May 1990 (vol. 6, #4)
1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1990
Communism is believed to be dead. Anti-Communism has also been pronounced dead, even by some participants in the April 27 meeting of the Committee for the Free World in Washington, DC. Although the Committee is not yet dead, its reason for existence may have evaporated at least if it allows its detractors to define its purpose in purely negative terms: opposition to the (former) Evil Empire. Gorbachev may indeed have ``deprived [them] of an enemy.'' An enemy that was apparently not as vicious as previous enemies anti-Nazi sentiment, after all, has not yet died, decades after Hitler perished in his bunker.
Defenders of the West are, to say the least, in a state of serious puzzlement. Like a martial artist, Gorbachev has thrown them off balance by moving aside when pressured.
Although no one has been observed to mourn over the warm corpse of Communism, the victory celebration has been notably lacking in exuberance. One reason may be the sense that the West hasn't exactly won, but that the Soviet Empire may be crumbling from internal rot that is even further advanced than the decay of Western civilization. Another is that some are dubious about the ultimate outcome.
One note of caution was sounded by Frank Gaffney, Jr., former Defense Department official, who noted that the Soviet Union has actually made substantial progress toward achieving many of its important goals: 1. Becoming the preeminent military force on the Eurasian land mass. 2. Fracturing hostile alliances. 3. Obtaining the economic, technical, and financial resources of the West (Gaffney recalled the Treaty of Rapallo of 1922 and the Hitler-Stalin economic pacts that preceded and laid the foundation for the nonaggression pact). 4. Maintaining a favorable ``correlation of forces,'' especially by gaining Soviet access to Western technology while minimizing, through arms control, the West's ability to exploit its advantage. 5. Maintaining a buffer zone, which, while not friendly, is still not threatening.
Vladimir Bukovsky, renowned Soviet dissident, warned against placing all our trust in Gorbachev, who is in the unusual position of being ``both the head of the government and the head of the opposition.'' He creates threats (such as Ligachev) and overthrows them. He foments anti-Semitism (which is not dead), then acts as protector of the Jews. In the West, he presents himself as the lesser evil, who must be supported in the struggle against his ``conservative'' rivals.
Despite his political skill, Gorbachev made two miscalculations, in Bukovsky's view: he overestimated his own strength and underestimated the hatred felt by his subjects. [Anti-Communism is not dead in the East Polish stores offer ``Better Dead Than Red'' buttons and images resembling Darth Vader captioned ``Soviet Go Home'' Ed.]
The Communist power structure also remains alive, and the Committee lacks consensus on what to do when the Party asserts itself against popular forces for change. Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, is ashamed of the response of Western leaders to the independence movement in Lithuania. Jeane Kirkpatrick is not. Irving Kristol thinks it's ``just not the right time for Lithuania to demand independence.'' Kristol expressed better than anyone else the profound malaise afflicting the defenders of the Free World.
``Maybe the breakup [of the Soviet empire] is good, maybe it's bad, but it's not our responsibility.''
Although a few speakers did allude to the continued existence of weapons of mass destruction, both inside and outside the Soviet sphere of influence, homeland defense might as well be dead and long buried, judging by the attention it received. Yet some facts about hardware are highly relevant to the political situation.
For example, Lithuania is not just a tiny piece of land peopled by rebellious peasants. The largest Soviet stockpile of nuclear weapons is located in Lithuania and nearby Kaliningrad. Also located in or near Lithuania are major petroleum, oil, and lubricant storage depots; stockpiles of artillery and bridge equipment; a base for medium-range ballistic missiles; two jet interceptor airfields; and the headquarters of the Soviets' most important strategic naval base.
The weapons are not being dismantled, either in Lithuania or elsewhere. Soviet military outlays, though down by 6 to 7%, are still higher than in 1985, and no major weapons program has been delayed or cancelled, according to Dennis Nagy, a deputy director in the Defense Intelligence Agency (Washington Times 4/23/90). And although what Joseph Joffe of the Süddeutsche Zeitung called ``competitive disarmament'' is the order of the day (in the West), Soviet violations of the INF Treaty are still reported. SS-23 missiles, supposedly eliminated by the treaty, have been found in Eastern Europe, despite repeated Soviet denials. SS-23 launchers, ``destroyed'' by sawing off the ends, have had the ends welded back on, ``for hauling lumber'' (USSR Monitor, April, 1990).
The equipment to threaten the Free World is still in place. The political threat could be resuscitated, as in Tiananmen Square. Unlike anti-Communism, hostility to Western values, such as freedom, is alive and thriving in both East and West.
How will the West use the reprieve resulting from Soviet internal dissension? To build a homeland defense, or to abort it? It may depend on the answer to the question raised by the Committee for the Free World: ``Does the West Still Exist?'' [Or is it deader than Communism?]