303. Intelligence Memorandum1




Moscow intervened in Czechoslovakia because it feared for its hold over Eastern Europe. Calculations of profit and loss with respect to Soviet international policy in general were secondary. The decision to invade meant that the Soviet determination to preserve the status quo in Eastern Europe overrode any urge that Moscow might have had to seek advantage in limited accommodations with the non–Communist world. In this sense, the Soviet leadership behaved characteristically. Intervention was, at the same time, the most difficult decision ever made by the BrezhnevKosygin regime and may turn out to be its most fateful one.

Although the Soviets would like to regard the Czechoslovak affair as essentially internal business and to have the rest of the world so regard it, the issue inevitably raises additional issues for them: relations [Page 718] between East and West and between Communist parties, the trend of Soviet defense spending, the development of the Soviet economy and internal discipline. Only time can tell whether the Soviets were right in concluding that intervention was the lesser of two evils. It will depend, among other things, on whether and for how long the pressures for reform in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in the Soviet bloc can be contained; whether the collective leadership can master its own internal conflicts, and how the policies of others, especially the US, are influenced by what has happened in Czechoslovakia.

Increased distrust of the USSR in the US and Soviet defensiveness and insecurity revealed by the invasion do not bode well for US–Soviet relations in the near future. The possibility should not be excluded, however, that Moscow will see some need after Czechoslovakia for taking steps to keep US–Soviet relations from settling into a total freeze. There is, at any rate, no present indication that Moscow’s interest in missile talks with the US is less than before.

[Here follows the body of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vol. XXI. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem. Prepared by CIA’s Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated with the Office of National Estimates. In the National Security Council, copies went to Rostow, Bromley Smith, and Nathaniel Davis.
  2. On November 7 the intelligence community published NIE 12–68, “Eastern Europe and the USSR in the Aftermath of the Invasion of Czechoslovakia,” printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XVII, Document 26.