159. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11–7–66


The Problem

To estimate main trends in Soviet internal and foreign policy over the next year or two.


After the stormy years of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union seems to have settled down. The new leaders have framed a number of new policies, which are more realistic in terms of Soviet capabilities. In general these policies are more conservative. Internally, the leaders are trying to tighten up; they are trying to control the various spontaneous forces set loose under Khrushchev. Externally, they have given first attention to problems in the Communist world, particularly the challenge of China. They seem fairly well satisfied with the results thus far, and probably intend no great change in the near future.
However, there are trouble spots. There are tensions between the regime and the intelligentsia. Economic plans are still too ambitious and their failure would sharpen the question of how far and fast to go with reforms, particularly in introducing the “profit” system. Further strains on the allocation of economic resources are likely to be imposed by the demands of the military and space programs, and the ambitious agricultural plan. Though Brezhnev has emerged as the regime’s leading figure, the ultimate locus of power and the manner of its exercise are far from settled.
As for foreign policy the regime has done well in isolating the Chinese and regaining positions in Asia lost by Khrushchev, but much will depend on what happens in Vietnam. The Soviets probably want the war to end soon, preferably by negotiations. But they do not yet have this much influence in Hanoi, and they will probably have to stick by their present policies-continued military aid and political support, but limited actual Soviet involvement. US-Soviet relations have been constricted by the Vietnamese war and no significant improvements are likely as long as the war continues.
In Europe, the Soviets will be more active, seeking to exploit de Gaulle’s disruptive maneuvers within NATO. However, there is not too much they can do as long as their policy is fixed on the division of Germany. An active-policy is likely to be continued along the wide arc of countries south and east of the USSR. The Soviets have made progress in this area-Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, Japan-and will try to consolidate their gains at the expense of both China and the West.


1. The 23rd Congress of the Soviet Party confirmed the main lines of foreign and domestic policy that have been gradually evolving since the fall of Khrushchev. Managed in the business-like fashion which is the image cultivated by the new leaders, the Congress produced no spectacular surprises and no broad new initiatives.2

[Here follow sections entitled “The Leadership,” “Internal Policies,” and “Foreign Affairs.”]

The Outlook

While many specific policies remain unclear or even undecided, the conduct of the Soviet leaders does suggest the way in which, in a broad sense, they view the world and the USSR’s future in it. Their approach is increasingly realistic. They do not act as though they believe that striking gains for Soviet policy or Communist aspirations are available in a host of countries. They do not seize upon every crisis, near or remote, as an opportunity to advance their cause suddenly and dramatically. This is, in our view, something more than just a matter of style. Rather it seems to reflect a growing appreciation of the complexity of the world, the unpredictability of events, and the limits on Soviet ability to direct, or profit from, political change in foreign countries. As a result, the USSR may be able to avoid many mistakes and to operate in a sophisticated and effective fashion in areas where genuine opportunities exist.
Fundamental Soviet objectives have not been altered. They are to preserve the security of the USSR, and to work toward the establishment of a Communist world under Soviet domination. Nevertheless, the approach of the new leaders extends and deepens the trend which dates from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. It contrasts sharply [Page 392]with the period which preceded that crisis, when Soviet foreign policy seemed grounded on simpler conceptions and more extravagant expectations. Perhaps the chief significance of Khrushchev’s ouster, therefore, is that a political change of the first magnitude inside the country has not reversed—indeed it has confirmed—the Soviet tendency to temper their revolutionary outlook on the world with concerns of national interest and great power status.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates. Secret. Submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence and concurred in by the United States Intelligence Board.
  2. The Congress met from March 29 to April 8. In Research Memorandum RSB 45, May 13, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research called the meeting “a well disciplined, almost routine affair, pervaded with the more orthodox themes that have come to be associated with the post-Khrushchev leadership. There were no major policy innovations.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/P Files: Lot 71 D 273, USSR)