21. Memorandum From Richard Pipes of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Allen)1


  • Weekly Report as of February 21

Soviet Union. Soviet news was dominated by preparations for the forthcoming Party Congress scheduled to open on February 23. Elections of personnel to the Central Committee at the local and republican [Page 51] levels, just completed, were striking in having produced very few changes: the overwhelming number of Party functionaries have been “reelected” to their posts. This continuity attests to the unchallenged hold on the apparatus enjoyed by Brezhnev. The only significant changes to have occurred recently in the Soviet leadership have taken place in the Council of Ministers where advantage was taken of Kosygin’s resignation2 to remove some dead wood, and in the armed forces where there has been some reshuffling of top personnel. Indications are that Marshal Ogarkov, the Chief of Staff, is moving upward and may replace the ailing Minister of Defense Ustinov.3 (S)

In a belligerent speech delivered on February 21, Ustinov accused the United States and its Allies of seeking to revive the cold war and subvert the “socialist” community, and, indeed, making active preparations for war, including a preemptive attack on the Warsaw Pact. This address was mistakenly interpreted by foreign opinion as paving the way for a hard-line Congress speech by Brezhnev. As it turned out, the Soviet leadership seems to have decided to travel simultaneously on two roads: the aggressive “low road” given to Ustinov and the conciliatory “high road” assigned to Brezhnev. Such a dual strategy gives the Soviet Union greater flexibility in meeting the challenges of the new American Administration. (S)

The Soviet leadership continues to reveal extraordinary sensitivity to the charge that it sponsors worldwide terrorism. Apparently it fears that this accusation by Secretary Haig may pave the way for identifying so-called “national liberation movements”, which enjoy considerable European and Third World sympathy, with terrorism, which is almost universally condemned, and in this manner discredit its main vehicle for Third World expansion. (S)

In reaction to the Polish events, there has been a conscientious effort by the Soviet authorities to forestall potential worker unrest from breaking out in their own countries. Thus, Politburo member Chernenko has recently published an article in an authoritative theoretical journal urging the broader involvement of workers in “monitoring” Soviet management. In some of the Soviet republics unusual initiatives have been taken to enroll manual workers as party executives. Apparently, more intelligent communists in the Soviet Union have concluded that worker antagonism to the party in Poland had genuine roots and should be treated by timely concessions now rather than by brute force later. (S)

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Poland. On the surface the situation in Poland has quieted down remarkably. The new Prime Minister, Jaruzelski, seems to enjoy the confidence of the Soviet Government as well as Solidarity. The Soviet Union has helped to stabilize the situation by financial aid. Nevertheless, underneath the surface the situation is troubling from Moscow’s point of view. Intelligence information indicates that reserve officers and even policemen in Poland are talking of forming unions. The attached intelligence report reflecting the opinions of the Italian Communist Party on Poland seems very trustworthy.4 (S)

Afghanistan. The news from Afghanistan is not good for Moscow. There is growing evidence of large-scale drug and alcohol abuse among Soviet troops as well as of the spread of communicable diseases. Dysentery and typhoid are common and infectious hepatitis is said to have reached “epidemic” proportions (over 8,000 cases in 1980). Senior Soviet officers have been overheard to say that it may take them up to five years to gain full control of the country. (S)

Zimbabwe. The decision of Mugabe to open diplomatic relations with Moscow after repeated refusals to do so apparently stems from the agreement of Moscow to stop supporting his main rival, Nkomo. It is of considerable value to the Soviet Union in its concerted drive against South Africa. (S)

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Weekly Reports, 02/24/1981–02/27/1981. Secret.
  2. Reference is to Alexei Kosygin, who resigned as Chairman of the Council of Ministers in October 1978.
  3. Ustinov remained Minister of Defense until his death in December 1984.
  4. Not found attached.