DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
POLITICS IN THE SOVIET POLITBURO AND THE CZECH CRISIS
POLICY DIFFERENCES IN THE SOVIET POLITBURO AND THE CZECH CRISIS
MEMORANDUM TO RECIPIENTS
Thispeculative essay on differences over policies and priorities In the Soviet Politburo as they emergod prior to and during the Soviet invasion ofin The essay focuses primarily on the conflicting policy tendencies within the Soviet leadership as symbolized by Kosygin and by Brezhnev. Other personalities, of course, are involved and in the long run may prove equally or more important. However, in recent and current policy debates in the Soviet Union the tendency toward orthodoxy, dogmatism, andib represented by Brezhnev and tbe more moderate stance in foreign and domostic policy as represented by Kosygin appear to be tho main lines along whichand disputes among the soviet leaders take shape. The somewhat controversial thesis of this ossay is that the Czech crisis did not precipitate differences among the Soviet leaders but rather that the crisis was partontinuing dispute among Soviet leaders over the "soft" versus the "hard" line issue in domestic, bloc and international affairs.
1 and reflects information available through ro=3epremoor.
Chief, DDI spoeiat Research Staff
POLICY DIFFERENCES IN THE SOVIET POLITBURO AND THE CZECH CRISIS
The post-Khrushchev Soviet leadershipurning point when it launched the invasion ofonh. By all normal expectations it should by now have irrevocably passed that point. Yet in the immediate aftermath of the invasion the Soviet "collective leadership" tarried, hesitating to carry the military action to its logical conclusion, namely, the total destruction of the Dubcek liberal Communist regime. In the face of the unity of the initial Czechoslovak resistance the Kremlin backtracked for the time being. The Dubcek regimeeprieve and the Soviets at least temporarily eschewed the imposition of direct military rule. ffect, the Kremlin returned to the pre-inva-sion strategy of trying to bend the Czechoslovakto its will with the massive added advantage of the leverage provided by the occupation army.
The seesawing in Soviet tactics has almost certainly been tied to shifts in Politburo alignments as well as to the Czechoslovak resistance. The failure of theat Cierna to curb the Czechoslovak liberalization evidently was exploited by the promoters of directtoo-ahead with Invasion plans Yet the embarrassing failure of the venture to produceresults in the formompliant collaborationist government in Prague gave some breathing space to counsels of restraint in the Politburo. After the invasion, the Soviet toleration, for the moment, of the reelection by the Czechoslovak party of an overwhelmingly liberalheaded by Dubcek withhin sprinkling ofclearly suggestedoderating,influence was still at work within the Soviet in the ensuing weeks, the clash of alternately menacing and conciliatory notes in the Soviet press and in Soviet dealings with the Czechs seemed more likeof disarray within the Soviet ruling group than the
masterful executionarrot and stick policy. It was not until early October that Brezhnev was able to bring to boar upon Dubcek sufficiently harsh pressures to bring major Czechoslovak concessions in the direction desired by the invasion's sponsors.
The stop-and-go pattern of Soviet policy, the evid-dence suggests, hasirror of the unstable balance of forces that has existed in the Politburo "collective" since Khrushchev's fall. From this standpoint thecameulminating moverowing conflict among those forces.
The Czech crisis broughtead an underlying conflict in the Soviet "collective leadership" between moderates who wanted to follow broadly the path of reform at home and accommodation abroad and conservatives bent on erasing the legacy of Khrushchevism and restoringand political orthodoxy to Soviet policy. Before theenior Yugoslav editor dramatized but did not exaggerate the stakes in the Czech crisis when he said: "We feel strongly about Czechoslovakia because theirs is our fight, too. if they lose, then we and other Communist parties could also lose our struggle against our own dogmatic forces and we would all go backind of Stalinism." The comment is by no means irrelevant to the Soviet leadership although the factional balance in the Soviet party over the past several years had tended to favor the conservatives, which is the reverse of what the situation has been in Yugoslavia and recently in Czechoslovak!
Tho Kremlin decision to invade Czechoslovakia must beevere, if not culminating, defeat for the more moderate Soviet leaders. All those projects in Soviet policy holding out the prospect of limited detente with the United States and the Western powers have now fallenloud. President Johnson's postponement of talks with Kosygin on nuclear arms limitation underscored the downturn in the fortunes of the moderates. Ironically, Kosygin had completed arrangements with Washington on the talks the day before Soviet troops crossed the Czechoslovak borders. Yet the unexpected results of the invasion for Soviet policy-makers and their subsequent hesitation to
crush the Dubcek regime outright after the failure of the first attempt to do so leaves room for doubt as to the ultimate outcome of the Invasion on the internal politics of the Soviet leadership. Of course, the very momentum of the resort to main force in Czechoslovakia weighs heavilyeversal in policy and places the more moderate wing of the Soviet top echelonisadvantage in the internal political struggle.
In the period since Khrushchev's fall,forces in the Soviet party have held the edge in inner-party politicsurn toward ideological and political orthodoxy increasingly showed In the cards. The pressure from such forces gained in strength and despite vigorous and steady resistance the moderate wing of the leading group has been forcedlow but steady retreathole spectrum of issues ranging from the Stalin question to defense spending. However, the sudden and total downfall of the orthodox Novotny regime and the unexpectedly rapid liberalization under Dubcekhreat to what hadradual restoration of orthodoxy in Soviet politics. The danger that the Czech liberalization, if permitted to survive, would in time infect Soviet politics was undoubtedly considered acute by Soviet conservatives. Tbey saw ineep menace to the gains they had made in political struggle within the Soviet leadership since Khrushchev's fall.esult the issues that had already been producing divisions within the "collective leadership" were
Two developments, in particular, since early spring this year registered the aggravation of the conflict in the leading group. in February and March there were signsharpening of the clash between Brezhnev and Kosygln whose positions over time have mirrored respectively the divisions between the conservative and moderate wings of the leading group. Secondly, the confrontation between Brezhnev and Kosygln was followed by an increasingly noticeable divergence in the lines of movement In Soviet .policy. As summer came, Soviet policy alternately turned its face in opposing directions.
On the one side, there were the series of moves which culminated at the end of June in the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the Politburo decision to enter high-level talks with the United States on nuclear arras limitation. These initiatives and the justifications offered on their behalf by Sovietwere in close accord with positions Kosygin hadtaken. On the other hand, there was the steady expansion, under Brezhnev's evident personal guidance, of the drivo against the Czechoslovak liberalization and the associated propaganda campaign playing on the theme of an Intensifying ideological and class struggle between the Soviet and Western camps. As the crisis with the Czechoslovaks grew the counter-pulls within the Soviet leadership between conflict and accommodation abroad with the United States and the West, between rigidity andinside the Soviet and East EuroDean orbit became more manifest. All the major issues dividing the dogmatic-orthodox from the moderate-reformist wings of thein the post-Khrushchev period tended to converge.
The altercation between Brezhnev andin their respective speeches to local partyin Februaryecondary issue but nonetheless an issue clearly tied to the deeper difference of outlook that has been manifested between the two Soviet executives since early in their incumbency. In his speech onrezhnevut atfor the latter's praise the month before of Western science and technology, in general, and of Americanin production organization, in particular. Kosygin had warned that it would be "shortsighted" not to utilize foreign accomplishments in these spheres. iposte, Brezhnov berated "some workers" for overrating capitalist and depreciating Soviet achievements. Brezhnev complained that Soviet spokesmen should be "paying more attention" to showing the flaws of capitalism and the "upheaval" it istheme which the party leader hasplayed upon as the basis for Soviet leadership of the class struggle against imperialism.
The exchange pointed to the more fundamental Issue of how the Western world should be vlowed and, by the broad policy line that should be pursuodthat world. The difference over Western achievements was also in tune with other specific differences between the two men. For example, where Brezhnev has stressed the prospect of protracted struggle with the West, Kosygln has stressed the possibilities of developing good economic relations with the West; whero Brezhnev hasigh rate of military spending, Kosygln has argued for holding the line In favor of the civilian economy. In brief, Brezhnev's specific policy positions have been generally consistent with his over-all conservativewhich, while eschewing Chinese-style militancy, stresses the need toharp line of demarcation betweon the Communist and "imperialist" camps. Kosygln's have accorded with his generally moderate stance opening the prospect of accommodations with the West over the long term and profitable relations with it for the sake of Soviet internal growth and development.
The same Brezhnev sposch In March also contained signs of strain in the relationship between the party apparatchiki on tho one hand and the economic managers under Kosygln on lhe other. Brezhnevhrust at the latter, warning of punishments if executives abused the greater autonomy they were enjoying. Brezhnev's stress on control from the center and an unusually emphatic re-assertion of party supremacy in all spheres of national development obviously constricted any notionpecial or quasi-independent preserve of policy for Kosygln and his managers. Brezhnev's focus on the theme of party supremacy was also toominant element In the subsequent development of the Soviet attack on Czechoslovak internal reforms. In the March speech Brezhnev stressed the principle of party supremacy by repeating the refrain, "Only the party He said:
Only the party, armed with frontline theory, with Marxism-Leninism, can find the correct solution to these problems, building communism at home and promoting socialism abroad] and can determine the principal, most
urgent directions of the country's economic and social development. Only thean impart to all work in the construction' ofurposeful, scientifically based, and planned character. Only the party can unite the forces of the peopleworking class, the peasants and thethe successful solution of both economic and political problems.
One of the points hidden in Brezhnev's emphasis on party primacy was baredommunist article in early May. It charged that "some economic leaders"arrow "administrative-managerial" view of their activity without regard for political considerations and disdained general interests. The article was alluding to disregard among managers of the prerogatives of party organs at various levels and was touching the same sore pointexposed in his warning against indiscipline andof state interests. The article's complaints about the ideological failings of the managers harmonized with Brezhnev's argumentarty conference in February that thereference to the emphasis on themotive in Kosygin's economicnot the only incentive, but that it needed to be combined withstimuli and Communist consciousness.
In any case, the intensity of the clash between the two top leaders was indicated by the relativeof Brezhnev's criticism of Kosygin on the score of underrating Soviet accomplishments, While the differences between the two had been apparent before in differing emphases and divergent formulations in their speeches as well as recurring signs of personal friction behind the scenes, rarely had eitheringer at the other so unmistakablyublic utterance.
In March President Johnson's limitation of the bombing of North Vietnam opening the way to the Paris talks on the one side, and the rapidly widening scope of the Czechoslovak liberalization on the other evidently produced discordant movements in the Politburo. President Johnson's actions apparently gaveandle for
moving debate on the question oX negotiating with the United States on nuclear aras limitation toward a At the same time, the pace of the Czechevidently prompted Brezhnev to accelerate effortsurged on by alarms sounded by conservative elements in thetrategy of counter-action against the Czechoslovak liberalization. At the April plenum of the Central Committee he unveiled plans for an "offensive" against "imperialist" ideological and political subversion at home and abroad. As events have turned out the Czech liberal communist regime was the ultimate target of the offensive. In brief, the nuclear arms and the Czechoslovak issues became*roader leadership conflict.
The Politburo'sin late
to enter talks with the United States on nuclear arms limitation including the ABU issue came against abearing all the signs of long and involvedwithin the leading group. The eighteen-month Soviet delay in accepting the idea of talks indicate that the decision was hard to come by. There had been immediate and specific evidence of controversy after the. proposal to discuss missile limitation in For example, inravdaosygln statement) indicated that the Soviet Union was willing to discuss the question, but the article was subsequently discreditedoviet spokesman. In7 the President revealed that he hadetter from Kosygln affirming Soviet willingness to discuss the issue, but the letter was never confirmed by the Soviets.
The advocates of entering talks must have advanced hard-headed and persuasive arguments in order to tip the balance in the Politburo in their favor. Whileettlement of the Vietnam war undoubtedlythe debate,. decision in June to go ahead with the Sentinel ABM probably helped clinch arguments in favor of talks. The argument probably played on the fear the USSR might prove the loserull-scale nuclear race and on the hopeactical advantage might be won If. were to delay ABM development
during talks. Perhaps very important was the spectre of severe disruption of the Soviet economyace could produce. However, the decision to enter talks as well as the concurrent decisions to sign the nucleartreaty, continue cultural exchanges and open air links with New York were not so important inbut rather in the broader implications they raised for general policy.
Brozhnev for one made lt clear that heestrictive Interpretation on the scope and purposes of the decisions on the treaty and nuclear talks. At the April plenum Brezhnev had already tied Soviet agreement to the non-proliferation treaty strictly to the military-strategic benefits lt secured for the USSR withoutthat it enhanced coexistence with the West. ravda commentator echoed this attitudeapanese newsman, rejecting the idea of any connection betweenSoviet coexistence" and the non-proliferation treaty or nuclear disarmament talks, Further, inuly speech to the military graduates, Brezhnev implied that the non-proliferation treaty was awrung unwillingly from the imperialist powers by the militant struggle of "peace-loving" forces.
In comparison, Gromyko's report at the Supreme Soviet announcing Soviet readiness to enter nuclear arms limitation talks placed the decisionroad andpolitical perspective. That perspective, in short, stood in contrast to the darker prospect of danger and conflict set out in the conservative line that had been dominant in other major regime statements. utiful and deferential official, was undoubtedly the mouthpiece for views emanating from the highest level. On major paints his Supreme Soviet report accorded with positions Kosygin had previously taken but almostmust have represented more than the latter's views alone. The most likely assumption is that the report was not given without prior consultation In the Politburo and reflected the view of atemporary majority of that body.
The Gromyko report vas keyedharacterization of the present "stae;e" of International developments that contrasted with the pessimistic view Brezhnov hadasserted. Despite the "motley character" andof contemporary events, the "main" conclusion to be drawn regarding the presentromyko stated, was that the rate of collapse of the system ofits attendant phenomena of aggressive wars and "unbridled" arms races,developing rapidly. The Brezhnevhastandard line in most partya less reassuring prospect. The presentn this view,rotracted, dangerous conflict with Imperialism characterized by sharpened international tensions andhe underlying cause of the condition, according to this analysis, is the development of the "general crisis of capitalism" which produces increasing "imperialist"in world affairs. The Gromyko formulationong-term trend of declining danger of serious conflict In international affairs.
Similar cleavage between Brezhnev and Kosygln on world prospects had emerged as far back asrezhnev had warnedpeech that despite the gradual change of the balance of forces in favor of socialism, "this general tondency in world development must not hide from us the danger with which the present International situation is fraught." Shortly thereafter, Kosygln had challenged the Brezhnev view by simply turning the coin around. He warned, in turn, against "shutting oneself up in present-day events" when making policy. Rather, present tensions, he aruged, must be kept In the perspective of the broad trend favoring the forces of peace and security.
In support of the brighter view of affairs, the Gromyko reportteady decline in the influence of traditional military strength in worldtrend which, he said, was the "essence" of the "new" phenomena of the present stage. Ironically Gromyko cited Brezhnev's report last November onh anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution to support the latter point. Nonetheless, Gromyko's argument hardly squared withresounding reaffirmation soon after Inuly
speech of the central importance of military power. "As long as imperialism exists and threatens the use ofrezhnev argued, the imperative to face "great material expenditures" in increasing military strength remains. Though the Soviet Union would, he added, continue tolimitation of the arms race, it must keep its powder dry in readiness for "any serious turn in events." The tone and thrust of Brezhnev's argument ran counter to Gromyko's, and his warningerious turn was confirmed by the subsequent Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Gromyko had declared that the military power ofis already successfully "contained" by Soviet might. This assertionomplementosygin statement earlier in the year that the imperialists are "convinced" that the USSR was not vulnerable to military pressure as part of an explanation of why imperialism is allegedly stepping up "ideological" sabotage in the Soviet world.
In connection with the theme of the lessing of the influence of military power in world politics, Gromyko depreciated the importance of. military budgets. Toation's strength in world affairs by the "quantitative" yardstick was faulty, Gromyko asserted, since by its measure American influence should haverather than declined. Brezhnevuly,reasserted the importance of the yardstick. He voiced extreme alarm at the size of the. militaryhe exaggerated by citing aprofessed toesign In high Washington circles to work for strategic superiority over the USSR and toore aggressive policy. expression of concern contrasted with Gromyko's reassuring assessment that Soviet might "is by no means Lesser than" that of imperialism (read Unitedosygin was also visibly upset by the size of. arms budget in his talk with British labor leader Cjroslandune, but his main concern, as in previous years, evidently was the impact of an arms race on tho Soviet economy and on the Soviet allocation of resources, not the danger of. gaining strategic superiority. Further, Brezhnev's warning against "shutting our eyes" to the fact that the "hawks" maintain their positions in Washington (despite public opposition. war policies)
ounterpoint to statements in the Gromyko report. Gromyko said that top American political figures like Rockefeller and George Ball were recognizing the limits of the Influence of American military power in world Similarly, Kosygln had in the past pointed to the presence of moderate political forces In Washington.
The general theses of the Gromyko report were closely tied to Its justifications for the pursuitisarmament policy, and, specifically, the decision to engage in talks on nuclear arms limitation with the United States. The report was cast in distinctly arguv-mentative terms and answered specific objections againstro-disarmamentindication that the report was draftedackground of sharp debate. The report contained an attack on"bourgeois leaders" whotragicIn the epoch" and who concluded that the arms racefatal inevitability." iew describes the orthodox Communist thesis equally well and Gromykothis by denouncing Communist "theoreticians" who call the idea of disarmament an "illusion." While such attacks obviously apply, but are not necessarily limited, to the Chinese and others outside the USSR, Gromyko at this point phrased his case on the value of talksanner which suggested that he was mirroring an argument addressed to doubters in the Soviet leadership itself. On the one hand, he agreed, "experience" shows theof counting on capitalist powers agreeing to solutions of prosslng international problems,disarmament, without constant exposure of militarist policies. On the other, he added, "experience also shows" that consistent and persistent pursuitisarmament policy made lt possible to achieve "certain results" even if it did not lead "all at once to concretehe latter point fits in well with Kosygln's theme of steady progress in the disarmament field step-by-step at the signing of the non-proliferation treaty.
Kosygln's brief remarks at the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty shortly after the Supreme Soviet session reinforced the Gromyko report's defense of an active disarmament policy. Kosygln pictured a
steady step-by-step progress in the disarmament field reaching back to the Khrushchev era. He cited the test-ban treaty, the culmination of Khrushchev's detenteafter the Cuban crisis, as the starting point of the record of progress. He spoke optimistically of the prospects of reducing International tension and saw in the non-proliferationonfirmation of the capacity of states to find "mutually acceptable solutions" to the "complicated" International problems of the day. Kosygln even continued to preserve his accent on the positive as the crisis over Czechoslovakia escalated In mid-July. In Sveden onuly he went well beyond the call of diplomatic duty In developing the idea that the world isingle entity in the spheres of trade, economics, science and technology. While noting that thestill engage in attempts to aggravatewhich "naturally" will be rebuffed, Kosyglnthat an "objective appraisal" of the world situation made it "Impossible not to note the positivehe "positive" trend, according to the Soviet Premier, was that all states both East and West, wereand could not develop Individually without "extensive" economic, scientific and technological collaboration. Kosygln's "one-world" theae clashed with th* rapidat that Juncture of Moscow's hard-lineagainst the Czechoslovak liberalization and the Insistence on Stalin's rigid "two-camp" depiction of the world. Kosygln's theme uneasily co-existed withpictureorld riven by crises and class war.
Brezhnev's political maneuvers following on the heels of tho signature of the non-proliferation treaty and the decision to enter nuclear talks bore all the markingsoncentrated effort to head off theline of general policy that had broken the surface in the Gromyko and Kosygln statements. His speeches in earlyof the specific points of which havebeenany idea that the way was being openedore peaceful relationship with the western powers and the United States in particular. These speeches were distinguished by unusually harshvituperation and were replete with the coldest of cold-war themes. His loading role In escalating the
attack against the liberal Dubcek regime in Czechoslovakia to at least the point of direct intervention in July and August had the obvious advantage of putting massiveon moderates in the leading group to acquiesce in the hardline he had pushed with increasing vigor since the early spring.
At the same time, aware of the dangers of failure in the Czech venture, Brezhnev engagedeverishto lessen his personal vulnerability. He not only obtained the formal and public sanction of the Central Committee but of the Politburo itself for his actions. If he fails, any failures of the policy could be treated as "collective" responsibility; any successes Brezhnev could claim for himself as an initiator and leader of the venture, Brezhnev's difficulty In gaining genuine unity bohlnd his leadership in the very heat of the Czech crisis was indicatedravdaeekalf before the invasion. The articleugust) byigureistory of involvement in high-levelthe inviolability of "democratic centralism" in party politics and warnod of the dangers of factionalism. His general comments on the pernicious effects on the execution of the official party line if some "pull" in one direction and others in another seemed as immediately applicable to the Soviet leadership as to other parties in the Communist world in the recent period. Rodionov pointedly recommended Brezhnev's speech ofarchound directive on the principles of party solidarity. It wasonspicuous thrust at Kosygin's views and set forth many of the basic lines Brezhnev has since relentlessly advanced.
On the whole, it seems unlikely that the Politburo majority that backed the decision on arms talks represented the same alignment of forces that pushed through theto invade Czechoslovakia. Both actions, the evidence suggests, were the products of shifts In the balance within the leading group: in theoderate groupingan advantage; in theard-line faction gaining the upper hand. Obviously there must have been "swing votes" in both cases. Kosygin and Brezhnev have
mirrored in their statements and actions the clash of the opposing tendencies. It haB been Kosygin who most consistently among the leaders kept alive an alternative to tho creeping conservative tide In party polltld^ since Khrushchev's fall. Brezhnev, on the other, has striven toonservatively-oriented coalition as the base of support for his leadership. He has sought*.to avoid alienating party conservatives and strong elements in the Soviet military as Khrushchev had done.
Brezhnev, nonetheless, has had to fight on two fronts in the leadership struggle. Brezhnev has so far contained but has not been able to drive from the field powerful potential challengers from both the militant-conservative and moderate groupings. (The outcome of the Czechoslovak affair will most likely decide this matter in one way or another.)
On the ono side he has treatedeaderersonal base of power in the party apparatus,erious rival evidently because the latter has actual or potential allies with bases in the party. To suggest one possibility, it is worth recalling in this connection that Brezhnev's first major battle was with Podgornyy who shared with him the status of co-heir apparent in the Secretariat in Khrushchev's last year. Shortly afterfall Podgornyy associated himsolfoderate political line seemingly in tandem with Kosygin who wasilitary budget cutolicy of "mutual example" with the United States. With support frommost likely including Suslov, Brezhnev defeated Podgornyy and in the process sentonsistent supporter of reform underretirement. He nudged Podgornyy out of the Secretariat and into the prestigious but less politically potent Presidency of the Supreme Soviet, replacing Mikoyan. Brezhnev's success reduced but did not destroy the threat from Podgornyy. Despite the seemingly close relations between the tworezhnev cannot be sure of Podgornyy'ssupporteadership showdown.
On the second front, Brezhnev has been menacedilitant faction dissatisfied with his leadership which says, in effect,ew leader is needed to carryard-line with greater determination and less circumspection, 5 Shelepin sought to lead this grouping and mounted an abortive challenge to Brezhnev's position. And last year Brezhnev once more had to cope with another challenge from tho militants which wasby the then Moscow party chief, Yegorychev, and was apparently basedomplaint against the party secretary's caution in handling the Middle East crisis. While there seems to be little reason to doubt that Brezhnev has been the main author of the broad aggressive strategy pursued against the Czechoslovak liberalization during the past summer, he is perhaps vulnerable once more to the charge of ineffective leadershiprisis from party militants. Not only, their argument probably goes, did the decision to invadeliff-hanger for month-after-month despite all the strand and fury and the build-up of political-military pressuro, but thewhen it did come was not carried through to its logical conclusion quickly and efficiently and exposed Soviet policy to greater difficulties and embarrassment than was necessary.
From the moderates, on the other hand, comes the alternative argument that the invasion of Czechoslovakia has damaged rather than aided Soviet Interests and that restraint would have been the better policy and remains the better policy in handling the Czechoslovaks even after the invasion. Such opposing pressures probably explain in part Moscow's alternately conciliatory and menacing gestures since the invasion.
In sum, each wing of the Soviet ruling group so far had tended to inhibit the consistent implementation of the designs of the other. Brezhnev has sought to be the spokesman for the conservative trend in the party since Khrushchev's fall but, buffetted by thehas so far been unable to win the day decisively for his own leadership. The invasion of Czechoslovakia and itsBrezhnev hadirectof that action.or, as one report has it, hadbut then yielded to militant demands toInevitably aggravating the long-existing strains within the Soviet ruling group and is likely eventually tohange in the political complexion of the Politburo.