West braces for post-Olympic growls from the Kremlin
Moscow — Now that the Olympic flame burns no more in the golden bowl high above Lenin Stadium, the Kremlin may feel freer to move more troops into Afghanistan, to retaliate against Americans here following the games boycott, and to tighten up at home
At the same time, analysis of how the games were held throws into new relief Soviet planning and resources -- as well as Soviet defensiveness, inflexibilities, insecurities, and contradictory attitudes toward outsiders.
A soviet book's description of the 1936 games in Berlin is also applicable to the justended Moscow games: "In spite of the high sports results . . . the games . . . were held in a suppressing military atmosphere."
Western diplomats who feel the world may be moving into a period of tougher Soviet policies see the games as having served as a partial brake on Soviet behavior.
Although always ready to act if it sees vital national interests threatened -- for instance, in Afghanistan last December -- Moscow has nonetheless been seen here as anxious to undercut the games boycott movement in recent months.
A number of Western diplomats think the Soviets announced the withdrawal of one division and 108 tanks from Afghanistan on June 22 primarily to try to soften the boycott blow. They also see the move as making maximum propaganda capital out of a tactical redeployment of forces, switching unsuitable heavy tanks and armor for more mobile antiguerrilla forces.
But the Soviet Union remains booged down in Afghanistan, unable to prevent hit-and-run guerrilla raids even into the cities. Their estimated 90,000 men in the country can keep Babrak Karmal in power in the main cities, but so far have not been able to extend his writ to the rural areas.
Western diplomats familiar with Afghanistan say the Soviets need three times as many troops to crack down on the rebels. These Westerners see the post-Olympic period as the time to move, before the new conference on European cooperation and security in Madrid convenes later in the year and the first Afghan snows fall in November, hampering Soviet attacks. The heavy deployment of MI-24 gunships in late July suggests that the Soviets already may have begun a military buildup for another offensive.
Soviet newspapers have been warning readers that the US plans to intesify aid to the rebels. Western sources here see this as laying a diplomatic basis for sending new contingents of Soviet troops to Afghanistan as a "countermeasure."
Some sources in Moscow fear that the KGB -- an organization not noted for its spirit of Christian forgiveness -- may decide to harass US diplomats, businessmen, and correspondents to "get even" for the boycott. In recent months , low-level harassment has been reported against diplomats traveling outside Moscow and against some newsmen.
Dissidents in Moscow fully expect a continuation of the crackdown that since last November has removed some 45 activists from any possible contact with foreigners here for the games.
Jewish emigration has fallen significantly from last year's record level.
"Things will get worse, you wait and see," said one dissident in an interview. "Look at the hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers and patroled the city during the games. Many of them will go home, I suppose, but my friends and I think at least some of the limitations of private cars coming into Moscow will remain."
Another dissident said much less food than expected found its way into Moscow shops for the games period. The source predicted food supplies -- especially meat, milk, vegatables, and fruit -- would worsen again once the foreign tourists left.
Meanwhile, the spectacular closing ceremonies of the games late Aug. 3 indicated (as had the superbly orchestrated opening ceremonies July 19) the Soviet ability to mobilize vast resources to achieve a single goal -- this time, winning world prestige by becoming the first communist country to host an Olympics.
On the sporting side, more world records fell than in Montreal four years ago. Stadiums were up to world standards. Transportation worked reasonably well. Results came through quickly (processed by two US IBM computers). Tourists and the press report good hotel accommodations, with service far above normal Moscow standards.
Yet the boycott had a definite impact. Only 23 nations attended the Tallinn yachting regatta, compared to 40 in Kingston, Ontario, four years ago. The Soviets boosted their track-and-field gold medals from four in Montreal to 15 here as the absence of American stars left relay races and sprints wide open.
Boxing, basketball, equestrian events, field hockey, women's volleball, men's archery, and other sports were weakened by the boycott.
Only 81 nations attended the Moscow games. That total was the lowest number since 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, and well below the 120 the International Olympic Committee originally expected.
Most noticeably, the Soviets emptied Olympic cities of millions of Soviet tourists and visitors and filled them with police and soldiers. The result: technically well-run games in a sterile, militarily oppressive atmosphere. Spontaneity was in short supply.