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Soviet Union


The Foreign Policy Makers

The predominant Soviet foreign policy actor has been the general secretary of the CPSU. The dominant decision-making body has been the Politburo (see Politburo; Secretariat , ch. 7). Although the general secretary is only one of several members of the Politburo, his positions as head of the Secretariat and the Defense Council (see Glossary) give him preeminence in the Politburo.

Other members of the Politburo also have had major foreign policy-making responsibilities, most notably the ministers of foreign affairs and defense, the chairman of the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti--KGB), and the chief of the CPSU's International Department. The minister of defense and the minister of foreign affairs had been full or candidate members of the Politburo intermittently since 1917. The chairman of the KGB became a candidate member of the Politburo in 1967 and has generally been a full member since then. The chief of the International Department became a candidate member of the Politburo in 1972 but from 1986 to 1988 held only Secretariat membership. Since late 1988, he has been a candidate, then full member of the Central Committee. Even when foreign policy organizations were not directly represented on the Politburo, they were nonetheless supervised by Politburo members.

It is incorrect to say that there are no policy differences within the Politburo or no policy inputs or alterations of policy by other foreign policy actors. One Western theory holds that foreign policy innovation occurs when a new general secretary consolidates his power and is able to implement his policy agenda. It is also apparent that the foreign and domestic environments affect the formulation and execution of Soviet foreign policy. According to some Western theorists, for instance, Soviet opportunism in the Third World in the 1970s owed something to American preoccupation with domestic concerns following the end of the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. Similarly, the "Reagan Doctrine" of assisting anticommunist insurgencies has been suggested by some Western analysts as contributing to Soviet reassessment of the long-term viability of some Third World revolutionary democratic regimes. The extent to which human, economic, and military resources are available for diplomatic, foreign aid, and military activities also affects Soviet foreign policy. It is nevertheless true that the centralization of foreign policy decision making in the Politburo and the longevity of its members (a major factor in the Politburo's lengthy institutional memory) both have contributed to the Soviet Union's ability to plan foreign policy and guide its long-term implementation with a relative singleness of purpose lacking in pluralistic political systems.

Data as of May 1989