tension was Brezhnev's concern that his own political position might be threatened by the ambitions of these Politburo allies.I

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As Brezhnev's right-hand man on the party Secretariat. Kirilenko was able steadily to widen his own base of support within the party elite and. as Brezhnev's health became increasingly uncertain and his colleagues began to look beyond him. he was able to strengthen his claim as Brezhnev's heir presumptive. Al some point Brezhnev probably realized that if he did notandidate of his own to counter Kirilenko, he would nol jusi lose influence over the succession process, but encourage its early implementation.

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Once Chernenko acquired Politburo status in addition to his membership on

the party Secretarial, he wastrategic position to rival Kirilenko; signs

of some slippage in the lalter's standing were almost immediately evident in

n this respect. Chernenko's rise effectively helped to stabilize

Brezhnev's political position and to check the drift of support to Kirilenko.

Brezhnev, however, does nol seem to have made much progress in establishing Chernenko ai heir apparent. In the final analysis, Chernenko's chance of success will depend on Brezhnev's ability and willingness to help Chernenko extend his authority throughout the vast party bureaucracy and to broaden his base of political support. This has always been Kirilenko's strength. It was only toward the end9 that there was some evidence that Chernenko might have assumed significant new executiveirl party affair*.

The invasion bf Afghanistan, however, appears to have altered the ilovict political landscape. Brezhnev's firm public support of the Afghan incursion seems to have left Chernenko, the most stalwart supporter in the leadership of Brezhnev's policy of improved relations with the United States, outimb. While Chernenko may hope toocal pointore moderate position on Afghanistan,osition is not likely to prevail in the immediate future.

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Chernenko could still emergeompromise candidate. If the Politburo cannot agree on who the next General Secretary should be. Chernenko might be perceived as the least threateninghe political fortunes of the principal contenders. Chernenko's biggest drawback is that the primary source of his current power andno longer be on the scene when the selection process occurs.

Konstanln Chernenko His Role in the rezhnev Succession (

Ilickiirouad: TW Makiflf of an I'Officer

Early Associations Wlib Bin lit

Chernenko first came In contact with Brezhnev in (hen the Moldavian Republic. Brezhnev headed the republic party organization and Chernenko was head of the propaganda and agitation department.eries of regional party posts In the Russian Republic before going to Moldavia. From then on his career was closely tied to Brezhnev's. |^

Chernenko was tra inferred to the Central Committee apparatus In Moscowhe same year that Brezhnev relumed to the Secretarial from anin Kazakhstan.hen Brezhnevppointed to the position ofChairmin of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviethernenko wai appointed chief of the Presidium's secretariat. In this position he served for four yean as Brezhnev's executive aid. ] j

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fter Brezhnev replaced Nikita Khrushchev as party First Secretary, Chernenko became head of the Central Committee's General Department. The department oversees the handling of all communications and correspondence generated by the Politburo, the party Secretarial, and otherbodies. One of its chief responsibilities is the shepherding of memoranda, draft speeches, and other important documents undergoing coordination in the parly's decisionmaking machinery. The department alioumber of other sensitive functions including Ihe processing of citizens' complaints to lop party officials and maintaining archival material.

Manager of Ihe Paper Row

Ai superviser of the Geneial Department, Chernenko cvsentially functions as the leadership's top executive officer. He is responsible for organizing the weeklv meeting of theSoviet Union's top policymakingb Ihe authority onaspects oflhc decisionmaking process. Even after

vaikm io the top parly bodies he continued to head the department. For instance,upreme Soviet session inon after heandidate member ofihc Politburo, he was observed makingat certain papers circulated only among the full members of the Politburo present at the session. He was listeddepartment head"arty handbook as recently|

ystem where access io information iselement of power. Chernenko'sis of considerable influence andhas consider-

able discretion In rouling documents, and thus can, to some extent, h. directly Influence policy decision*.

Chernenko has ddibcraiel> stowed down ihe decision processeans, of burying proposals 'ha' Brerhnev

Evidence of blatant partisanship by Chernenko in BroftlKlv's behalf ha* been leant, however, and there have been many contrary indications' of scrupulous attention to collegia! procedures. Even though Cherncnko's relationship to Brezhnev is close, he ha* not tervedersonal aide;depart mem is ;ii the service of the entire leadership Chctncnko probably could not have heldensitiveong had he not fulfilled his executive dutiesompetent and generally Impartial way. Although he has not impressed most foreign observers, he has been described by one P ynnmic and intelligent administrator, capable of grasping new ideas

Chernenko'*

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An Ailing Breihswr Leant on Ouriwnko

Cherncnko's rapid political rise began after Brezhnev's firs; eiwnded illness during the winter. Fragmentary evidence suggests that it was Brezhnev's growing reliance on Chernenko during this period that accounts fcr his sudden emergence into national prominence afterears in ihe back rooms. Prom late4 through5 Brezhnev made few public appearances and was evidently hospitalized for varying periods of lime. The full nature of his illness is not known, bul it may havj been partly political. Criticism of Brezhnev's policies was reportedly voiced at the4 Central Committee plenum, pzp

eriod of time afterward. Brezhnev seemed to isolate himself somcwhal from political life. Me evidently attended few of ihe weekly Politburoheld in the first threealf month*nd he bctan lo use Chernenko as an intermediary with hi* Politburo colleagues. Brezhnev's deteriorating health has probably made il difficult for himonduct business wilh his colleagues in thenitl informal manner thai previously marked his

style of leadership. This ha* contributed to the introduction of more bureaucratic procedures; Cherncnko's authority has grown correspondingly in recent

Chernenko first gained public prominence in5 when heaccc-npanicd Brezhnev to the llckinki summit meeling culminating the Conference onand Cooperation in Europehisfollowed by additional forays into the foreign policy field. Brezhnev appeared to be nol only relying on Chernenko. but lo be looking for new wny* to give him broader experience and thus to enhance hi* leadership credentials. |

The following March. Chernenko was awarded the Order of Lenin "for services to the party and state" The award, unrelated to any tnniversary or event, was announced just days before Chernenko was elevatedhe party Secretariat at ihe conclusion ofh Party Congress and appears to have been an effort by Brezhnev to guarantee support for Chernenko'*Brezhnev subsequently presented theo CrKrrsenkorxrsonally. rather lhan leaving lhatto President Podgornyy. as protocol dictated.

Brezhnev's gesture publicly conveyed his personal

regard for Chernenkoay few actions could. Q

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Within the Uidmblp H'-

he imparlance thai Brezhnev seems to have attached to advancing Cherr.cnko into the top ranks of the rship Ii understandable In light ofthe delicate nee lhat has existed In the leadenhlp sir cc the me ofh Party Congress Inespite Rrczh ncv'irowing prestige and his steadyor the trappings of power, he has not always been able to translate this authority Into greater powerictate personnel action*.j Kjj' js-

Indeed, there baaar greater degreeompromise in leadership appointments over theew years than is evident on therezhnev's majority in the Politburo, in terms of solidupport, continues to be narrow and fluid.as had to exercise great political skill lo maintainajority; he appears to have been assisted in this taskeasure of good luck and by (he general political standoff in the leadership. Brezhnev's senior colleagues apparently believe that Iheir own individual interests arc best nerved by the maintenance cf ihe statu* quo. and they are therefore just as reluctant to see anyyounger challenger threaten Brezhnev as they are lo allow Brezhnev himself to gain total political control.

Cherncnko's promotion to the Secretarial came atwhen Brezhnev's margin of political supportespecially within the Secretariat; At thathad to contend with1 three powerfulwho were full members of the Politburo;Fcdor Kulakov, and Andreyuardian of collectivity, Suslov hadactedounterweight to Brezhnev In theSuslov's role, however,alancing one.that he has

supported moves to enhance Brezhnev'st the same time giving aid and comfort to those younger leaden seeking to push Brezhnev into retire-

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Kulakov's allegiance to Brezhnev also seems to have

been ambiguous. Although he had worked closely with

Brezhnev on agricultural matters for years, rumors

before and afterh Party Congress linked him

With effort! to force Brezhnev out. (In at least one

instance. Kulakovaid to have had Suslov'sIn any event, signs of discord between Brezhnev and Kulakov were clearly visibleirilenko was (he only senior secretary who could fairly be describedember of Brezhnev's politicalQ

Chcrrcnko'i appointment to the party Secretariat ath Party Congress also occurred within the context of continued careful balancing among various Politburo groupings with no appreciable increase in Brezhnev's strength. Brezhnev's success in promoting Cherncnko was offset by (he appointment lo the Secretariat of Mikhail Zimyanin. former Pravda editorresumed Suslov ally. The same kind of pairing was evident in ihc addition to the Politburo of party Secretary Ustinov and Leningrad parly boss Grigoriy Romanov. Although Ustinov hadlose and mutually supportive working relationship with Brezhnev, he also had long worked closely with Kosygin and other independents. Romanov, while he has backed Brezhnev on certain issues, seemsand ideologically closer to Suslov. Furthermore. Romanov's elevation put him In direct rivalry for the succession wilh Politburo member Vladimir Shcherbllskiy, who was thought at the time lo be Brezhnev's Ukrainian protege. [

Cherncnko's elevsiion as one ofecretaries thus brought no immediate benefit to Brezhnev in dealing with the senior independents in the Secretariat, nor did it seem to result in any major expansion of Cherncnko's responsibilities. Nonetheless, ilrustedally cm the first rung of the leadership ladder. Cherncnko continued, as he always had. to operate largely behind the scenes.esult of his enhanced political standing, ihe General Department evidently gained in prestige. Art*clei lhat he wrote in the next year suggest that he had begun to deal more broadly with party managementonly questions of management technique but how belter to ensure ihe fulfillment of parly decisions, The need lo pay more attention to rank-and-file complaints and suggestions expressed in letters to the Central Committeean ever-presem theme that reflected one of theof his deparlment. j

Cherncnko alio continued to gain broader experience in the foreign policy field. He wrote icvcral articles on the Helsinki meeting in support ofolicies, and in Ihe summer6 began occasionally appearing at Brezhnev's annual summer meetings with East European leaders in the Crimea. Brezhnev's quiet grooming of Cherncnko paid off when strains began to develop In Brezhnev's relationship with those who had long formed the mainstays of his political[Kirilenko and Shchcrbitskiy.

Succession Politics

Brezhnet Cools Towardindicates that Kirilenko wasoyalBrezhnev and. at least outwardly, remain* so toHe has never been

any grouping challenging Brezhnev and he hasportrayedromoter ofBy working to inflate Brezhnev'sKirilenko has steadily increased hisstanding and furthered his own claimBrezhnev's mantle.have

called attention to Kirilenko's political ambitions.:'

As Brezhnev increasingly concentrated his energies on foreign policy questions during, Kirilenko's influence in the party bureaucracy grew. Theof Dmitriy Ustinov as Minister of Defense inogether wilh thein October of Ustinov's former responsibilities wiihin the party Secretariat by Kirilenko's protege Yakov Rynbov.ajor Increase in Kirilenko's power base. In Scpicmtxr. even before Ryabov's appointment, a

' sserted thai go's ambi-

Brezhnev was becoming tcarlul ol1

Despite his reported suspicions. Brezhnev probably felt compelled to back Ryabov. Kiri'enko's choice, because of increased pressure from Suslov and Kulakov among others. Thisolitically troubled period, marked by sporadic unrest over food shortigcs and increased rumors of maneuvering with the leadership against Brezhnev, who thus needed Kirilenko's support. Kirilenko. for his pan. reportedly helped organize an outpouring of praise for Brezhnev enh birthday in6 which, according to one Soviet | as carefully orchestrated lo convey the

Sift*!:

message to the party elite that Ihe Brezhnev camp was fully In charge. Kirilenko's backing was also reported to have been invaluable in bringing off the ouster of President Podgornyy In7 and Brezhnev's assumption oflhepct of chief of state In June. Cynical

Were prompted to commentKirilenko was trying to push Brezhnev up andprobably an exaggeration, comments beganvoiced that Kirilenko was now the "reali

e point. Brezhnev probably felt that be couldbe certain that Kirilenko would fail should hetoid for the top job.dependence on Kirilenko. the absence ofcase against him. and the lack of meanshU position readily may very well havefeel somewhat vulnerable. Althoughcould count on the built-in rivalryand Suslov. the latter'i advanced orcIndependence madeeak .ecd to

inv Then Loses Favor

Following Podgornyy's ouster, rumors circulatedkrainian party boss Vladimir Shcherbitskiy.cribed by one Brezhnev aide as beingon" to Brezhnev, was soon to be transferredost in Moscow, This was not the first time lhat such rumors had made the rounds, but this time theyreater ring of authority. Wilh Podgornyy's departure thi Ukrainians were left with no Moscow-basedon thetrong argument In favor of Shchcrbitskiy's transfer to Moscow. The new post of First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which was created in June to provide the new President. Brezhnev, with an assistant, was viewed tn Kievossible slot for Shchcrbiukiy. Ii would have given him needed experience at the national levelood start in Ihe succession race.

most dacy

There were reports at the same time lhat the other"iroung" member of the Politburo, Leningrad party boss Romanov, also was slated toositionoscow. Indeed, it is possible that Romanov'sas under consideration, either in opposition to or

ounterbalanceote plannedThe evidence suggests thnt ifinterestedrade-off. it was only totransfer to Moscow. SeveralIhe7 Central CommitteeSupreme Sovieteremony was heldKremlin to present Shcherbitskiy with the Orderwhich had previously been awarded lo himsuccesses in theIn ihe presence oflop leaders. Brezhnev lavishlys leadership abilities andui trillion to their work together in the earlyDnepropetrovsk.

thisign that Shchcrbitskiy's day had arrived. (

The plenum came and went, however, without any change in either Shchcrbitskiy's or Romanov's status. The leadership evidently had sought and taken the least disruptive course.year-old First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Vasitiy Kuznetsov. was named Brezhnev's deputy in Ihe Presidium of ihe Supreme Soviet, thus effectivelyosition thai could have been advantageous to one of the younger succession hopefuls, particularly one who had

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Brc/hnev'i blessings. What little evidence there is regarding Kuzncisov's political liesink to Kosygin. Kuzneuov was alsoandidateof tbe Polltburp ei ibi! lime. Brezhnev was able, however, to win the elevation of Cherncnko tomembership on Ihe Politburo. Because candidate members do not have voting privileges, this may nol havearticularly difficult compromise to engineer, but il did move Cherncnko one step closer to the innermost circle of ihe leadership, i

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Accord

I iJbre/hiKv had pushed for Shcherbitskiys trans-fer,tol Moscow but had backed down in the face cf opposition. It can be assumed that all independent members of the leadership and any succession hopeful would have objected. In addition. Brezhnev himself may have been somcwhut hnlf-hcartcd in Shcherbitskiy's behalf, fearing thai old tics between Kirilenko and Shcherbitskiy. formed when ihe two worked together in ihe Ukiaine. might outweigh Shcherbiiskiv'i loyally to Brezhnev.

In any case, relations between Brezhnev and Shcherbitskiy seemed to deteriorate following tne plenum. Shcherbitskiy avoided all but perfunctory reference to Brezhnev in his first speech on returning from Moscow to Kiev, and ihe following spring he beganoice reservations about detente.ad harbored these reservations all along, he had kept themimself. HeobnMy realized that he could no longer count on Brezhnev's patronage and would have to look to other constituencies for political support. For Brezhnev's part, when in July he finally got around to presenting Shcherbitskiy wilh an award honoringh birthday (which occurrede hadew lersc words tosharp contrast with his extravagant praise only nine months earlier,_

The outcome of the7 plenum appeared not only lo have soured relations between Shcherbitskiy and Brezhnev, but to have convinced other hopefuls in the leadership thai Brezhnev's control of *tc succession process was marginal.erception could only farther strengthen Kirilenko's position: indeed, the assumption began to lake hold among the parly elite thai Kirilenko would automatically succeed Brezhnev when the falter stepped down. (

Bat Brezhnev Makes His Mote

Brezhnev's political problems were compounded during the wintery personal illness and by growing strains in the economy. The Decemberof the Central Committee devoted lo the nest year's economic plan and the budge; wastormy. Brezhnev attended the plenum but. according lo one account, was too ill lo give his report, which Kirilenko read for him. Brc/hncv was absent from ihc subscaucnt Supreme Soviet session and was out of sightumber of health problems until early |

The December plenum apparently formedto investigate aspects of theKirilenko repotiedly was named lo headwith First Deputy Premieras hiscpo/afewhose recommend-.tions were approvedlater July plenum, probably was set up at theparty Secretary Kulakov would haveengaged in its

During8 Kirilenko ami Mazurov were unusually active in cronornicn, giving credence to the report of their tnvcivemen;peciil com miv sion. Bothouncil of Ministers meeting in ;first time Kosygin had been absentuch an affair in many years. And although Kirilenko had aitendcd meetings of tbe Council before, he had never addressed one. Mazurov was particularly active, addressing another meeting of (he Council of Ministers in July.

:olitical opponent of Brezhnev, hadorceful advocate of consumer interests at home and an assertive rWky abroad. He reportedly lost outight io give the development of consumer goods priority inive-year plan, and he had not had an article or speecheven had ever been reported to have given amoreear. His list publishedkind of swan song in defense of thein the6 issue of kommuriit. His activity in8 thus rrurked_ somethingomeback, although a

Kulakov was also prominent during this period and was the recipient of unusually high honors on his birthday in Februaryusually reserved forhe most senior members of the leadership. Yet it was clear from Brezhnev's remarks at theeremony in February thai he did not share his colleagues' high regard for Kulakov. In what appeared tolap at Kulekov's political ambitions, Brezhnev ratt "pointedly stressed Kolakov'sgriculture, calling attention to chronicin this areaay that suggested Kulakov should slick io his wort I. I

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By tale February Brezhnev had recovered from his

illness and set out to regain the political initiative lost

during the winter. His strategy appears to have relied

heavily on efforu lo wrap himselfloak of mililary

'authority. At the end of February, Brezhnev received

ihe Order ofonly civilian recipient of this

order tincca month later set off with

Defense Ministern arduous two-week trip

along the trans-Siberian railroad, visiting military

units and industrial sites on the way. The trip was

largely successful in projecting Ihe imageigorous leader and talksost-Brezhnev era, which had become common, ceased. '"

The death of Kulakov In8 was, from "rezhnev's point of view, fortuitous. It had been clear from Brezhnev's veiled criticism ofonly at ihe birthday award ceremony Hut in his speech at the July plenum on agriculture just days belore Kulakovrelations between 'he two were sinincd. At the plenum Brezhnev singled out for criticism both Kulakov's political bailiwick of Penza and the Central Committee's Agriculturalwhich Kulakov supervised. Despite the criticism, however, Kulakov was active until his death, and there was even some evidence thai he was taking onresponsibilities in the light industry field

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The official handling of Kulakov's funeralroblem B'ezhnev seemed to beof growing cohesion within the ranks ofecond-si ling" leaders. Two provincially basedMasherov and Romanov, made the effort lo be on hand for the farm', although Brezhnev and the two other senior lenders, Kosygin and Suslov failed to interrupt their vacations to attend. Kirilenko added an unusually warm personal touch to the funeral eulogy, and Mararov's consolation of the grieving Kulakov family, as shown on Moscow elevision,articularly close relationship. All that would have been needed to complete the picture was the presence of Shcherbitskiy. Byllrse Brezhnev must have become aware that if he was to stem the flow of power to Kirilenko. he wouM have to advanceosition ofrusted political ally of bis own.'

Kulakov's death, leaving as ilolitical vacancy in the line of succession after Kirilenko, provided such an opportunity for Brezhnev. Rnmors aftln circulated lhat Romanov or Shcherbitskiyo Moscow, bul Iheir continued expressions ofconcerning detente seemed enoogh io assure Brezhnev's opposition. Chernenko was clearlyas Brezhnev's favorite when he accompanied

Brezhneveremonial (rip to Azerbaydzhan in October. During (he trip Chernenko was givenmedia billing, almost as Brezhnev'ssign lhat the party elite undoubtedlyas indicative of Brezhnev's special regard for Chernenko. The event foreshadowed Chcn.enkos promotion to full membership in the Politburoartyonth later. [

The Politics of the Nc*etnber Pleaum

Personnel actions taken at Ihe8 plenum marked significant gains for Brezhnev. No* only was Cherncnko promotedandidateull member of the I'olitburo. but Mazurov wasdropped. Thisouble gain for Bre/hnev in terms of improving his margin of support. In addition, Brezhnev's old crony from Dnepropetrovsk. Nikolayo with Mazurov's departure became Kosygin's leading deputy, wasandidate member of the Politburo- -

Beneficial as these changes were to Brezhnev, however, they were not all the result of his political clout. Continuing restraints on his power were evident in some of the appointments made, and compromise and

the move.

good tuck again pU)cd their pari. As in the case of Vasiliy Kuznetsov's earlier elevation. Tikhonovwould not have been selected to replace Mazurov had he not beenears "Id or in some other regard disqualified for more lhan an interim role in (he succession, As it was, he had been passed over once for promotion to (he Politburo, suggesting opposition to

Furthermore, Mazurov probably did what thesaid: "resigned for reasons ofat his ownfficial announcementssort generally stay as close to (he truthrealistic. {'_

Because heleal political future as long as Brezhnev was r- (he scene, he may have decided not to deplete his healthutile political struggle.

Finally, the transfer of the Stavropol Kray party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev, to the party Secretariatake over Kulakov's former rcsponsibili(ies for overseeing the agricultural sector was. according lo i

ICC. Nl

eflection of Suslov's influence, suslov on

worked as party Secretary in Stavropol, andhas suggested lhat he retains patronageappointments in that region,

Suslov's support probably was necessary to orczhnev's success in advancing Cherncnko. and the Gorbachev appointment may have been the price lhat Brezhnev had to pay. In any event, since Suslov probably would have wanted toove lh.it stoodeaken Kirilenko's position and did not seem toiable candidate of his own ai that moment, he probably found it expedient lo go along with Chernenko's

Brezhnev's suocess in doing for Chernenko whal he had evidently earlier failed to do for Shcherbitskiy may also have been helpedeneral perception among the top leaders thai Cht.-nenko was the least Ihrratcn-ing of all possible choices because he had served almost entirely in staff positions andower base. Cherncnko's increasingly indispenttble role in (he

smooth running of theall of its members may have felt thejj benefitedalso have helpedCJwrnenko gain membership on the Politburo.^

The elevation of Cherncnko greatly enhancedof Brezhnev's political position, making itfor him to continue functioning Infailing health. It gavetrusted associatespeak and act in Brezhnev's name, and in oneseemed toumber ofpolitical problems. It brought anhile, to the maneuvering of thejunior members of the leadership withseemed increasingly at odds. Shcherbitskiyby1 o have

been extremely bitter over the elevation ofthat it Cherncnkoosition toown political interests. As the year came to anbecame bogged down in localthe alleged extravagance of hisand the subsequent defacement of statuesin the garden of the Summer Palacehas

actively sought to keep Rorqanova embarrassments

More important, Chernenko'sjclevation to theand thus to the rank of aSenior Secretary, made it possible for Brezhnev to undercut Kirilenko'sstrength. Signs of softness in Kirilenko's protocol ranking began to show in the Supreme Soviet election campaign beginning in latehereas others. Including Cherncnko, were referred to as both party and state leaders, Kirilenko was cited onlyarty leader. The abrupt demotion of Kirilenko's protege, Yakov Ryabov, the following spring clearly conveyed the message that no longer was Kirilenko's position unassailable or his ascension to the top party post IneviUble,

Chernenko'a9

Brezhnev Promotes Chernenko But Kirilenko Keeps His Role

Evidence soon began to mount that Brezhnev was not content merely lo use Cherncnkoounterweigh! lo Kirilenko, but lhat he was bent on upsetting the existing leadership ranking by favoring Cherncnko overlear instance of favoritism occurredorking vacation trip that Brezhnev and Chernenko took to Bulgaria ins on the earlier Baku trip, Soviet media featured Chernenko as Brezhnev's near equal, Bulgarian party boss Zhivkov added his own boostpecial dinner toast to Chernenko, The trip itself and the media treatment given Chernenko were quite obviouslyby Brezhnev and appeared designed to convey the word thai Chernenko was his intended heir.I

Despite Cherncnko's obvious weaknessandidate for, Ihe (op party posl, Brezhnev probably felt he had few options at that time. Cherncnko's loyalty seems io have been the main consideration, given Brezhnev's continued priority concern for the security of his own

y was concerned

At the same time. Brr probabl about his own future reputation, particularly in the Held of foreign policy. At least until tbe Afghan crisis. Brezhnevarge political investment in detente and in improved relations with the United Slates. Even in the halcyon days of detente he had some reason to doubt the commitment of Kirilenko and younger succession candidatesolicy, in yhich they had no personal involvement or stake. He probably could not be sure that they might not be tempted to try to makecapegoat in the event ofo serious deterioration of relations wilh (he United States, Brezhnev's effortsnhance Cherncnko's foreign policyexample, his inclusion of Chernenko on the Soviet delegation to the US-Soviet Summit meeting In Vienna in Juneaimed at showing that Chernenko could and would provide continuity in this area, thus ensuring that Brezhnev's good name would be protected.| j

A pattern of rivalry between Kirilenko and Chernenko developed that continued throughout mucharious status symbols and other public indicators of prestige suggested, however, lhat neither gainedadvantage. Although Chernenko benefited from the additional exposure that he began to receive and his candidacy gradually tookeasure ofit soon became evident that Brezhnev's endorsc-ihcsv.ch seemed implicit in hli public treatment of CheriKiUo. would not automatically ensure him a, smooth or rapid rise to the top, |

After ihe high point of the Bulgarian trip In January, some of the momentum seemed to go out of Cherncnko's campaign. His Inexperience showed in public appearances, and signs of resistance to his candidacy emerged. Brezhnev was able to arrange Cherncnko's Inclusion in the Soviet delegation io the Vienna Summit, bul onlyupport capacity. Chernenko played no role in the substantive talks and

seemed to command little respect from the two other Politburo members on the* delegation.d Foreign Minister Gromyko.

At the same time, there was growing evidence thai Kirilenko had been able to protect his political position from deteriorating further after the demotion of his protege. Ryabov. Despite this setback. Kirilenkoto carry out the same d'tiics as before and. as in summers past,oscow to deputize for Brezhnev while Ibe latter was on vacation in the south.

9 wore loan end, the public rivalry between Kirilenko and Chernenko settledut, with any gain in prestige by one quickly matched by some gain for the other. For Instuncc, Chernenkooost when he accompanied Brezhnev to East Germany in early October and was given an award by party chief Honecker, who called him one ofclose comrades inPravJa further inflated Cherncnko's status, characterizing him as Brezhnev's "closest comrade inet il was Kirilenko who was given the honor for the second time of delivering the October Revolution anniversary adJrcss, despite

the fact that other Politburo

never given the speech before.

Chernenkoower Base

As has been shown, Brezhnev ennertain extent arrange events lo give Chernenko public exposure nnd manipulate the media to enhance his status. In the final analysis, however, Cherncnko's chances ofBrezhnev in the lop party post will depend heavily on the extent to which he has been able lo extend his authority throughout the vast partyathe national and the regional level, and lo broaden his base of political support. This has always been Kirilenko's strength. Recently Chernenko has made some gains In this respect, but his overall progress has been quitej

Domestic Affairs. Following Cherncnko's elevation to full membership in the Politburo inhere were reports that he would be assigned Important new responsibilities In tho domesticoviet

report ol

aining ties between the anal party leaders around

thaitcTncnKo was nnrnn tonjor effort to get the party und government officials at the middle and lower levels to carry out the leadership'sassignment that implied dissatisfaction(he way Kirilenko was supervising economicthrough the parly Secretarial. Moreover, another Soviet ] ^claimed thnt Chernenko was taking over Kirilenko's function of main) '

Central Committee and rcgi the country.

to support these reports.

official Ji9 tint

Vet. little evidence emerged There were no subsequent public signs that Chernenko had added any significant new executive activities to his portfolio,!

Cherncnko's responsibilities wereIs. overseeing the Central Committee's Ocneruland bundling ihe agenda and briefing material for the Politburo. As In the post, Chernenko has continued io accompany Biczhncv on his

he was with Brezhnev, for example, ut his Black Sea resortacation in9 and again for two months during the summer, p

With Brezhnev's assistance. Chernenko clearly has been seeking to expand his authority into key areas of party organization and personnelollection of documents on party cadre policy, edited by Chernenko. appeared In the summerherncnko'sof the General Department, which serves as the party archives, has permitted him to edit numerous collections of documents and thus to pose as nn authority on various subjects. On this occasion,he received an unusual boosteview in Pravda described the collectiondefinitive work in the field"ecessary "handbook for all parly officials at everyhis collection also made it possible for thesue of the party journal Parilynaya ihlm' lo carry Chernenko on its reading list of recommended writers on cadre matters, along with Lenin and Brezhnev. Despite such promotional efforts, however, there is no firm evidence lhat Chernenko has gained significant authority over cadre

One bureaucratic gain for Chernenko was thein9 of the General Department's Letters Sectorew Central Committee Utters Deport* rnent. The changeedestrian one. however, it did not directly encroach on the institutional or functional territory! of any of Cherncnko's colleagues and did not add measurably to Cherncnko's own authority.^ |

Nonetheless, with the creation of the neweneral drive againstwhich Chernenko had been longintoa 'full-fledged campaign for improved handling of letters andlcorrrplaints. In the process. Cherncnko's success inolitical base in at least one republic was demonstratedhen he arrangedormer official from Kirgizia to become head of theommittee's new letters Department In Moscow. The rcpoblicts leaders then led the way in pushing CherncrJko's letters campaign. Chernenkoisit to ihe;rcpublic in the fall to present an award, during whichjthe Kirgiz party boss praised him as "highly regarded by oil" and described Cherncnko's speech as "brilliant and deeply meaningful.'] Kirgizia, however,entral Asian backwater, and Chernenko does not appear to have enough time to parlay his modest success in power-base building in Kirgiziaationally significant phenomenon, i

Moreover, Cherncnko's success in Kirgiziato call attention to his lack ofAn article thai he wrote in Septemberindications lhat his letters campaignlargely ignored by all the main regionalexcept Kirgizia and its neighbors.four republics andistricts Chernenko listedheld party plenums to push the lettersthree of the republics and eight of theCentral Asian,j

FortixHhere has been the same element of

illusion to Cherncnko's role In foreign policy as well.

Over the past three years. Chernenko has accompanied

Brezhnev abroad with Increasing frequency,

Chernenko has been present every summer at some of

Brezhnev's meetings in Ihe Crimea witlt Warsaw Pact

leaders and twice has represented ihe Soviet parly al

Communal party congresses in Europe. Although

Chernenko has gained considerable public exposure

from this experience, Brezhnev seems io have been

unable to carve out for him any significant substantive

foreign affairs responsibilities beyond Warsaw Pact

mailers.

When Chernenko fin! participated in one of the Crimean avertings in the summer6 fol towing bis elect ion to tbe party Secretariat, it waa'seen assign that be might assume specific duties in this

C

Brezhnev closely controlled. As Generalthe party, Brezhnev has primarybilateral dealings with his Warsaw7 ibe Central Commit xcoversees relations with Warsaw Pact partiesbeaded by Brezhnev's former staff j :

Nonetheless, despite Cherncnko's involvement inuropean affairs he has never appeared in any capacity that suggested that he had been assigned any independent authority in the area. For instance, he has never substituted for Brezhnev in meetings with any East European party leader, nor has he chaired any conferences concerned with Soviel-East European

Furthermore, he has only appeared with Brezhnevn out-of-towntbe Crimea or abroad.

never in Moscow. This raises the possibilityrezhnevmayjustifyChetnenko'spresencebyargu-ing the need for his top executive officer to maintain liaison between himself and his Politburo colleague at home. This could captain, for example Cherncnko's appearance at the Vienna summit]

9 Gaiau Toward the end ofinal decision was taken to invade: solid signs finally appeared that "hernenko might be

assuming significant new executive responsibilities.

Accordingl

Chentenkocnatrea several rotnouromcramis-in the fallerhaps even more important, in mid-November Cherncnko presided over Militia Day festivities, thus raising the possibility that he has now acquired the responsibility for internal security affairs that had belonged to Kiriletskos protege Ryabov.[j

Brezhnev has. of course, alwaysose personal watch over the Committee for Stale Securitymber of lu top officials are his appointees. Cherncnko himself is probably on close personal terms with at least one of these, KGB first deputy chairman

Tsvigun,who worked in the Moldavian Republic al (he same time at Chernenko. Tbe assumption of some responsibilities for overseeing the security organs wouldajor advance for Chernenko. This evidence, however, dates from before the decision to invade Afghanistan, which probably has altered the leadership picture. Since then, no further indication of Chcrnenko's assumption of such responsibilities has appeared, j

Chans! ns Political and Policy Alignments TTw Seniors RaBj'

An important factor affecting the rivalry between Kirilenko and Chernenko9 was thestatus of the senior members of (he leadership, Kosygin and Suslov in particular. This was especially noticeable following Brrrhncv's illness in 'ateand early March. According!

contingency plans were made toIhe event that Brezhnev did notinterimleadership comprised of tht. more scnioi members.lan, although said to have been dropped when Brezhnev was out of danger, would have served to increase the influence ofenior colleagues and more firmly establish their voice in the succession process, l"

Kosygin and Suslov, indeed, were notably prominentespi'e predictions of an imminent retirement, Kosygin and his entire government were reconfirmed at the first meeting of the new Supreme Soviet in April. Kosygin gradually shouldered more of the burdens of state as Brezhnev was forced to cut back his activities because of mounting physicalis. until Kosygin himself fell ill in October. Suslov shared the limelight with Brezhnev at the party plenum thai preceded the Supreme Soviet session in April, and he continued to exercise strong influence in party affairs in subsequent months. With this resurgence of the seniors came signs of some realignment of groupings within the leadership." ]

One major feature of ihc realignmentrowing commonality of views among Brezhnev, Suslov, and Cherncnko. As noted earlier, Suslov probably found it

politically expedient to support Biezhncv at8 plenum. In anyradual. -mutually beneficial warming In their relationserceptible. For example, differences that hado 'exist between them on the crucial issue of dctcrte. faded. This was partly because Brezhnev himself began to express less optimism concerning the future of detente as problems with the United Sta'cs grew, but also because Suslov In his speeches softened his previously critical stance.

Moreover Suslov has given strong backing toagricultural policies.peech in9 and again in an election speech inuslov forcefully backed three policies directly nssoci-nted with the General Secretary: high investments in the agricultural sector, development of the Non-Black Soil region, and greater assistance to the farmers' private agricultural plots. Such unusual attention to agriculture'* needs on Susiov's part may huvcrompted partlyesire to bolster the position of his presumed protege, the fast-rising party Sccrctury for Agriculture Gorbachev.!-

The most noticeable development has been theof what appeared toead-on collision between Suslov and Chernenko. At the8 plenum Brezhnev hud sharply criticized the work

; of the propagandaarea ofannounced the formingommission toecree on ways of improving ideological indoctrination and mass propaganda work in general. Chernenko picked uponthis theme in an article published the following April, stressing the need for Candor and the importance of providing the public with "information" rather thanc thus left the impression that the decree would be strongly innovative in its approach. When the decree wits published several weeks later, however, any reformist language was all but buried by the familiar orthodox strictures. That Suslov had ideology firmly in hand became clear when heentral Committee conference to inaugurate the decree andollowup conference inc used the decree primarily to justify greater ideological vigilance und indoctrination of the population. When Chernenko addressed the subject again in an article published in September, all (he former bite was gore, and his remarks appeared to beehash of Susiov's ideas.

At the same time, the conflict that had appeared to cxisi between Premier Kosygin and Kirilenko became less evident. This was partly because Kirilenko no longer attended meetings of the Council of Ministers

a* regularly as he had8 and before, leaving this Avktchdog assignment to junior party secretaries. Most significantly, Kosygin and Kirilenko seem loelatively pragmatic attitude toward economici s. and Kirilenko seems to have emergedroponentumber of ideas that underlay5 economic reform. The first sign of this came8 when the publicationollection of Kirilenko's speeches revealed previously unpublished words of praise for3 experiment. This praise was all the moresigniricani because It cameime when the experiment was fast losing official

More recent and stronger evidenceapprochement with Kosygin was provided in an article by Kirilenko In the9 Issue of Partlynaya Zhltn* ihil was devoted to the9 party-stale decree on improving planning and the economic mechanism. Not orily did the article establish Kirilenko as an authority on the formulation and execution of the decree, bul it stressed the importance he attached to economic incentives. In doing so, Kirilenko seemed to be identifying himself with those aspects of the decree which seek lo combine tighter central planning wilh elementself-regulatingderived from5 reform,

Chernenkoolicy Alternator | j

Alternative policy orientations appearedeChernenko-Kirilenko rivalry9 came toAlthough this apparent divergence mayihe differing functional responsibilities ofleaders, iheir public statements provide clues aspersonal views on the many problems facing |

On the domestic front, Kirilenko has seemed to favor some basic changes In the way the economic system operates, while Chernenko has tended to stress nonsyitemlc solutions. For Instance, Chernenko sees improvement In the quality of leadership at all echelons of the party and state bureaucracies as the key to bolstering the economy. Cherncnko's frequent criticism of "bureaucrats'" and his constantthat letters from the rank and file be given careful attention have givenopulist Image. While he [Seems to have pulled back somewhat from this controversial stance, specifically In his accommodation

to the ideological decree, Chernenko still appears lo be identifiedovement lo introduce morereer flow of information, into the public and official life of the country.

On the foreign policy matters, Chernenko early emergedtaunch supporter of improved relations with the West, particularly with ihe United States. In his election speech ine went farther than any leader other than Brezhnev in stressing the Importance of the next stage in strategic arms talks) and in calling attention to the potc.iiial economic benefits to be derived. Chernenko again forcefully defended Brezhnev's foreign policiespeech injFrunre in |

In contrast. Kirilenko has long had the reputation of being an Ideological hardliner on foreign policy issues. In these matters he shares ihe outlook of Suslov and the younger, regionally based Politburo members. Kirilenko. however, seems to have avoided being drawnebate wilh Chernenko on these issues. In his speechesirilenkoiddle-of-ihe-road stand on foreign polity, and differences wilh Chernenko did not stand out.

Il seemed unlikely9 thaidivcrgent policy orientations on these and other Issues would come into focus as long as the leadership was able to muddle along and was not forced io reexamine existing policies. The Afghan invasion In late December, however, seems to have changed this situation,in its wake the possibilityreater polarization of views within Ihe leadership and, in the long run. perhaps,harper debate on foreign policy Issues, I

The Afghan Adrenlure

Chernenko fntHalry Undercut The incursion of Soviel troops into Afghanistan seems to have altered Ihe Soviet political landscape, changing the context In which the succession process was playing itself out and, nl Icasi initially, undercutting Cherncnko's position.I I

I Available evidencehai (he decisionse militury rorce in an attempt to salvigc the Soviet politica! stake In Afghanistan was unrlcrtakcn by the leadership with varying degrees of enthusiasm and

. differing motives, although most leaders probably agreed on the need for action The initial crucial process of weighing options, however, probably did not

: involve moremall group of top leaders, who

' seem not to have anticipated all the problems that subsequently arose. Brezhnev teems to have been involved in Ihc planning process al all stages along the way. and publicly identified himself firmly with the venture once it was launched* Whatever his strategic goals, he almost certainly was acting partly out of domestic politicalj

After his9 Initiative to withdraw Soviet troops unilaterally from Europe failed to slow NATO modernization plans, and as prospects for ratification of SALT II faded. Brezhnev was in an increasingly exposed position. He was identifiedolicy of improved relations with the United States that stood to bear little fruit and that was becoming increasingly unpopular with important elements in the leadership. He probablyilitary solution in Afghanistanelatively low-risk venture that would not onlyhe deterioration of the situation In Afghanistanould mollify his hardline political critics at home.

A number of Soviet officials have subsequentlyiprobably overstating ihea group of younger and tougher leaders had long hoped for the collapse ofolicy they viewed as sapping Soviet resolve, and saw the Afghan Invasion not only as necessary on lu own merits butay of promotingollapse. Not stated, but presumably pan ofalculation, was the hope thatposition and certainly Cherncnko's might be weakened in the process. While Brezhnev's support of the move into Afghanistan may have served to outflank his critics, it left hit detente policyhambles. Chernenko, as his most loyal spokesman on improved relations with the West, was outimb.

Cherncnko, Loyal Opposition?

he Soviet Incursion encountered mounting political and mililary problems in Afghanistan and strong reaction worldwide, reports began to circulate that

some elements within the leadership, concerned aboul the high costs of the venture, were beginning to have second thoughts, and from this followed ihe possibility that Cherncnko's Isolation might not be complete.

In fact. Chernenko appeared to take the offensive in his mid-February election speech. He stuck firmly to his former defense of improved relations with the United States, andighly polemical vein warned his colleagues not to overreact to the West's alleged provocations. It was important toool and calme said. "The aggressive forces could very much wish us to respond inhernenko prefaced Ihis warning with aseeminglyas lo bewanting peace and progress "foreans "acknowledging oihcr peoples* right to thehernenko seemed to be directing his remarks at certain members of ihe lcadc*shipby the defiant rhetoric inectionnlmov toownward turn in US-Soviet relations resulting from ihe Afghan crisis."]

Furthermore. Cherncnko's speech suggested that he might hope toocal point,oviet efforts in Afghanistan fullered, for an eventual reassessment of Soviet policy there. Significantly Chernenko uvoided any direct endorsement of Ihc Afghan Invasion in his speech. Premier Kosygin, who I' id been hospitalized while decisions concerning Afghanistan were being made, was the only other leader who seemed lo be trying lo dissociate himself from the decision.

Chernenko')from their polemicalmuch of what Brezhnev said in his speech ending the election campaign. But in avoiding an endorsement of the Afghan invasion, Cherncnko seemed to be living lo distance himself somewhat from his patron. It seems unlikely that Chernenko would seek to break with Brezhnev, having Rile independent power of hli own. He might hope, however, to stakeosition that would work to hisalso toand if detente with the Untied Stales got bock on the track. In any event, such reservations about current Soviet foreign policies, as expressed by Cherncnkoewrobnbly are tolerated by Soviet policymakers because ihey tend to encourage optimism in Western circles, particularly in Europe, lhat some policy reappraisal within the Soviet leadership is possible.

Ccetclwioac Ctstrssfnko's free tec'

hmnto^pnapKU as Mr apparent'io 'Brnktir doappwr bright at prewnu'r^^

policy there is not likely to ukepUcc any time lii theecessarily followherncnko's fonunes would look upesult.'As f: [IT |times passes, Coerrtcnko's chances tooaiiten as Brezhnev's successor win, likehances, diminish. It Is perhaps significant thatearly9 some Soviets were commenting privately that both Kirilenko and Chernenko siere, too bid and that attention had turnedo/uiger group

leaders.

Perhaps Chernenko's best chance would comeituation of continued political stalemate when hemight be viewed as an acceptable compromisedate. His greatesty be that he Is seen by his Politburo colleaguesthreatening choice available. This was reportedlyrcriinev was perceived by; his colleagues at Ihe time or Khrushchev's ouster and continued to be perceived long after. This reputation allowed Brezhr.'v to win out

A over hli more dynamic, more obviouslyivals. In the right circumstances, this could also work Tor Chernenko.iggest drawback is that 'I the primary source of his current power andno longer be on the scene when the selection process occurs.

indeed intent on establishing Chernenko

tood portion of the responsibilities of the top party post to Chernenko. That Brezhnev may haw had this in mind is suggested by the rumor9 that Chernenko would be named al the next party congressew deputy general secretary post. There was said to be opposition to this idea at the lime. There scents even less likelihood lhat Brezhnev could engineer inchmove now. Events In Afghanistan seem toeduced his room Tor political maneuvering.

::

In addition, the views or the other senior membersleadership continue to weigh heavily In any;suecqsion decision. An East European!

'), recently, tor instance,

Suslov had onlyte rem: to mauo In Ideology and toey role in theright, j nsisted, that everyone co.-ccdcs to him While Suslov icemi tohive lent some support lo Chernenko'i candidacy; the Arghan irrvs-sion may have strained their reUtionship. In any event, Suslov is likely to drop his support if and when he is able lbrotege of his own, sttehiaiafHr Gorbachev, It is always potalbU that Brezhnev might nnd Ii politically expedient to do likewise, particularly If he cornea to view his ilea wilh Chernenkoolitical liability.

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