May 6, 1988 | Executive Memorandum on Europe
General Secretary who appears to' be "losing"Eastern Europe will most certainly lose his posi- tion as well), this time, he may perceive domestic and international costs of intervention as prohib itive. Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe, for example, would alienate the Soviet in- telligentsia, the only social group in Soviet society on whose allegiance Gorbachev can now count. As after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, crushing East Europea n revolt today would drive the intellectuals back to demoralization, cynicism, and active opposition to the regime. Perhaps more important, Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe could destroy most, if not all, of the good will in the West that Gorbachev ha s been cultivating 1 Such intervention could jeopardize the current Soviet modernization plans, which hinge on Western assistance (as have all such plans throughout Soviet history). This could spell an end to Gorbachev's efforts to pull the country out of d eepening economic and social crisis. Faced with such consequences, even the hardest of the Soviet hard-liners may pause before deciding to intervene. It is here that American ability to assume, articulate, and communicate a credible policy be- comes cruci a l. Eastern Europe should be at the top of the American agenda at the Moscow summit. Gorbachev should be warned of the consequences of intervention - whether direct via an invasion, as in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, or indirect, through in- timidation and military coups and martial law declared by quislings, as in Poland in 1981. Reagan should tell Gorbachev that the U.S. (and allied) response will be a grain embargo, abrogation of cultural and economic agreements with the Soviet Union, imme d iate and total cessation of lending to the Soviet Union by West European and American banks and govern- ments, a recall of Western ambassadors from the Soviet Union, and ian appropriate degree of military alert of the NATO forces. Moral Support. The U.S. a nd its West European and Japanese allies now should start developing a crisis-management infrastructure that can be activated, on short notice. The plan- ning should include development of diplomatic, economic, political; and military options. In the mean t ime, the U.S. should persistently, publicly, and at the highest levels voice concern about possible Soviet intervention and convey moral support for the peoples of Eastern - Europe's struggle for democracy. Eastern Europe always has been the ultimate test of Soviet international behavior. Nothing in the current U.S.-Soviet relations should be more impor- tant: not arms control, not "regional conflicts," not bilateral agreements. The Cold War was born in Eastern Europe. The U.S. should challenge the Soviet U nion to end the Cold War by turning its 'Inew political thinking" from declaration to reality. A well-thought out, articulated, and credible American position may tip the scales, prevent a Soviet intervention, and allow Eastern Europe a first step on the road to national self-deter- mination.
Leon Aron, Ph.D. Salvatori Fellow in Soviet StudiesFor further information: "Eastern Europe: A Winter of Discontent," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Soviet and East European Report, Vol. 1, No. 19, April 1, 1988. Michael Kraus, "Soviet Policy toward East Europe," Current History, November 1987, pp. 353-356. Charles Gati, "Gorbachev and Eastern Europe," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1987.