Kremlin in transition: Can new generations break with rigid past?

We sat in a car at midnight, a Russian friend and I, talking about the future of his country -- a future so important to the rest of the world. Snow fell steadily, theatrical and glittering flakes turning the grimy winter street outside into a stage setting of black and white. Dim streetlights barely pierced the gloom. We had stopped near the main entrance of a hotel. Inebriated men and women occasionally rattled the door handles and tapped on the window, trying to find a ride home.

My friend's words were as somber as the scene. He was an intellectual who had served his compulsory military training in Siberia. "It was terrible," he said. "So much drunkenness among the people, so much ignorance about the world outside."

He simply did not see changes in the future welling up from the ordinary people. Their education and their history were against it. "Never in our history have we had the kind of democracy you in the West have had," he remarked. "Our tradition is rule from the center, from the top, and that is the way it will continue."

He fell silent for a moment, staring out at the snow and at a man and woman lurching toward our car, mistaking it for a taxi.

"There is only one hope for the future," he said at last, as the couple turned away after shouting at us through the window.

"That is, that our next set of leaders will be more enlightened, better educated, more liberal. They're the ones that will dictate the changes ahead. The people themselves can't do it. The new leaders will be Slavs, because Slavs have all the power in this country. I only hope that they will make life better for us."

His assessment, so soberly realistic, leads to more questions: What kind of new leaders will the next set be? And what kind of changes might they be able to engineer?

Answers are necessarily speculative, since so little is known about the mysterious inner workings of the Kremlin. But some points can be made about the social forces that shape Soviet leaders these days, and about the pressures working for -- and against -- change.

This has become a slow-moving society. Since the 1917 revolution the country has had only four leaders, against 13 presidents in the United States from Wilson to Reagan. Lenin seized power, Stalin consolidated it for 30 years, Khrushchev tried to tinker with the machinery, and Brezhnev has maintained the status quo, refusing to try the kind of internal party changes that landed Khrushchev in trouble and eventually cost him his job.

Leonid Brezhnev has led the Communist Party for 16 years now: years of glacially slow movement inside the party. Officials associated with him since the late 1930s in the Ukraine dominate the ruling Politburo, the Council of Ministers, key areas of the Central Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the KGB. If Brezhnev retired or passed on tomorrow, his basic thinking would undoubtedly continue for a year or so at least -- and his shoes would likely be filled by the silver-haired Andrei Kirilenko, currently No. 4 man in the Politburo.

Kirilenko is three months older than Brezhnev but in much better physical health, yet he would probably be only a stopgap leader, for several years at the most. Behind him dozens of younger men are stacked up, members of the Central Committee (whose average age of about 62 is almost a whole decade younger than the Politburo itself).In theory, at least, they will help select the top Politburo leaders of the future.

Men like Brezhnev, Kirilenko, and Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov, born between 1900 and 1910, shot to prominence when Stalin purged many of the older men above them in the 1930s. The late Alexei Kosygin and the veteran foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, found themselves holding big government jobs while still in their 30s. Brezhnev was moving up through the party bureaucracy; so was Kirilenko.

Men born in the next decade, 1910 to 1920, were between 20 and 30 years of age when World War II broke out. The youngger they were, the more likely they were to have been killed; war losses amounted to about 20 million in the Soviet Union all told. Survivors now in their middle or late 60s include KGB cheif Yuri Andropov, Ukrainian party chief Vladimir Shcherbitsky, Moscow party leader Victor Grishin.

Significant changes inside the Soviet Union are not likely to come from men like Kirilenko or Ustinov, whose most traumatic experiences came fighting the Nazis in World War II and who belong to the Brezhnev group.

Some changes might come from slightly younger men like Andropov of Scherbitsky, who received fairly good educations in the 1930s and may be more flexible than Brezhnev.

The most likely age group to produce change, however, could be in the next two generations -- symbolized by the two youngest men in the Politburo: Leningrad party leader Grigory Romanov, born in 1923, and Mikhail Gorbachev, born in 1931, who was elevated to full voting status in the Politburo only in 1980 and put in charge of agriculture.

Mr. Romanov's generation is perhaps the most tragic of all, decimated as it was by World War II. His generation was in its late teen-age years when the war broke out. It bore the brunt of the losses. Statistics worked out by Dr. Jerry Hough, a US scholar, show huge losses in the generation born between 1919 and 1926. It is also the generation whose college education was interrupted most by the fighting. Its survivors tend to be pragmatic men, educated on the job after the war.

Mr. Gorbachev's generation is by far the best educated, since it was too young to fight in the war and completed college later. The difficulty in speculating about it, though, is that so few Westerners have even met Mr. Romanov or Mr. Gorbachev, let alone studied their thinking up close.

Will they and their peers be more liberal than the Brezhnev elite, less afraid of the West and of China, more open to loosening party control at home, to decentralize industry and agriculture, ready to let Soviet people travel more freely, to have greater access to Western consumer goods?

Or will they be even more rigid than their elders, more chauvinistic, more xenophobic, more determined to defend and enhance the Soviet Union's superpower status in the world, to hold on to its empire in Eastern Europe and its allies in Cuba, Africa, and Asia?

Much will depend on what happens in the rest of the world -- whether, for instance, the United States, Moscow's main rival, continues to build arms, to see Moscow as aggressive and threatening, to worry about protecting the sources of its imported oil. Perhaps the United States will develop more alternative sources of energy, become more self-confident, work out better ways of containing the Soviet Threat, divert arms budgets into more peaceful pursuits.

At this writing, with Soviet troops in Afghanistan and on the alert around Poland, and Ronald Reagan about to take over the White House, the former US course seems more likely than the second. But much could change between now and the year 2000, especially in the third world, where most flare-ups now seem to start.

Much also depends on China. A significant increase in Chinese offensive arms , or a US policy to provide such offensive arms, would greatly alarm the Kremlin and lead to a risk of desperate Soviet actions. Such a US policy would seem unwise, given the emotional and primitive way the Kremlin thinks of its own security. Does the West really want to goad the Soviets into actions everyone might regret?

Those few Westerners who have met Mr. Romanov find him acerbic, volatile, sharply intelligent. At one dinner with a visiting group of US senators, he kept interrupting his interpreter and issuing orders from his place at the table. He also has imperial tastes: A widely circulated story has it that he once used imperial china from a museum for a wedding reception for his daughter -- and incurred Kremlin wrath in the process.

A man like Romanov was shaped by World War II as Brezhnev was, and especially by the impact and aftermath of Leningrad's 900-day siege by the Nazis. Romanov could hardly be indifferent to the Soviet perception that both West and East Germans must be contained forever. He cannot but recognize the key strategic value in holding sway over the three Soviet Baltic states. He is likely to be apprehensive about external enemies everywhere.

A man of his generation might choose to try some internal decentralizing in both industry and agriculture. But he is not likely to adopt a sudden softer tone toward the West -- or China. He may not be as committed to Marxist-Leninist ideology as his elders, but he has to be a strong patriot, both suspicious and ignorant of the outside world.

Given the Russian phobia about the East, stemming from the Mongol invasion nine centuries ago, he is also bound to be apprehensive about the sight of China determined to throw off the confusion and chaos of Mao Tse-tung and to rearm with the latest weapons it can find.

To a Westerner, Russia looks far stronger in firepower along the Sino-Soviet borders. But the Russian fear was summed up by one official who took a US visitor to a map of the world and said:

"No, we are not afraid of China. We're not afraid of anyone. But how would you feel if a neighboring country of yours, say, Mexico, had 1 billion people, possessed nuclear weapons, and preached that a third world war was inevitable and that only it would survive?"

Mr. Romanov has never visited the United States. In fact, now that Mr. Kosygin has passed on, only Brezhnev and Gromyko among top leaders have firsthand experience of the US, and that only fleeting. It has been 40 years since Gromyko lived in Washington as a young diplomat and then ambassador during World War II.

As for Mr. Gorbachev's generation, we just don't know enough about it. Its education was uninterrupted by war. Its teen years were spent under Stalin; it experienced Khrushchev's attempted thaw in the late 1950s, and his clampdown again. It has known the privations that followed the war and the slowly rising standards of living in the last three decades.

Does all this make it more pragmatic, less ideological? Or vice versa?

The Brezhnev generation knows very well the nuclear strength of the United States. Though the Kremlin never admits it now, the same generation knows that American trucks and airplanes provided crucial help to Stalin in defeating the Germans. And wartime US Ambassador W. Averell Harriman says Stalin told him so on several occasions.

Do the Romanov and the Gorbachev generations have the same healthy apprehension of US power? Or do they see the United States as a power in decline since the 1960s, defeated in Vietnam, humbled in Iran, unable to free hostages from Tehran for more than a year, unable to mobilize a united Western front against Soviet troops in Afghanistan?

Among the forces that might cause rapid change within the country, one would have to include popular revolt in Eastern Europe -- the classic example right now being Poland. The speed with which Moscow put its troops around Poland on alert in November, just three months after the concessions made to the Solidarity union in Gdansk by former Polish party leader Edward Gierek, indicates the vital strategic and political importance of all of Eastern Europe to the Kremlin.

If popular unrest boiled over in Warsaw ans Gdansk . . . if Soviet troops could not quickly put that rebellion down . . . if pent-up emotions in Czechoslovakia and Hungary also burst out . . . if significant elements of the Soviet Central Committee saw their leaders facing the virtual loss of the buffer zones between Soviet borders and West Germany and the breakup of the Warsaw Pact . . . then change, indeed, might come quickly here.

But what kind of change? A new Kremlin leader might prove even sterner than Brezhnev or Khrushchev. A swing back to Stalinist days could follow -- an even greater arms buildup as the Kremlin vowed to conquer Eastern Europe all over again. There is no guarantee that the Kremlin answer would be to loosen the reins, to ease central control.

Other forces for change could include violence by minority nationalities.

On June 29, 1978, a prison administrator shot and killed the interior minister (the top policeman) and two of his subordinates in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, on the Caspian Sea, close to the Iranian border. A spokesman for the minister's deputy confirmed to Western correspondents on the telephone that Lt. Gen. Arif Geidarov had been shot by a man named Muratov, who was said also to have shot himself. General Geidarov had worked in the Azerbaijani KGB for a quarter-century; his obituary in Bakinski Rabochi, Baku's party newspaper, was signed by the first deputy chief of the KGB in Moscow, Semyon Tsvigun.

On Dec. 4, 1980, someone shot and killed the prime minister of the tiny republic of Kirghizia on the Chinese border as the official lay asleep in a sanatorium on Lake Issyk-Kul, east of the capital city of Frunze. An official of the party newspaper in Frunze told a Western correspondent by telephone it was a "political murder" designed as a "provocation" on the eve of the 26th party congress in Moscow in February 1981.

Some have speculated here that terrorism by minority groups could conceivably gain momentum and froce concessions from a frightened Kremlin. But it is a long , long way from two incidents to a national wave of dissent. The Kremlin possesses ample armed force to put down local uprisings and to keep them down.

Then there is the possible threat of food shortages' causing popular revolt. At the end of 1980, meat was in short supply in many Soviet cities. Reports of strikes in the cities of Gorky and Togliatti persisted; while emphatically denied by various sources (some of whom had an interest in affirming them), trade union officials did confirm in private conversations with Western diplomats toward the end of the year that there had indeed been some "work stoppages." They did not say where.

Despite the reports, it seems wishful thinking to assume that some food shortages in some places can add up to a grass-roots drive against the government in a country where the party has the monopoly on firearms, and possesses huge internal police and armed forces to use them. The US ambassador to Moscow, Thomas J. Watson, believed Americans consistently underestimated the capacity of the Russian people to "take it." They were still way above "the bread line," he observed, and even when they sunk down so close to it in World War II, they had survived. He was right.

It could also be argued that the country might run short of oil, since production has already almost peaked, and a severe energy shortage might conceivably cause leadership changes in the Kremlin. That remains to be seen. Moscow already courts the Arab world persistently. The Soviet Union is still, for the moment, the world's largest oil producers (though the second-largest exporter, behind Saudi Arabia).

Barring upheavals in Eastern Europe, the forces working against rapid change seem to outweigh those operating in favor of it. These forces include:

* Party control: The Communist Party so thoroughly dominates all levels of society and of the armed forces that prospects of a popular or military uprising against the Kremlin are more remote than in many developing countries. The force that makes the Soviets a threat abroad is turned against its own people at home.

This was, and remains, a country of conspiracy and surveillance. The Communists are the most dedicated conspirators, the most relentless surveillants.

Control of the Army, based on a network of political officers at all levels, permeates the officer corps. The rank and file consists of young men whose parents lack the blatm (influence) to get them out of compulsory service by enrolling them in overcrowded and sought-after universities and institutes.

The party controls internal police and the border guards stationed at the foot of every ramp to every plane coming from or leaving for overseas, and guarding all train and road exits and entrances.

* Party achievements: Lenin inherited a country shattered by winter, famine, and war -- a somnolent rural giant that had nonetheless industrialized rapidly, reaching impressive growth rates (especially between 1909 and 1913) in oil, railroad, and transport sectors. The country's growth was uneven but definite, ranking it in the world's top 10 in coal and copper production and the smelting of cast iron and steel. The Communist Party has stamped the seal of an authentic superpower on the new Soviet Union, expanding the frontiers of czarist Russia (parts of Poland, the three Baltic states, Mongolia) and holding intact the rest (Azerbaijan, Central Asia, the ukraine). This is a lot to achieve in just 63 years. It is a cause for party and nonparty pride alike.

Supporting Poland today costs a small fortune. Supporting Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Laos, Combodia, etc., costs even more. Yet it all serves political ends -- and everything in this country is ultimately designed for political ends, as defined by the party hierarchy. Those ends are considered vital for security as well as prestige.

Eastern Europe is the buffer zone between the western USSR and Central Europe. Mongolia, whose flat veldt is now a gigantic Soviet tank exercise ground and fighter-bomber runway, is the buffer against China. Travelling southward by train across Mongolia from Moscow to Peking in the summer of 1979, my wife and I counted Soviet jets by the score in reinforced hangars on a huge airfield east of the trainline after leaving Ulan Bator.

Any serious move toward loosening the party's central control from Moscow would -- as the Kremlin well knows -- also loosen the armed hold Moscow has on Eastern Europe, the three Baltic states, and Mongolia. It might well encourage the Sunni Muslims of Soviet Central Asia to pay more attention to the Islamic nationalism in neighboring Afghanistan and Iran. Many of the Russian Slavs who hold the levers of power in the Soviet Union would support the party's strong fight to retain not only its own power but the sway over its own empire.

If Eastern Europe threatens to break away, what would third-world allies like Angola and Ethiopia think? All of Moscow's carefully wrought status around the world could start to unravel.

The party has created a military-industrial base comparable to that of the United States, on an economy only half the size, and against the rigors of climatic extremes. Industry is turning out better consumer goods than it has in the past (though they are still below those of other developing countries).

Living standards have risen, especially when compared with the Mideast and Asia. The party has built millions of new apartments. Demand still outpaces supply, but the party can claim to have provided many people with new places to live.

It ceaselessly proclaims that it led the people to victory in World War II -- which is not called World War II here, but the "Great Patriotic War." The war, to Russians, was the war against Germany, fought on their own soil, and ultimately victorious, though at dreadful cost.

* Geography: Any new leaders in the Kremlin will inherit the longest borders of any country in the world. They will be preoccupied with the threat of invasion. They will have studied an ideology that preaches that the outside world is poised and ready to undermine the world's first socialist state.

* History: New leaders will take over a country with no tradition of individual rights, no grass-roots democracy, no political power shared among government, courts, industry, farmers, aristocracy, cities, managers, and professionals.

When I once asked a party supporter why there was only one candidate on each ballot for "elections" to the country's Supreme Soviet, or rubber-stamp parliament, she replied, "Why not? The party chooses the candidates and the party knows what it is doing."

How did she know? Had she attended any selection meetings?

"No, I don't have to. The party knows more than we ordinary people do. Of course, it does. It has to, it is the party." It was all quite clear to her. She became increasingly surprised -- even irritated -- that it was not clear to me.

"What do you mean, the party runs the country?" she asked. "The government runs the country. The party is quite separate." So citizens here are taught; so most of them believe. I suggested that the party controlled the government, that all key officials belong to the party. I pointed out that the chief official in the country was always the party leader, not the chief of state (though Leonid Brezhnev became the first Soviet leader in history to take both posts).

But she couldn't see it. As we talked, her eyes narrowed. I could imagine her thinking: "This man is a foreigner. He knows nothing of how our country is really run. He is trying to undermine my beliefs and my country's legitimacy." She dismissed Americans as people ignorant of her country's customs and literature (she had a good point there), but denied Russians were ignorant of America. "Everything it is necessary for us to know about your country, we know ," she said loftily. That was that.

* Patriotism: When the Nazis attacked in World War II, Stalin did not appeal to the people to fight in the name of the party. He urged them to fight for their "Motherland." The party skillfully identifies itself today with "Mother Russia."

Russians I talked to might criticize aspects of communism under their breath -- but they were fiercely loyal patriots.

* The social system: It is a system of rank and privilege orchestrated and arranged from the party headquarters in Moscow. Those with status fight to preserve the system that gave it to them. Those without it want it. They don't think of upsetting the system. The resulting chaos would end all privileges. The very thought is abhorrent to most Russians.

The few average people I met in 4 1/2 years had an ingrained passion for order, for stability, for letting the government handle foreign and economic and social and all other policy issues, while they themselves looked inward, concentrating on family and friends and the endless search for better consumer goods in a system generally unable to produce them.

What Americans see as individual liberty appears to Russians as a babel of conflicting voices and ideas. Russians tend to be genuinely repelled by the America as presented in Soviet propaganda. They will never be able to travel and see for themselves. Even if they could, chances are high that the capitalist system would be too hard, demanding, too sophisticated, for them.

Even those here who know the propaganda about the US is false say that listening to it and reading it every day has a cumulative effect. Abe Stolar was born in Chicago and moved here in 1931 at the age of 11, when his emigre Russian parents decided to answer Stalin's call for Russians abroad to help build the Motherland. He still speaks English with a Chicago accent. He has been trying to emigrate for several years.

Why, I once asked him, had he waited so long try to leave? The answer was complicated, but part of it was: ". . . And you know, when you hear and read every single day that America is filled with violence and crime, drugs and unemployment, exploitation and racial violence, you wonder about it. Of Course, I would say to myself.It isn't all like that. America isn't as bad as the Soviets paint it. But I found myself saying, well, maybe some of it's true. . . . Maybe it isn't the place for me after all, I would argue with myself."

A Russian with no firsthand knowledge of America must be convinced that it is hell on earth.

The Marquis de Custine, traveling in the Soviet Union for five months in 1839 , observed in his journal that the Table of Ranks instituted by Peter the Great at the end of the 17th century, by which society was divided up into 14 layers corresponding to ranks in the armed forces, bred in Russian people a "fever of envy . . . [and] ambition. . . ."

The Communist Party today has taken over the job of the czar in allocating rank, each rank carrying its own defined privileges. The "fever of envy" is a hallmark of Soviet life. It is a deterrent to change, not a producer of it.

* Social mobility: The five social ranks outlined in the third article of this series allow for a good deal of movement between ranks and within them -- though not much from the rising rank (professionals and managers and frontier workers) up to the top rank, which runs the country. The way up there is through the 17 million-member Communist Party itself.

But the rush from country to cities in the last 40 years, an immense transformation turning a rural country into a two- thirds urban one, has meant an upward push for many a peasant family, as both parents and then children joined factories and began elbowing up through the ranks of skilled workers.

Industrialization itself has opened up millions of new factory jobs at all levels in the last 50 years. The really ambitious join the party, whether they believe in it or not.

A family can boost its earning power by "going east" to Siberia to work in frontier boomtowns on the oil and gas fields. Many do. An entire underclass of speculators, many of them in Georgia and Armenia, earns small fortunes by supplying people and enterprises with the goods and raw materials the system itself, hoplessly clogged in red tape, cannot deliver.

So the forces for the status quo outweigh the forces for change. Yet, it would be wrong to assume that no changes at all will come. In 1952, the system looked stable and set in its ways. But Joseph Stalin died March 5, 1953, and Nikita Khrushchev, shouldering his way to the top, let more Westerners in (for instance, for the 1957 world youth festival). He also indirectly laid the foundations of the dissident movement that flowered in the Daniel-Sinyavsky trial a decade later and in Yuri Orlov's dissident Helsinki committee on human rights a decade after that.

Mr. Khrushchev tried a number of experiments, including changes in the party's own structure, to bring about more specialist control of industry and agriculture.

Then reaction set in. He was ousted. The hallmark of the Brezhnev era has been a return to orthodoxy: not to the atmosphere of Stalin's day -- the midnight knock on the door, the banishment to Siberia -- but to stability within the party.

Mr. Brezhnev saw the US force Soviet missiles out of Cuba in 1962. Since then he has paid great attention to building up Soviet armed might. He tried to use detente with the US to prevent Americans from building more missiles; he also tried to persuade Washington to allow businessmen to provide Moscow with the sophisticated technology it so badly needs to move its centralized economy ahead.

By 1981, the SALT I treaty had expired, the SALT II treaty was signed but would not be ratified, Soviet troops had gone into Afghanistan and were on alert around Poland, the US had cut off economic and scientific and cultural links because of Afghanistan, and US voters had thrown out Jimmy Carter and installed Ronald Reagan in part because they, too, were alarmed at soviet expansionism. The world seemed back in the cold-war days of the early 1960s.

It is entirely possible that a new leader after Mr. Brezhnev could put his own unpredictable stamp on Soviet policies, internally and externally. Yet he will also have to deal with underlying social forces. He will not have complete freedom of action. The party membership, especially the Central Committee, has known so little internal movement for so long that any radical lurches would be risky, indeed.

This is not to say they won't be made.It is to say they will probably come slowly -- and that they could be restrictive rather than relaxing.

Many Western experts feel the current system will stay in place for 50 years or more. They dismiss liberal thinking in the West that argues that a second Russian revolution is just around the corner. They see dissidents as a tiny minority in a huge country. They agree with the traditional school of thought that argues that true change inside the Soviet Union must come from inside, not from without. They fell Jimmy Carter's public stress on human rights only forced the Soviet Union to "show its manhood," as former US Ambassador Malcolm Toon once put it to me. It made the Kremlin crack down more sharply than it otherwise might have.

Early in the next century Soviet Central Asia with its high (though falling) birthrate could be providing one-third of the Soviet work force. But Russian Slavs hold the keys to power and will keep them.

The Western world, however, needs to find better ways to confront the Soviet challenge.

The United States needs a closer relationship with Paris and Bonn, in particular, if NATO is to present a coherent shield to Soviet agrression. This is particularly difficult at a time when Western Europe finds it cannot afford the range of social services it erected after World War II. Europe wants to cut back on defense, right at the time Mr. Reagan believes it should be keeping defense spending high.

Moscow knows this well. Its propaganda tries to widen the split at every turn. Europeans, physically closer to Moscow, want trade and distrust military and economic sanctions as weapons.

The Soviet threat to Poland at the end of 1980 produced more NATO harmony -- but as yet no concrete agreement on just what the alliance would do if Moscow did invade.

Living here for 4 1/2 years has made me an advocate of high defense spending in the US and Western Europe -- high enough to deter any sudden Soviet moves. Already Moscow is roughly equal to the US in nuclear weaponry and is ahead in some aspects of conventional warfare. Correcting the military balance from the tilt in the US's favor after World War II has clearly lent the Kremlin more confidence to invade an Afghanistan. The need now is to make sure it understands the risks of taking similar actions elsewhere.

The West also needs a realistic reckoning of actual Soviet strengths, as distinct from perceived ones.

The tendency in Washington in recent years has been to exaggerate Soviet capacities to intervene in the third world. Those of us resident in Moscow were more aware of the huge costs to Moscow in supporting communist regimes in Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, and Eastern Europe. From Moscow, Soviet policies in the Mideast often looked snarled. Policies toward Japan seemed bungled. A Moscow dinner conversation with a visiting congressman in late 1980 turned into a debate between his own fears that Moscow could strike anywhere at any time and resident correspondents' more restrained views.

The West also needs to watch the tone in which it addresses the Kremlin. Belittling Soviet achievements is hardly likely to make the Soviets listen. Nor is acting as though they had no legitimate world interests. Talking down to Moscow won't work. The Soviets are thin-skinned, but also supreme realists: What a man does is more important to them than what he says. Talking big and acting small is a recipe for disaster in dealing with Moscow.

Diplomatically, Washington, London, Paris, and other capitals fall into the Soviet trap of dealing directly with the Soviet ambassador on the spot, instead of making sure that definitive national positions are laid out by their respective ambassadors in Moscow, to the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Not surprisingly, the Soviets like to pit a professional (their own highly trained ambassadors) against "amateurs" -- host- country foreign ministers and presidents who are generalists rather than specialists on Soviet relations.

The result is that the Soviets have a daily edge in the business of diplomacy. The Soviets hear a range of nuances of a Western country from their ambassadors. But can the West be certain that in every case the ambassador transmits the nuances precisely to Moscow? Maybe, maybe not. Directing ambassadors in Moscow to detail positions in the Soviet Foreign Ministry would give these envoys more access to the Soviet hierarchy.

At the same time, the West must try to avoid trusting that the Soviets are nice fellows after all, and that communism is somehow just another "ology," harmless, really.Westerners should understand that Marxist-Leninist ideology has manufactured a gigantic military-industrial complex from a relatively weak geographical base, and has provided the rationale for the weapons it produces to be used -- if not in war, then as ballast for Soviet diplomacy.

The relationship between the USSR and the West is essentially, and will remain, an adversary one. It should be treated as one -- firmly, without illusion. Nothing can be gained by assuming the Kremlin is about to give up and go away.

The West must also realize the communist challenge is persistent, single-minded. The West can go on vacation, think about social problems, worry about a host of issues. But the Kremlin always keeps its eye fixed on the competition with Western ideals and its own hopes of ultimate victory.

Finally, my stay at the heart of the communist empire has convinced me that the answer to the challenge of materialism lies within each one of us. We cannot leave it to governments or armies, propaganda or pious hope. Each individual has a role to play in countering Soviet and other forms of materialism by emphasizing thge spiritual values which alone can effectively oppose them.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.