Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As part of its continuing monitoring of the emerging Soviet crackdown, the Center for Security Policy adds the following developments to its list of worrisome indicators:

    • In the course of bilateral ministerial meetings in Houston last week, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze reportedly told Secretary of State James Baker that he wanted to continue to advance reforms but that “what happens…could be different.”


    • [The 13 December Washington Post front-page story in which this report appeared, headlined “Baker Warns Soviets Against Crackdown,” had all the trademarks of a story backgrounded by the Secretary of State’s staff. In light of Shevardnadze’s rejoinder — and the Bush Administration’s decision nonetheless to proceed with a waiver of the Jackson-Vanik amendment and other concessions — Mr. Baker evidently felt the need to publicize the fact that even he knows the crackdown is afoot. 


    • This self-serving press report is reminiscent of an earlier backgrounder from the Baker camp to the effect that the Secretary of State had recognized last April that the Administration’s policy of appeasing Saddam Hussein was dangerously flawed. In both cases, Mr. Baker seems determined to establish grounds for disavowing policies behind which — his disclaimers notwithstanding — he remains a prime-mover until their failure is absolute.] 
    • In a soon to be published manuscript, Lt. Gen. William Odom (U.S. Army, retired) — former head of the National Security Agency and a renowned authority on the Soviet Union — has noted that:
      • “…[Interior Ministry] troops are being expanded. The reported 36,000 personnel in these formations may be low, but it is certainly true that this number is inadequate to deal with the disorders occurring almost daily….Not surprisingly, therefore, several army divisions are reportedly to be transferred to the MVD….[Gen.] Gromov’s move [to the number two position in the Ministry of Interior] in particular fits the policy of large increases in MVD forces. He may even be taking army staff and command personnel with him to the MVD.” 


    • In last week’s edition of the reformist-oriented Soviet weekly Moscow News, Yuri Levada writes what many advocates of genuine systemic democratic and economic change now believe: “I think we are even seeing a creeping militarized coup. Not military, but militarized.”


    • On 14 December, Prof. Marshall Goldman of Harvard’s Russian Research Center observed in an interview on National Public Radio that emergency food supplies being sent to the Soviet Union were being used as a form of “patronage” by the KGB (which was recently put in charge of distribution of foodstuffs by Gorbachev).


    • Also on 14 December, CIA Director William Webster provided official confirmation that a Soviet crackdown may be imminent. According to the following day’s edition of the Washington Post, Webster said that Gorbachev appears headed toward a new confrontation with the three Baltic republics and may attempt to thwart their drive for independence by declaring martial law.


    • The Post reported that Webster said Gorbachev is not so much being pushed into more authoritarian behavior as he is reaching out to trusted institutions such as the military and KGB security service. “He’s reaching for power centers that can help him restore [authority].”


    • 14 December also saw Gorbachev use his presidential powers to nullify all decisions by governments at the republic and local levels deemed to have disrupted supplies of food and other materials. Among the key targets of this latest assertion of central authority are reported to be the various trade deals that the republics have struck amongst themselves and with foreign countries without obtaining the Kremlin’s permission.


  • Today’s Washington Post confirms what has been common knowledge in Washington for weeks: The Gorbachev regime has effectively violated the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty even before the ink is dry. By failing to declare some 20,000 weapons, by mislabeling others and by sluicing as many as 60,000 more to the east of the Ural mountains (and therefore beyond the zone affected by the Treaty), Moscow has made a mockery of this new accord. At the very least, it has added immense fire-power to the inventory available to impose a domestic crackdown.


The Center for Security Policy believes that the Bush Administration is in serious danger of becoming de facto an accomplice to the coming Soviet crackdown. This is the inevitable result of:

    • The Administration’s willingness to provide what will over time amount to billions of dollars worth of taxpayer-subsidized credits to help finance the Gorbachev regime when notice has been served by Shevardnadze — and perhaps by Gorbachev himself — that the need to impose “law and order” may have to take precedence over reform;


    • Its decision to send food aid to Moscow center when official as well as unofficial sources have made clear that such assistance is unlikely to reach needy Soviet citizens — going instead to corrupt communist apparatchiks and the privileged nomenklatura;


  • Its continued diffidence to the reform forces at the local and republic levels who have appealed for U.S. recognition and support and who have urged Washington not to aid the central authorities because doing so simply helps the Gorbachev regime to stave off fundamental reform.


The Center challenges the Bush Administration to establish immediately and publicly what specific forms of Soviet repression will compel it to alter the present policy of open-ended support for the Gorbachev regime. In the absence of such a clarification, the Kremlin may feel entitled to construe American (and allied) silence on this point — to say nothing of the West’s ever-expanding taxpayer aid programs — as tacit approval for Moscow’s policy of gradually tightening the screws. It should go without saying that an Administration still smarting from the perception conveyed last July that it would acquiesce in Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait would be well advised to strive to avoid a similar, disastrous misinterpretation of U.S. attitudes towards a crackdown by Moscow.

* * *


(1st Installment*)

“Presidential Emergency Rule” = Reassertion of totalitarian dictatorship under the auspices of the Communist Party.

“Preserve ‘Law and Order'” = Crackdown against reformist republics and other democratic forces which are taking concrete legislative steps to gain greater autonomy over their political and economic destinies.

“Black Marketeering” = Applied indiscriminately to legitimate free enterprise and entrepreneurial activities as well as genuinely criminal operations.

“Economic Sabotage” = The withholding of precious resources and hard-currency earnings by pro-reform republics and localities from the central authorities and the voracious Soviet military-industrial complex.

“Temporary Measures to Preserve Reform” = Recentralization of all key features of Soviet political and economic life for the foreseeable future.

“‘Voluntary’ Association under the All-Union Treaty” = Coercive device for stanching devolution of political and economic authority from Moscow center to the 15 republics.

“Holding of Referendums” = Gorbachev tactic for masking complete retreat from truly systemic economic and political reform (witness the 500-day “Shatalin” plan to which Gorbachev committed himself earlier this fall, only to abandon the plan and the announced referendum on its reforms shortly thereafter).

“Imminent Famine” = Wildly exaggerated description of selective Soviet food shortages principally attributable to the inherent bottlenecks of an unreformed command economy and the decision of millions of Soviet citizens not to support Moscow center in exchange for worthless currency and largely unchanged administered prices.


* Western audiences are being inundated by a new Soviet lexicon designed to obfuscate the true nature of the emerging crackdown and attendant repression in the USSR. The Center believes it is essential that this disingenuous semantic exercise being carried out by Gorbachev’s vast “public diplomacy” machine be revealed for what it really is — a cynical smokescreen.

Center for Security Policy

Please Share: