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The late twentieth century witnessed remarkable changes in Soviet domestic and foreign policy. Eastern Europe sprang free of the country that held it in its grip for over forty years. The Soviet leadership has accepted the reunification of Germany and supported the US-sponsored resolution in the UN permitting the use of force in the Gulf against one of its former allies. Moreover, the leadership's quest for stability during a time of rapid technological, economic and political change seriously weakened the position of the Soviet Union on the international scene. This volume assesses those dramatic changes. It chronicles the debate within the Soviet Union over the success and validity of perestroika and the 'new thinking' on foreign affairs, the policy alternatives supported by various groups within the elite and their likely impact on future policies.
The rise of new political thinking in Soviet foreign policy has been both a blessing and a curse. While it has created warmer relations with many countries and has enhanced global security, the radical change in policy also has alienated some traditional Soviet allies and even has exacerbated domestic unrest in the Soviet Union. Not every region of the world has welcomed the changes in Soviet foreign policy during the first five years of Gorbachev's tenure. Many countries have benefited from the new, deideologized interstate relations based on mutual benefit, but others find those changes threatening. The revolutionary transformation in the East European countries reflects the most profound shifts in Soviet foreign policy. And the West European countries, and especially the Nordic states, have profited from the Soviet Union's desire to be an architect of the common European home. But for several traditional Soviet allies in the Third World, such as the Indochinese countries, new political thinking means a loss of financial and military support from the Soviet Union and a threat to their hard-line regimes.
The consequences of the changes in Soviet foreign policy, however, have not been limited to foreign relations. New political thinking has unleashed some forces, primarily in Eastern Europe, that have served as a catalyst to domestic discontent in the Soviet Union. The freedom given to the East European countries in particular has fueled the desire for independence in some of the Soviet republics, especially in the Baltic.
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.