Russia Under Andropov

January 7, 1983

Report Outline
New Leadears; Old Problems
Changes in Past Transitions
Evolution Vs. Revolution
Special Focus

New Leadears; Old Problems

Andropov's Selection and Its Significance

Two months after the selection of Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov as leader of the Soviet Union, there are still many unanswered questions about the man and the policies he is likely to pursue. On the surface, Andropov seems firmly in control. He was chosen as head of the Soviet Communist Party on Nov. 12, within two days of Leonid I. Brezhnev's death. This was the first time since the death of founding father Vladimir Ilich Lenin, in 1924, that the immediate transition period was not marked by a collective leadership and inter-party feuds.

It remains unclear, however, whether Andropov can institute needed economic reforms without offending the Communist Party bureaucracy that Brezhnev pampered. Will he be forced to continue the massive Soviet arms buildup at a time when the United States is increasing its defense spending? Can the Soviet Union frighten or entice Western Europe to weaken U.S.-European links? Will there be a Sino-Soviet rapprochement if the Russians refuse to withdraw from Afghanistan? Was Andropov, as head of the dreaded police apparatus in May 1981, in any way responsible for the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II?

Since his selection, assessments of the new Soviet leader have focused on his abilities, his intelligence, his knowledge and his flexibility. What data are available suggest that Andropov was selected over Brezhnev's personal favorite, Konstantin U. Chernenko, because he won the support of the military, the State Security Committee (or KGB), and party technocrats who feared that Chernenko would merely continue the stultifyingly stable policies that Brezhnev had pursued in recent years. The choice of Andropov seemed to indicate a preference for some revitalization in both the economy and foreign relations.

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