317. Current Intelligence Weekly Review0

Top Soviet Leadership

There continue to be indications that Khrushchev has been on the defensive on some controversial issues and that his detractors within the party are growing bolder. The extent, if any, to which his political control has been affected remains unclear, however, and the differences do not yet appear serious enough to impair the normal functioning of the government.

The treatment of the Soviet May Day slogan on Yugoslavia seemed to lend substance to the recent spate of rumors about troubles in the Kremlin. When the slogan was first published on 8 April, it made no reference to “building socialism.” On 11 April, however, Yugoslavia was moved into the category of countries “building socialism” and was thus ranked equally with all other Communist bloc countries, including China and Albania. The change was obviously aimed at Peiping and emphasized that Khrushchev and his followers will not modify their doctrinal position that Yugoslavia is “socialist”—a fundamental point of contention in the Sino-Soviet polemic.

The original omission suggests a difference of opinion on this question which resulted in the use of the same formula concerning Yugoslavia which has been employed since 1958. Alternatively, the original slogan may have been published at the instigation of some leaders who saw in Khrushchevʼs absence on vacation an opportunity to indicate their disagreement with some of his views.

Recent signs that former Defense Minister Zhukov may soon be rehabilitated also suggest political maneuvering. Discussions of his past role began to vary in February, and several military articles have since mentioned his wartime contributions in a favorable context. Most authors, however, have reiterated charges that Zhukov committed military blunders and followed an “anti-party” line during his tenure as defense minister. That some alteration in Zhukovʼs official status may be impending was further suggested when a Soviet military protocol officer recently appeared to be angling for an invitation to Zhukov to the US Armed Forcesʼ Day celebration on 21 May. Zhukov has not been invited in recent years, but the omission of his name has never previously evoked Soviet comment.

Any degree of restoration of respectability for Zhukov would have a political motivation. His removal as defense minister and as a member of [Page 670] the party presidium in 1957 was clearly engineered by Khrushchev, who charged that he had sought to gain the independence of the military from party control. Thus, Zhukovʼs public re-emergence would be viewed as an indication of increased influence for the professional soldier as opposed to the party, political military leaders, and his return to even partial favor would reflect adversely on Khrushchev.

Other recent straws in the wind which suggest jockeying for position by Khrushchevʼs subordinates include an implied criticism in the press of presidium member Aleksey Kirilenko—long a Khrushchev associate—for his performance as Sverdlovsk Oblast party boss during 1955-1962, and a slight momentary downgrading of his name in the usually alphabetical press listing of the presidium.

Despite these various signs of stress, Khrushchev has continued to receive prominent attention in the press. Throughout the time he has been away from Moscow, he has been sent numerous adulatory greetings from various meetings throughout the country, and his statements have been liberally quoted. There have also been references to the party presidium “headed by Khrushchev.” Although no such position as “head” of the presidium formally exists, the formulation is not unusual and its use conveys to the party faithful that Khrushchev is indeed the leader.

That there is an opposition to Khrushchev seems undeniable nevertheless, and it may be asserting itself sufficiently to make the situation intolerable from his standpoint. His past behavior would indicate that he will not stand idly by while his opponents gather strength. He will probably return to Moscow within the next few days, and may at that time attempt a decisive display of his authority perhaps in the form of a new policy statement, further top-level personnel changes, or both. It is possible, however, that the balance of forces within the leadership is now so fine that he will find it politically inexpedient to force a showdown at this time and may therefore have no other choice than to temporize.

  1. Source: Central Intellience Agency: Job 79-S01060A. Confidential. Prepared by CIAʼs Office of Current Intelligence. The source text comprises pp. 6-7 of the issue.