244. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


  • Soviet Central Committee and Supreme Soviet Meetings—Domestic Aspects

Leadership Developments

The Central Committee met in plenary session on November 22, and three changes in the leadership were announced. As expected, Andrey Kirilenko was dropped from the Politburo, ostensibly for reasons of health. Geydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s party chief, was named to full membership in the Politburo. Aliyev has long been considered a supporter of Konstantin Chernenko, Andropov’s primary rival in the succession struggle. However, the intelligence community now believes that Aliyev’s associations with Andropov may be even closer, since Aliyev was a KGB man before he gained the top Party spot in Azerbaijan in 1969. Aliyev may thus represent a compromise choice suitable to both Chernenko and Andropov supporters.

Central Committee member Nikolay Ryzhkov was named to replace Kirilenko as one of the Central Committee Secretaries. It is not known what responsibilities Ryzhkov will assume, although his background is in heavy industry. It should be noted also that 83-year-old Politburo member Arvid Pel’she did show up at the plenum, thus scotching reports he had died during Brezhnev’s funeral. The total voting membership of the Politburo now stands at twelve, which is a little low, historically. If Andropov already has a working majority, keeping the Politburo small may suit his interests, at least until he can move his own men up through the ranks and into the Politburo. It may also indicate, however, that there is still disagreement within the Politburo over who to promote to bring the voting membership up to its more normal level of 13–14 persons.

At the November 23 meeting of the Supreme Soviet, Andropov was elected to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Gromyko and Chernenko had been mentioned by many sources as possible alternatives to Andropov as the new Chairman of the Supreme Soviet. However, since neither of them is on the Presidium of that body, the odds are very strong now that Andropov will be elected to the Chairmanship [Page 808] on November 24. If this occurs, it will mean that Andropov will have done in the space of only a few days what it took his predecessor, Leonid Brezhnev, nearly thirteen years to accomplish: he will simultaneously hold both the head of Party and head of State positions.

Economic Policy

Contrary to press accounts, we read Andropov’s November 22 Plenum speech on the economy as offering only slight, though possibly revealing, shifts in nuances from recent Brezhnev pronouncements. The new Soviet leader set out an agenda of the USSR’s mounting economic problems, but offered only tentative glimpses of his own preferences for dealing with them. Andropov did suggest that he will favor the stick, rather than the carrot, as an economic stimulus. He carefully refrained from promising miracles, confessing “I do not have any ready recipes for solution” of the “many tasks” facing the ailing economy. Andropov’s remarks offered a rhetorical valedictory to the Brezhnev years, but shed only the dimmest of light on the nation’s future path. Specifically, Andropov:

—Admitted that the economic news was bad, “emphatically” noting that production plans had not been fulfilled over the past two years and acknowledging the looming constraints on Soviet labor, raw material and energy supplies;

—Acknowledged the importance of material incentives, but placed more emphasis than his predecessor on the need for discipline in the economy, declaring that “shoddy work, inactivity and irresponsibility should have an immediate and unavoidable effect on the earnings, official status and moral prestige of workers;”

—Pledged to continue Brezhnev’s commitment to improving the living conditions of Soviet consumers, while distancing himself personally by referring to it as this “question which Leonid Ilich thought particularly important;” and

—Called for more independence for Soviet industrial managers, particularly those who “boldly introduce new technology,” and for importing successful managerial techniques from abroad. However, Andropov did not embrace the cause of economic reform too tightly, noting “it is necessary to act with caution here.”

Following Brezhnev’s practice, Andropov also included a ritual pledge to “provide the army and the navy with everything necessary.” Unlike his predecessor, Andropov associated his leadership colleagues with this policy which, he averred, “the Politburo considers compulsory.”

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Pipes Files, CHRON 11/26/1982–11/30/1982. Confidential. Bremer sent the paper to Clark under cover of a November 24 memorandum. Pipes sent Bremer’s memorandum and the paper to Clark under cover of a November 30 memorandum. (Ibid.)