Soviet Crackdown Watch (Part 4): ‘Tis The Season For A Crackdown?

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 his surprise resignation speech today in the Congress of People’s Deputies, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said:

    "The reformers have gone to ground. Dictatorship is coming. I state it with complete responsibility. No one knows of what kind this dictatorship will be, and who will come — what kind of dictator, and what the regime will be like….Let this be…my protest against the onset of dictatorship….I cannot reconcile myself to the events which are taking place in our country."


  • Secretary of State James Baker, in response to the Shevardnadze announcement, today reiterated the line he first enunciated last December during the Kremlin’s crackdown in Azerbaijan — namely, that the United States is willing to differentiate between a legitimate use of force by Moscow and its use for illegitimate purposes. At a State Department press conference, Baker said:

    "I think it’s important that we understand…what we mean when we start using terms like ‘crackdown’ and we must, I think, appreciate the desire to employ measured force to protect citizens against inter-ethnic violence, armed militias and things like that, versus using that force to suppress or stifle peaceful dissent or peaceful expression of opinion."



  • [The Center believes that no such distinction in the use of force can be drawn credibly at this point or sustained over time. Given the conscious blurring of categories — democratic elements portrayed as "dark forces," free market entrepreneurs as "economic saboteurs" and national independence movements as "enemies of socialism" — the Soviet central authorities will be able to justify virtually any repression citing the Baker guidelines for an acceptable crackdown.]


  • On 19 December, 53 leading figures in the military (including the chief of staff of the Soviet armed forces, Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, chief of the Soviet ground forces, Gen. Valentin Varennikov and former Warsaw Pact commander Gen. Viktor Kulikov), party officials (including two party secretaries, Oleg Baklanov and Boris Gidaspov), government officials (including Culture Minister Nikolai Gubenko) and prominent writers and other cultural affairs figures signed an open letter to Mr. Gorbachev. The signers complained that: "[Perestroika is] getting bogged down in a ruinous darkness….[The Soviet Union risks] losing its social system that has cost the nation enormous suffering and sacrifice, but which has been preserved despite all the cataclysms for the last 70 years." They also warned against a "ruthless dictatorship" of separatists and black market dealers.

  • In a speech to the Congress of People’s Deputies on 19 December, Gorbachev launched a transparent attack on the president of the Russian republic, Boris Yeltsin, and his followers, assailing "rotten populism" which, according to the Washington Post, he said was "attempting to set the republics against the center."

  • In the same speech, Gorbachev renewed his earlier threat to impose direct rule from Moscow in the Baltic states, Moldavia and the Transcaucasus region in the event that "the situation becomes especially tense and a serious threat to the security of the state and the life of people is created."

  • For his part, Yeltsin charged at the Congress that Gorbachev has sought to amass greater power than any previous Soviet leader including Josef Stalin and that he was responsible for drawing the army, KGB and Ministry of Internal Affairs into a "political game." He stated that "Russia does not agree with the creation of a dictatorship of the Kremlin."

  • Also in an address to the Congress, Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov declared that perestroika has "failed" and accused his political opponents of attempting to destroy the entire Soviet system.

  • Incidents that could serve as provocations for military action under Gorbachev’s standing orders to the armed forces (see Soviet Crackdown Watch (Part 1), No. 90-P 114) have occurred in Latvia and elsewhere in recent days. Suspicious explosions occurred over the past week in Riga, including several on 18 December near the Latvian Communist Party offices and a monument to Lenin. Similarly, there are reports of soldiers being shot by "nationalists."


The Center notes that Christmastime has proven to be a convenient period for the Soviet Union to undertake actions certain to alarm the West. For example, the Kremlin chose the holidays in 1979 to undertake a coup in Kabul and to begin the invasion of Afghanistan. Two years later, the same period was selected to implement the Soviet-sponsored imposition of martial law in Poland.

What is more, with the United States government heavily preoccupied with the crisis in the Persian Gulf — and the Bush Administration’s unalterably convinced that Moscow’s support is indispensable to U.S. efforts to contend with Saddam Hussein, the period between Christmas and 15 January may be seen by the Kremlin as the ideal moment for a crackdown.

"If Gorbachev is ‘dreaming of a red Christmas,’ Secretary Baker’s explicit endorsement of ‘a measured use of force’ and implied willingness not to worry overmuch about domestic Soviet problems as long as recent Soviet foreign policy remains unchanged could be seen by Moscow center as a U.S. endorsement of a crackdown," said Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., the Center’s director. "This misperception should be debunked at once."

Center for Security Policy

Please Share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *