Primary Sources

Changes in Eastern Europe and Their Impact on the USSR

Description

This February 1989 report by the Bogomolov Commission analyzes the current situation in Eastern Europe for Alexander Yakovlev, key foreign policy advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev. The Bogomolov Commission was the largest Soviet think tank conducting research on the East European countries. This document can be compared with the memorandum by the International Department of the CC CPSU (document 134), also prepared for Yakovlev in early 1989. Both reports reflect many of the same concerns and view the developments in Eastern Europe as a crisis whose solution involves reshaping the framework of Soviet-East European relations from Soviet dominance/East European dependence to some form of cooperation amongst autonomous states. But the Bogomolov document displays a greater acceptance of the possibility that East European states will abandon socialism. One of the strategies that the report advocates is "Finlandization" as a potential model for this process, based upon the Finland-Soviet relationship, where Finland maintained domestic sovereignty but deferred to its superpower neighbor in foreign policy issues. Bogomolov analysts present this model as one way to transform Eastern Europe from a buffer zone for Soviet national security to a bridge linking the USSR with the West.

Source

The Bogomolov Commission to Alexander Yakovlev, memorandum, February 1989, trans. Vladislav Zubok and Gary Goldberg, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

...

General characterization of social-political processes in the countries of Eastern Europe

Crisis symptoms are visible in all spheres of public life inside the countries as well as in relations among them.

In the economy the intensity of these symptoms varies from a slowdown of economic growth, a widening social and technological gap with the West, a gradual worsening of shortages in domestic markets and the growth of external debt (GDR, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria) to a real threat of economic collapse (Yugoslavia, Poland)....

In the political sphere the crisis manifests itself first of all in the dramatic weakening of the positions of the ruling communist parties, in some cases so dramatic that one can speak about a crisis of confidence in them....

The sphere of ideology is very much affected. Its old forms block the renewal of the social system or provide a rationale for resistance to reform (GDR, Romania, Czechoslovakia).... In the public consciousness— particularly among the youth—apathy, hopelessness, [a] nostalgia for pre-Revolutionary (i.e. pre-World War II and even earlier) times, [and] a lack of faith in the potential of socialism are spreading....

A degradation of common ties is taking place in various forms.... Due to profound structural problems and flaws in the mechanism of trade cooperation, bilateral trade with the USSR is decreasing, which produces very negative consequences for the national economies of our partners and creates additional obstacles in the path of economic reforms ... In some cases inter-ethnic relations have grown worse: the Hungarian-Romanian conflict became open; mutual antipathy between Germans and Poles, Poles and Czechs, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians has increased.

The countries can be divided into two groups by the degree to which they display crisis tendencies.

In Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia crisis processes are developing intensely and openly: having broken to the surface once they have acquired a certain inertia....

...

In Czechoslovakia, GDR, Bulgaria and Romania (all the differences in economic position notwithstanding) analogous internal social-political conflicts are still implicit, even though they have not yet manifest themselves distinctly, nevertheless they have for now a hidden [latent] character....

...

... We face a choice: to thwart the evolution described above or take it in stride and develop a policy accepting the prob-ability and even inevitability of this process.

Attempts to thwart the emerging trends would be tantamount to fighting time itself, the objective course of history.... The direct forceful intervention of the USSR into the course of events on behalf of the conservative forces that are alienated from the people, most evidently signify the end of perestroika, the crumbling of trust of the world community in us, but will not prevent a disintegration of the social-economic and social-political systems in these countries, will not exclude mass outbreaks of protest, including armed clashes....

In the framework of possibilities opened by new thinking and cooperation between the USSR and the United States, East and West, "architects" of American foreign policy can be seen as changing their priorities.... Responsible Western circles are coming to the conclusion that by cooperating with reformist forces they can achieve more than by attempting to pull individual socialist countries from the sphere of influence of the USSR.

What could be the possible consequences of such a scenario for the USSR? The following aspects should be considered: military, international political, internal political, economic, and ideological.

1....

... it is not necessary that the Warsaw Pact—at least in the foreseeable future— sustain significant losses, and the countries of Eastern Europe which are undergoing today serious transformations will stay in alliance with us.

2. As long as new foreign policy trends emerge in these countries of Eastern Europe with which the US and the West associated the special hopes of their differentiated policy, the new foreign policy tendencies taking shape [in] the USSR can consciously seize the initiative from the West, as well as from the oppositionist, social-reformist forces inside these countries (Poland, Hungary) by consciously adopting a certain degree of "Finlandization" of these countries.... Renunciation of the diktat with regard to socialist countries of Eastern Europe will nurture a more benevolent image of the USSR in the public opinion of these countries and around the world, and it will make the US seriously correct its foreign policy towards Eastern Europe.

... This will be a "revolution from above" in foreign policy which will prevent a "revolution from below."

3. It cannot be excluded that in some countries of Eastern Europe the crisis has gone so far and reforms have come so late that the ruling parties will not be able to retain power or will have to share it in a coalition with other political forces. By itself the fact of a transfer of power to alternative forces does not mean an external and military threat to our country....

There is no question, of course, of renouncing the support of communist and workers' parties, but an obligatory precondition for such a support should be voluntary recognition of their leadership by their people, their legitimation. They should pay as any other party in a normal democratic society for the loss of trust.... Unwillingness to accept contacts with alternative forces in these countries could be interpreted as a form of interference into internal affairs, i.e. something which we have rejected as a matter of principle.

4. The objective outcome of the natural development of the trend towards "Finlandization" could be a new, middle-of-the road position of the East European states, since they, according to their internal order, the nature of economic ties and real international position would pass from the sphere of monopolistic influence of the USSR into the sphere of mutual and joint influence of the Soviet Union and European "Common Market."... When a common market starts functioning in Western Europe in 1992, East European countries drawn into the orbit of the EU may facilitate access to this sphere for us.

5. In a new situation we will have to liberate ourselves from some persistent ideological stereotypes, for instance from the assumption that only a communist party in power can provide guarantees for the security of Soviet borders. We will have to rethink the notion of a "world socialist system."...

An optimal reaction of the USSR to the evolutionary processes taking place in Eastern Europe would be, as it turns out, an active involvement which would put them [the processes] under control and would make them predictable. Even if some decline of Soviet influence in Eastern European affairs takes place, this would not cause us fatal damage, but, perhaps on the contrary, resulting from self-limitation, would put our goals in a rational harmony with our capabilities....

...

Possible practical steps of the USSR

In the light of the aforementioned, the following measures seem to be advisable:

Working out a strategic program to develop our relations with East European socialist countries in the framework of a new model of socialism ...

Advancement of our proposals to reform the Warsaw Treaty Organization ...

A further gradual reduction of our military presence in Eastern Europe taken at our own initiative and by agreement with the host countries ...

Development of bilateral consultations on mutually beneficial measures permitting an alleviation of the consequences of restructuring in the countries of Eastern Europe ...

In case appropriate proposals are made, we should agree to some form of continuous and periodic consultations with West European countries and the US on the issues of prevention of upheavals in one or another country of Central and Eastern Europe.

Introducing the practice of genuine consultation on the issues of foreign policy with our allies instead of informing them about decisions that have already been adopted.

Carrying out a serious analysis of the activities of Soviet embassies in Eastern European socialist countries, in some cases leading to replacement of ambassadors and leading officials of the embassies who act against the interests of our foreign policy in its new phase....

When arranging summits in socialist countries, one should borrow the methods utilized in leading capitalist countries (organization of "assault landings" [desanty] of leading Soviet scientists, cultural figures, etc.).

It is necessary to work out without delay an integrated line of conduct on the issues of "blank pages" in relations with each East European country ...

It is highly important to radically change our information policy with regard to events in socialist countries of Eastern Europe, to cover events in an objective light and to explain the processes that are taking place there, since it is equivalent to the explanation and justification of measures that lay ahead for us in carrying out our economic and political reforms.

While covering events in fraternal countries, responding to the speeches of their leaders, we should express a manifest support to those pronouncements which signal their acceptance of reformist ideas ...

Any initiatives associated with the popularization of Soviet publications merits support....

Some conclusions

... The search for more auspicious ways and means of development is leading to the rethinking of the socialist ideal ... This means a return to a natural historical social progress that stems from national specifics of each country, instead of [one] deformed by external pressure. To a certain degree one can speak about the end of the postwar era, a partial overcoming [preodoleniye] of the Yalta legacy and the split of the world into two hostile camps, [and] about the gradual formation of a more varied and simultaneously more united Europe.

From the viewpoint of the world socialist perspective any attempt to stop this evolution by force could have the gravest consequences ... However, the peaceful (without serious upheavals) evolution of East European states would improve to a great extent the situation in the world and broaden international relations....

How to Cite this Source

The Bogomolov Commission, "Changes in Eastern Europe and Their Impact on the USSR," Making the History of 1989, Item #135, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/135 (accessed October 22 2014, 7:04 pm).

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