Vladimir Bukovsky

at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

December 1986.

I just came from a strategic game which was conducted by the Center for International Strategic studies in Georgetown University where I played on the Red Team — on the Soviet-side team, in a crisis game developing very rapidly in our world with the financial crisis growing in Latin America — with debt defaults and what not — with the contras suddenly moving more actively into Managua, and a number of other crises. I am sure you wouldn't be surprised to learn that we actually won — I mean, the Soviet side won, and won very easily. Amazingly easily, and even frightenly easily. At the end of the crisis, which continued for one month, we had Pakistan partitioned, and the Pakistani regime disintegrated very easily, with no problem at all. We swept away all the problems in Central America and were ready to move anywhere, particularly in El Salvador. 


This is the frightening ease with which the Soviet side can operate in the world, which I felt for the last two days of these games, is very close to reality as, indeed, the scenario of this crisis is very close to reality. It was very realistic indeed. And it shows you suddenly very important weaknesses of the West and strengths of the Soviet regime. One of them is the the Soviet system has at its disposal much more instruments of political influence in any crisis, much more dimensions of fighting, to which the Western society has no response whatsoever. It simply has no means for it, no instruments at all. We could use the public opinion in the West freely, we could appeal to the left-wing spectrum of these countries using it as a very powerful tool during the developing crisis. We could use guerrillas very easily, we could do a lot of things. And the Western side could generate only one out of five responses to our moves. They simply had no means.


That's one of the frightening things that underlies the unpreparedness of the West to a real crisis with the Soviet system as it is right now, which has been developing these tools for the last 50-60 years. And unless we give attention to this ideological warfare, and some other aspects for the Soviet Union, unless we have some capability of meeting this challenge, our future seems to be very dire. 


Another conclusion to which we came during these games, was of a more profound, more philosophical nature. As we've learned at the end of the game, the American side — the "blue" team, so to speak — was mostly engaged in debates in between themselves, while we were very action-oriented, having a very clearly-defined goal in our minds, and we were mainly involved in the development of our moves. The Americans, apparently, were always arguing in between themselves about concepts. They still don't have a concept of what the Soviet system is about, what is possible to do with it, and what they actually want in all these areas of conflict — how they go about reaching their goals. That raises a very important question. Indeed, it's amazing that the Soviet Union has existed now for 68 years, and made a lot of conflicts in this world, and has been tremendously successful. And undeniably the communist ideology as such — and the Soviet system as its incarnation — is the biggest problem of our century. I think nobody would deny that. If nothing else, its scope of misery influenced on the humanity alone is unprecedented. Yet, we probably know less about the Soviet system — and by "we" I mean the Western side — than we know about the other side of the Moon or about a very distant galaxy. That is appalling. We still lack a coherent concept of the Soviet system. And when you go to those who are supposed to know — to the so-called "experts" — you suddenly find them divided into two categories: the so-called "hardliners" and “soft-liners". I don't believe that this popular wisdom is correct. As far as I am concerned, there are no "hardliners" or “soft-liners". There are correct or incorrect policies. Correct or incorrect decisions. 


The recent summit meeting with all the positive sides it brought, also brought a lot of negative sides. You have suddenly seen our television and our media being submerged by the good will and we suddenly had the reappearance of a lot of the so-called "experts" on the friendship with the Soviet Union, utilizing all the time in the media, who once again repeat all the old bankrupt ideas about how we should proceed "getting more understanding with the Soviet Union," (as if 68 years of its existence were not sufficient to understand it), and how we should “find good negotiations.” It's still a great belief among many people in this world that if you negotiate very understandingly with the Soviet Union, if you give them benefit of the doubt and wouldn't be that intolerant, then suddenly you would come to very good terms with it. Which is remarkably mistaken. 


But at the same time, I must say there is a flaw in the conservative thinking about the Soviet side too. The most important mistake is the belief — very well-rooted in the conservative thinking — that the Soviet Union is unchangeable. That you cannot change it and you cannot expect any changes in the Soviet Union. And that's a very great mistake. The Soviet Union does change and there are many ways of bringing about these changes or making policies conducive to these changes. 


Let me say, that ironically right now the Soviet Union is on a brink of many dramatic changes, provided our policy toward it is correct. They do have a tremendous economic problem which was building up for many years and now came to a point when they themselves recognize: "We cannot proceed with what we have been doing before." They openly say that — that their inefficient extensive economy cannot any longer sustain the effort of expansion and military competition with the West. That notion came first in the speech of Gorbachev he gave to the Central Committee in April of last year when he said, "Unless we go into the pattern of radical reorganization of our economy, the cause of socialism in the world will be threatened." 


Let me just quote you to give you the sense of the crisis that they have. Let me quote you nothing else but the communist party magazine in the Soviet Union called “Communist," quite appropriately. "Further movement along this course," Meaning the present course of development of economy, "in the situation where opportunities for involving more labor, or raw materials, or natural resources in the production are reduced, could only lead to an increased number of unfilled jobs, to an excessive growth of expenditure for development of transportation of mineral resources and for protection of environment. This way of development has no prospects now. More and more investment will yield less and less interest. The result: in the present conditions this would be a dead-end." 


That is a very important thing. We know by knowing the Soviet system that it cannot change dramatically to such an extent as to make any economic reforms working. But in going into that direction it may involve itself in very dangerous developments which might finally dismantle the political control system as it exists now. Briefly speaking, shortly presenting it, the more they go into intensive production and intensive economy, the less party control is possible. And the less party control you have over the economy, the less of the party control you have over the country as such.  


What can be done on this side which might force the Soviet Union to go into bigger and deeper reforms than they actually want to do? Very simple. The reason for their concern is not the wellbeing of their population — it is a strategic problem and a problem of the expansion of their empire. So in order to make them go into deeper reforms you have to — first of all — continue and even increase your competition in the military field, meaning the SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative. And if you increase it, then the Soviets will have more incentives to go into deeper reforms. If you cancel the Strategic Defense Initiative, then they will have less incentives for that.


Secondly, you have to increase their expenditures and efforts in the expansion in the third world, meaning that you have to support the resistance forces, making the Soviet involvement there and maintenance of the empire more and more expensive, more and more difficult. [Applause in the audience]. If we suddenly turn the current trend and start helping the Mozambique communist government — as some people do right now in the administration — if we start to do the same in Angola —like Gulf Oil is doing right now — instead of helping the resistance forces over there, if we suddenly decide out of some strange idea in the State Department that we can buy the Soviet empire from the Soviet Union, then we will kill the incentive for reforms inside the Soviet Union and we would have ourselves bought a very expensive and useless instrument. 


Finally, and very importantly, if we go right now into the past of the detente again — as it is now suggested by some of the aspects of the public debate — then we'll also kill the current trend for reform. If we start to supply the Soviet Union with credits, technology, goods, on a great scale as the Soviet Union wants it, we would simply kill any incentive for the Soviet Union to go into economic changes endangering their system. And quite recently, as you know, four hundred American businessmen came together with the Secretary of Commerce Baldrige to Moscow to negotiate all these agreements. I would say, from the standpoint of American interests, as well as from the standpoint of the interests of the Soviet population, these American businessmen have no business to do in the Soviet Union and shouldn't go there. [Applause in the audience]. 


What actual basic concept could be used to build a coherent policy toward the Soviet Union? I believe such a basic concept was already given by the President Reagan in his speech to the United Nations in October of last year where he said that "Peace based on repressions cannot be true peace and is secure only when individuals are free to direct their own own governments." Developing further this idea, he said that "Marxism-Leninism's war with their people becomes war with their neighbors," and it's a very profound remark. Further quoting the Nobel Peace Prize message of Sakharov, he said, "International trust, mutual understanding, disarmament and international security are inconceivable without an open society with freedom of information, freedom of conscience, the right to publish, the right to travel, and choose the country in which one wishes to live." That is an excellent basis for a coherent and a powerful foreign policy when we deal with the Soviet Union. 


Indeed, the Soviet system is based on some kind of a hidden latent civil war between the communist rulers and the population. And the free world can be either on the side of our oppressors and the government, seeking understanding with them, or on the side of the population, promoting their search for freedom. And that, I believe, should be developed, if the conservatives have any influence as a coherent policy. Unfortunately, that is not so at the moment. The first documents that came out of the summit are disastrous. The agreement about cultural and scientific exchanges is a disaster — it is a Soviet document which gives the Soviets all the control of the process. Which will enforce their control over their own intellectuals and people, allows them to select those whom they want to go abroad and have the advantage of communicating with the free world. It also suggested the increase in the scientific exchange and even joint work and research on the nuclear fusion problem — at the same time when five thousand American scientists still boycott the Soviet scientific institutions, demanding that Sakharov, Orlov, and Shcharansky be released. What right has the government to sign such an agreement with the Soviet Union at the time when the five thousand of their own scientists — a huge community — demands the boycott? I don't know. 


Concluding what I wanted to say, I would like to underline that it's feasible, possible, and totally coherent with the demands of our time and future challenges, if we develop such a policy in which the free world and the oppressed people — not the governments of the communist countries — will be together, fighting together for a better future. Thank you. 

Source: https://www.c-span.org/video/?125967-1/1990s&fbclid=IwAR3R5IyepFZISJr3JZ-Po9Xu8_YnjpEiZ752yY6zn10hHP70Wsmwfpy0XvE

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