Vladimir Bukovsky and Nora Beloff:

A Polemic Discussion of the U.S. Foreign Policy 

Commentary magazine, February 1987.



Nora Beloff: Though I have the greatest respect for Vladimir Bukovsky and rate his book, To Build a Castle, as one of the classics of resistance literature, may I venture to disagree with his proposition [“Will Gorbachev Reform the Soviet Union?,” September 1986] that Gorbachev has only three options in confronting his internal troubles? Besides the three which Mr. Bukovsky mentions (leaving things as they are, experimenting with some form of NEP, and relying on Western aid), there is a fourth, which I believe is currently being tried out: the decoupling of Western Europe from the United States, neutralizing its will to resist, and, having imposed Soviet domination, exploiting its technological and economic resources to compensate for the insufficiencies in the Soviet bloc.


Nothing is more likely to turn the West Europeans (who are not in Mr. Bukovsky’s heroic mold) away from the Americans than the spectacle of a U.S. administration implementing a policy of all-out production of all the most advanced weapons, as he seems to recommend, in the hopes that, in ten or twenty years, the Soviet economy may falter and collapse. The ubiquitous implements of mass destruction dotted all over our unfortunate continent cannot be guaranteed against irrational use by desperate men in circumstances as impossible to predict as some of the events which have occurred in my own lifetime. Our aim must surely be to achieve balanced, verifiable reductions of arms, if indeed Soviet habits of secrecy make that possible. The only civilized solution is to strive to contain and win the struggle which the Soviets are waging against us by non-military means.



Vladimir Bukovsky: Nora Beloff does not disagree with me when she suggests that current Soviet strategy is aimed at decoupling Western Europe from the U.S., neutralizing it, and then exploiting its economic resources. This is precisely what I meant in my third option, détente, which has never been viewed by the Soviets as a “relaxation of class struggle,” and is, moreover, the only form of “peaceful coexistence” possible with the Soviet regime. The essay from which my COMMENTARY article was adapted dealt at greater length with this problem in a discussion of Soviet foreign policy.


As for the less-than-heroic Europeans, I do not know whom Miss Beloff is referring to. If she means the hysterical crowds of the peace movement, their time has passed. Besides, she should know better than most that these people have never represented all Europeans, but only a small and noisy minority that exists in every country in the West. Indeed, if we were to take them seriously and permit them to dictate our foreign policy, Soviet domination of Western Europe would occur that much faster, since such people are simply instruments of the Soviet “struggle for peace.”


Contrary to Miss Beloff’s claim, it was a recent suggestion by the United States to eliminate nuclear weapons in Europe that worried Europeans, and prompted the leaders of France, Germany, and England to hurry to Washington to argue against such a move. Surely these Europeans represent the majority of their populations.


Frankly, I do not understand Miss Beloff’s phrase about “balanced, verifiable reductions of arms,” when right next to it she admits that “Soviet habits of secrecy” make this impossible. What then does she suggest? Should we deceive ourselves with yet another “balanced and verifiable” round of arms reductions and expose Europe to relentless Soviet blackmail, just to calm some super-nervous Europeans? All of this, mind you, when Miss Beloff herself admits that the current Soviet goal is to dominate Western Europe after neutralizing it.


Even less clear to me is what she means when she says that the “only civilized solution” is to “contain and win the struggle” by non-military means. Is she really suggesting an active ideological war against the Soviets? I would be the last person on earth to disagree with this, but, alas, even Ronald Reagan has not ventured to proclaim it as a policy. All he did was to make one speech about the “evil empire,” and multitudes of fainthearted well-wishers persuaded him to stop. Besides, such a policy can be successful only if it is supplemented by tough military competition and an increasing challenge to the Soviet empire. But surely Miss Beloff would not advocate an aggressive ideological pressure on the Soviets while the West remains defenseless.

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Vladimir Bukovsky on NVC Radio
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Vladimir Bukovsky heads a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute
Crack-Up. A US foreign policy essay by Vladimir Bukovsky
Vladimir Bukovsky on censorship in his letter to Radio Liberty
Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon

Lord Bethell

Vladimir Bukovsky remembered by Lord Nicholas Bethell in his memoires titled Spies and Other Secrets

Boris Pankin

Boris Pankin, a former Russian Ambassador to Great Britain, recalls his days in London and his encounters with dissidents.

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Vladimir Gershovich tells a story of Nabokov's contribution to saving Bukovsky from a Soviet prison.


Vladimir Bukovsky's 1982 essay on the USSR-inspired peace movement sweeping over the West.

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Vladimir Bukovsky's obituary written by Alissa Ordabai.

Alissa Ordabai on Vladimir Bukovsky

Grigory Svirsky remembers Vladimir Bukovsky and Victor Feinberg.

Grigory Svirksy


Anatoly Krasnov-Levitin writes about Vladimir Bukovsky in a heartfelt essay following Bukovsky's 1971 trial. 

Anatoly Krasnov-Levitin

Vladimir Bukovsky warns against censorship in his 1976 letter to Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe.

Radio Liberty and Censorship

Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to Andrei and Lois Frolovs' book Against the Odds: A True American-Soviet Love Story.

The Frolovs


Dina Kaminskaya

Vladimir Bukovsky's lawyer Dina Kaminskaya remembers his 1967 trial in her memoires.

Victor Krochnoi

Vladimir Bukovsky's foreword to chess master Victor Krochnoi's autobiography.

The Bell Ringer

Vladimir Bukovsky's short story published in Grani magazine in 1967.


Vladimir Bukovsky seminal 1984 essay on Russian government's propaganda and subversion strategies.

Peace as a Political Weapon

Ludmilla Thorne reports from Vladimir Bukovsky's first post-exchange residence in Switzerland.

Mother Courage


Vadim Delaunay writes in verse to his friend Vladimir Bukovsky following their 1967 trial.

Vadim Delaunay