200. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

3465. 1. Following are some first impressions after a month back in Moscow. They will of course be subject to change after further contact and observation.

2. The leadership appears weak. While Brezhnev is clearly number one, the Politburo is in fact operating collectively. One well-informed observer told me that formerly it was only [Page 458] necessary to convince Khrushchev in order to carry out a given proposal. Now it was necessary to convince nearly every member of the Politburo since almost any one of them could successfully block it. It appears true, however, that the direction and management of agriculture and the economy has improved and that the regime’s pride in its “business-like” approach is largely justified although hampered by collectivity which makes for indecision and lack of bold initiatives.

3. The volume of daily anti-US items in the press is greater than I had realized, not only in connection with Vietnam but in the general distortion of American life and policies.

4. The standard of living has improved over the past four and a half years but only slowly.

5. People express themselves more freely in private conversation and the intellectuals are straining at the limits set for their activities. These limits have widened since my last tour here.

6. Ideology appears to play an even more important role in policy making as well as propaganda-possibly the result of the CHICOM hammering at revisionism. The fiftieth anniversary celebration will doubtless bring increased emphasis on ideology.

7. There is a somewhat greater emphasis on internal problems in relation to foreign affairs.

8. Khrushchev was a prolific source of information on Soviet policies and the thinking that lay behind them. Now there is remarkably little contact between the diplomatic corps and the political leadership and such as there is, is not generally rewarding.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL USSR. Secret; Limdis.