Created: 9/19/1968

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Intelligence Memorandum

The USSR's International Position After Czechoslovakia



8 No.


CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8


The USSR's International Position After Czechoslovakia


Moscow intervened in Czechoslovakia because it feared for its hold over Eastern Europe. of profit and loss with respect to Sovietpolicy in general were secondary. The decision to invade meant that the Sovietto preserve the status quo in Eastern Europe overrode any urge that Moscow might have had to seek advantage in limited accommodations with the non-Communist world. In this sense, the Sovietbehaved characteristically. Intervention was, at the same time, the most difficult decision ever made by the Brezhnev-Kosygin regime and may turn out to be its most fateful one.

Although the Soviets would like to regard the Czechoslovak affair as essentially internal business and to have the rest off the world so regard it, the issue inevitably raises additional issues for them: relations between East and West and betweenparties, the trend of Soviet defense spending, the development of the Soviet economy and internal discipline. Only time can tell whether the Soviets were right in concluding that intervention was the lesser of two evils. It will depend, among other things, on whether and for how long the pressures for reform in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in the Soviet bloc can be contained; whether the collective

Uote: This memorandum was produced solely bys prevared by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated with the Office of National Estimates


leadership can master its own internal conflicts, and how the policies of others, especially the US, are influenced by what has happened in

Increased distrust of the USSR in the us and Soviet defensiveness and insecurity revealed by the invasion do not bode well for us-Soviet relations in the near future. The possibility should not behowever, that Moscow will see some need after Czechoslovakia for taking steps to keep us-Soviet relations from settlingotal freeze. There is, at any rate, no present indication that Moscow's interest in missile talks with the US is lass than before.

it will be months before the "fall-out" from the invasion of Czechoslovakia has settled to earth. What this does to Soviet policy will have to be seen. It seems almost certain, however, that Moscow did not mean its intervention to mark apoint in its policies generally. The Russian leaders would prefer to think of it, and to have others think of it,egrettable but necessary disciplinary action within its own family.

Intervention was the most difficult decision made by the Soviet collective leadership during its four years of rule, and probably its most fateful one. Moscow invaded Czechoslovakia because it was afraid not to. The signal to intervene was givenonclusion had been reached that the cost of nonintervention was unbearable. It presumably also reckoned that, though there would be damage from intervention, it would be damage which could

be tolerated. The decision stemmed from anxiety and insecurity, but it also rested on the rationalthat there was virtually no risk of nuclear confrontation. Whether, in fact, the Soviets chose the lesser or the greater of two evils will only become evident in tine. It will depend on several unknowns: if and for how long the pressures for reform in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in the Soviet bloc can be contained; whether the collectivecan master its own internal conflicts; and how the policies of-others, especially the US, are influenced by what has happened in Czechoslovakia.

occupation of CzechoslovakiaMoscow is not ready to tolerateeakening of the system ofone-party rule it practices at home. Itpermit the lesser states in the Warsaw pactto come to think that they can deviseblueprints for the reform of the Communistor that they can serve as pathfinderseconciliation of the opposingEurope. The Soviets' anxiety about theirin Eastern Europe is all the greatertheir uncertainty about theand physicaltheir otherthe Chinese side.


4. ozen years--ever sincethe Soviets have been gropingeans ofa more or less voluntary acceptance by Eastern Europe of their leadership. The goals of acommonwealth" andeconsolidation of the Communist movement around Moscow on the basis of common interests were probably never attainable on Moscow's terms, but these were more than justslogans. Although the goalshambles now, the tortuous course followed by the Russians before intervention and their backing and filling since then both suggest that they do not want to have to hold Eastern Europe down solely by force if there is any other way. As soon as Czechoslovakia ishe Soviets must begin again the searchon-Stalinist dispensation for Eastern Europe.

4. There is every reason to suppose that the Soviet leadership will remain preoccupied, and painfully so, with the problems of Eastern Europe for some time to come, as it has for the better part of the last nine months. And with the problem of Czechoslovakia there arise such attendant questions as the future of relations between East and West and between Communist parties, defense spending, the development of the Soviet economy, and internal discipline. It would not be surprising if theleadership failed to weather in its present form the conflict which these issues seem likely to produce.

6. Intervention need not, and probably does not, meanaction of "hawks" has got the betteraction of "doves" in the Politburo. From its first days, the present ruling committee hasshown more concern for the Soviet position among other Communist parties and within the Warsaw Pact than for "detente." While caution and compromise have been the most notable characteristics of the collective leadership's behavior, its alarm about the spreading diversity in Communist ranks and the flouting of Moscow's authority within its own orbit have been apparent. Also evident, side by sideecognition of the indispensability of "peacefulasonstantly rising alarm


over the hazards for the USSR of exposure to outside influences. With Czechoslovakia, this concern rose to the level of fright. The decision wont finally in favorrimitive, neo-Stalinist attitude which has never, in the past four years, been for from the surface. What is not known, and may not be known for some time, is to what extent this attitude williet behavior elsewhere.

Moscow is now playing forin the first place, to assure itself that Czechoslovakia is safely back in the fold; to absorb, if it can, the impact of intervention on its own leadership; to sort out the effects on the Soviet position among foreign parties; and to assess the consequences of intervention for its international objectives. It has probably already offered the non-Communist world the only justification it intends to give for its invasion of Czechoslovakia, namely, that Moscowits national interests to be threatened and that, like it or not, the world must accept its Foreign Communist parties were clearlyto respond to the cue ofut the great majority have not done so. They have seen instead that where Czechoslovakia was concerned, the USSR put its own interests first, and that is what most of the parties have themselves done. The Nove=iber conference of Communist parties, if now it takes place at all, cannot possibly do what theintended it to do: ew pro-Soviet, anti-Chinese front of Communist parties. Having discovered this, Moscow is likely to value all the more loyal allies like Ulbricht and to consider it all the more necessary to remain sturdy in its support of North Vietnam.

There is, in addition, some obvious damage, in the short term, to goals Moscow was pursuing beyond the frontiers of the Communist world. rake has been put on the momentum which the USSR, together with the US, had succeeded in building up behind the NET, and considerable diplomatic effort will have to be spent in restoring it. It remains to be seen whether Czechoslovakia has breathed new life into NATO, but the Soviets must now reckon with this possibility. In general, however, the mainwill be in the "psychological" realm and will


depend on whether and how soon Moscow can persuade others to think of Czechoslovakia as an unfortunate episode. In concrete terns, the direct consequences will be slight- Moscow's recurrent expressions of interest in multilateral projects lookingowering of the barriers between East and West in Europe, suchuropean security conference, have always seemed more propagandists than genuine, and it will be no catastrophe for the Russians if these projects are pushed further into the future. Moscow has all along beenolicy of expediency toward Western Eruope, hoping that, with somethe Western alliance would begin to come apart while its own alliance was still more or less intact. But the Russians have always been more concerned with preserving the status quo in Eastern Europe than in undermining it in Western Europe. Moscow would no doubt have liked to have had it both ways, but Czechoslovakia has made this more difficult. Soviet influence in Western Europe is bound to recede, temporarily at least. But as between the two--influenc in Western Europe and authority in EasternKremlin decided it had only one choice.

Germanyase apart. Moscowa fear of resurgent German power inis itself far fromhelp hold thetogether. It realizes, at the same time,will have some say about the shape of asettlement." The Russians have wanted to

be able, until that time comes, to keepine of communication with the West Germans in order to influence their viewsettlement. They have dangled the prospectrighter future before them in private, while inveighing against them publicly. The use of this tactic is now temporarily denied the Russians, and it may turn out that, partly out of their own fear of the impact of Bonn's Eastern policy, they have revived fears in West Germany which will be slow to subside. If this has happened, it will complicate Western pursuit of detente after thedust has settled.

the background of heightenedfor the preservation of the status quoEurope, the issue of Berlin will remain a


one. Moscow is aware

that Berlin,

Czechoslovakia, could readily become the sceneangerous East-West confrontation. How the Russians deal with the problem in comingwhen there will be occasionest of theof East and West inood gauge of the USSR's intentions in general.

The Soviet action will have the leastin the nonaligned world. The USSR may bein those places where its standing has depended to some extent on the validity of itscredentials, but those places are probably few. In the Third World, the Soviet position is not likely to be much weakened where it is now strong, as among the Arab states. By and large, the leaders of the nonaligned nations will want to treat the Czechoslovak issue as none of their business. The abstention of India, Pakistan, and Algeria in the vote on thequestion in the Security Councilood sign that recipients of Soviet economic and military assistance will not want to deny themselves future benefits for the sake of what they are likely to think ofemote and largely irrelevant issue:.

Finally, where the future of US-Sovietis concerned, the outlook depends to some degree on the US attitude. It will probably cause the Soviets little pain if the US cuts back onexchanges, for which they had no greatanyway. The ideautual reduction of forces in central Europe,irst stepolution of the problems of European security, isasualty; but this will be regretted more in Washington than in Moscow. Such hopes as there were for cooperation between the US and USSR insome of the sources of tension in the Middle East seem dimmer, although it may be all the more in the USSR's interest to see that the conflict there remains mainly in the political arena. Moscow seems likely, moreover, to be more determined than ever to remain strictly in line with Hanoi with respect to the Paris negotiations. But, on the question of the Soviet position on nuclear weapons control, it cannot be said with certainty whatbehavior toward Czechoslovakia portends. The

present indications are that Soviet interest in discussions has not been diminished by Czechoslovakia. It may be that the economic and technologicalfor an agreement with the US are apparent to one or another degree across the whole spectrum of Soviet opinion, from militant to pragmatic. Not to be excluded also is the possibility that Moscow will see the need as greater after Czechoslovakia for offsetting steps to keep US-Soviet relations from settlingotal freeze.

13. US-Soviet missile talks, however, have all along promised to be difficult. Distrust of the USSR in the US, which is bound to growesult of Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, combined with the defensiveness and insecurity on the part of the Russians which that actionmay mean that any talks will now face still harder going.

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