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The extraordinary changes in foreign and domestic policy initiated by the Soviet Union in the past six years under Mikhail Gorbachev have left all but a very few statesmen and scholars in the West perplexed and unsure of the foundation of their assumptions about policy toward that great half-Western/half-Eastern giant. The years since the death of Chernenko have been filled with contradictory trends, as the forces of conservatism and reform have engaged in a competition with one another. The events in the USSR have been both unprecedented and deeply rooted in the Russian and Soviet past – unprecedented because of the depth and abruptness of the turnaround in both domestic and international affairs, and deeply rooted in the recurrent problems with which the Russian and Soviet leaderships have been forced to deal since the advent of Imperial Russia under Peter the Great.
Because the dramatic shifts in the foreign policy of the USSR have had a direct and critical impact on the foreign policy of the United States, as did the hostility between the two countries which preceded these shifts, it has been the job of scholars since 1985 to probe carefully into the origins, goals, and future of the new political thinking about international relations in the Soviet Union and the foreign policy based on it. Three interrelated sets of questions cluster around these issues at this critical juncture in Soviet history, as Mikhail Gorbachev faces diminishing support for his reforms and appears to be moving toward the right in an effort to retain power.
The chapters in this book were written over the period of an extraordinary twelve months from March of 1990 to March of 1991, a year which saw the last events of Gorbachev's reforms – the creation of the post of President of the USSR (eventually to be elected by popular vote) and of Presidential and Federation Councils, the end of the Communist Party's legal monopoly of power; and, in foreign policy the acceptance of the reunification of Germany, and the decision by the leadership to support the US-sponsored resolution in the United Nations permitting the use of force in the Persian Gulf by a US-led coalition against a former Soviet ally. The year also witnessed the beginning of what can only be called reaction caused by the unexpected consequences of Gorbachev's ambitious changes. This reaction took the form of an embargo against Lithuania, a long wait for resolution of the debate over economic reform, capped by the defeat in September 1990 of Shatalin's 500-day plan, Gorbachev's assumption of emergency powers in September, outbursts in the Supreme Soviet by conservative officers, the resignation speech by Foreign Minister Shevardnadze warning of impending dictatorship and his actual resignation, the appointment of conservatives to the posts of Minister of the Interior and Vice-President coupled with the abandonment of Gorbachev by important reformers, the placing of units of the armed forces to patrol the streets in the cities, and the death of fifteen people in Vilnius at the hands of the Soviet army in the course of storming the TV tower.
Initial drafts of the articles selected for publication in this volume were chosen from among those presented at the Fourth World Congress of the International Council for Soviet and East European Studies, held in Harrogate, England, July 1990. The articles focus on aspects of Soviet policy toward Northern and East-Central Europe, as well as Soviet policy toward the developing countries. As much as the editors would have wished to have provided more comprehensive global coverage of Soviet foreign policy – for example, including Western Europe and North America – contributions of publishable quality in these areas simply were not made available to them.
The chapters that follow are divided into four parts. The first section examines major trends in the current policy of the USSR. The four chapters that comprise part two assess changes in the Soviet–East European relationship, as well as Soviet policy toward Northern Europe and on the general issue of foreign policy neutrality. The third and fourth parts of the book deal with Soviet policy toward the developing countries and present both general overviews of shifts in Soviet policy, as well as more specific regional and country case studies.
The editors wish to express their appreciation to all who have facilitated the preparation of this volume. These include, first of all, the authors of individual chapters and those whose comments at the Harrogate Congress resulted in improvements in the original manuscripts prepared for presentation at the Congress.
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