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From Their Man in Moscow : 'Let Us Expand Mutual Trust, Interests'

December 22, 1985|Roy Medvedev | Roy Medvedev is a Soviet historian whose works have been published in the West.

MOSCOW — The atmosphere of economic stagnation and moral-political degradation that was characteristic of the final years of Leonid I. Brezhnev is changing in our country, as is the personal composition of the organs of power.

I will not be surprised if, out of all those who arrived at the Kremlin in 1982, only Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Andrei A. Gromyko retain their posts after the next Communist Party Congress in February-March, 1986.

These changes indicate a social change in the composition of Soviet leadership. Younger leaders are replacing the elderly politicians. More energetic and honest workers are replacing corrupt bureaucrats. The party bureaucratic class, with its semifeudal system of personal loyalty, is being replaced by technocrats for whom the traits of competence and effectiveness serve as the main principles of selection. Furthermore, the role of socialist ideology and morals is growing.

The more intense competition with America served as the major stimulus for the modernization of the Soviet leadership. But this competition is also the main problem that the new leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union must solve. It is therefore not surprising that for them, the meeting between Gorbachev and President Reagan last November was an important event.

No great success was expected from a meeting between the most conservative and most irreconcilably anti-communist American President in the past 40 years and the new Soviet leader who is trying to give a new impulse to the the development of socialist society, to stop the militarization of the Soviet Union and to make the Soviet way of life more attractive. But the Geneva meeting did not justify the worst expectations of the pessimists. Nor did it create a new "spirit of Geneva" in Soviet-American relations, and it was not the place for important negotiations and agreements. All in all, it was the first step in the right direction, which has expanded the sphere of mutual understanding and hope for future progress.

In Washington as well as in Moscow, the meeting in Geneva is viewed as a success, which may make our two countries behave more cautiously in the international arena.

In Geneva progress was made on solutions to problems of cultural exchanges, trade and emigration, but there was no progress concerning the major problem facing all of us--the arms race. However, an agreement was reached to hold further meetings between Gorbachev and Reagan, at which it will be impossible to get by with the same political results that were sufficient for Geneva.

The problems arising as a result of our opposite sociopolitical systems must not be underestimated. For us, the major defect of American society does not lie in the general system of free enterprise, of which the American people approve, but in the strange (in the eyes of the Soviet people) fact that the manufacture of the most horrible types of weapons of mass destruction is one of the forms of commercial activities in the United States.

American production of nuclear-missile weapons is connected by people here not only to the U.S. government but to the personal interests of many people whose behavior is not guaranteed by anything and who will not easily welcome a policy that is capable of taking away a lot of their profits.

The major defect of contemporary Soviet society, on the other hand, lies in its authoritarianism, in the absence of independent social and political organizations, an independent press and democratic control.

In the Soviet Union, there is not a military-industrial complex in the Western sense, since the military and economic leaders strictly carry out the directives of the party-state leadership. But who can control the work of the Politburo?

Therefore, it would be strange to count on the appearance of "mutual trust" between the Soviet Union and the United States. But in the face of today's differences between our two countries, not only the areas of mutual trust but the areas of mutual interest could be expanded.

These could provide a positive influence on some decisions regarding strategic-war concepts for the next two decades. Many signs show, for example, that our countries have already exceeded reasonable limits on their military budgets. Even such a rich country as America cannot always support its military spending by increasing the $2-trillion national debt. But neither can the Soviet Union constantly increase its military potential without decreasing funds for development of civilian industry and for raising living standards of its patient citizens.

By exhausting each other with their present levels of military technology, the Soviet Union and the United States do not increase but actually reduce the security of their people and the world at large.

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