Soviet Options: 25th Party Congress

February 20, 1976

Report Outline
Policy Choices for Soviet Leaders
Kremlin Debate on Domestic Issues
Soviet Foreign Policy's Unclear Aims
Special Focus

Policy Choices for Soviet Leaders

Search for Clues to Kremlin's Future Course

The polished facade that is presented to the world by Soviet communism at its party congresses rarely reflects the actual state of conditions in world communism, in Russia generally or in the Kremlin. And that is expected to be the case when the 25th Congress, the first in five years, convenes in Moscow on Feb. 24 to hail the unity and progress achieved under the past dozen years of leadership provided by the sometimes-ailing party leader, Leonid I. Brezhnev.

Soviet-affairs specialists throughout the world will be searching for clues to pending change or continuance of the existing order—for any inkling of disagreement on such fundamental and diverse issues as detente, strategic arms control, political succession to Brezhnev, restiveness among Communist parties in western Europe, the continuing war of words with China, and economic problems facing the Soviet Union. Difficult choices, both on goals and tactics, are inevitable in what Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski of Columbia University has called the “transition to the post-Brezhnev era.”

It was Brezhnev who, at the last party congress in 1971, pushed for detente and cooperation with the United States as the way to obtain the credits and technology necessary to modernize Russia. There is evidence that uncertainty has now developed in the Kremlin as to what this policy actually means for the Soviet Union. Tensions arising between those favoring an extension of detente and those pushing for a resumption of international revolutionary militancy remain barely submerged. Indeed, there are signs that the “activists” in the Kremlin, feeling that Russia has gained as much as it can from detente, prefer to take a much tougher position in regard to the West. Moscow's support of the pro-Soviet forces in Angola reflects this attitude.

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