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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Higher State and Government Organizations

In accordance with the 1977 Constitution and the amendments and additions promulgated in December 1988, several organizations were involved in the formation of foreign policy, including the Congress of People's Deputies, the Supreme Soviet, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and the Council of Ministers. This influence was primarily a result of the membership of high-ranking CPSU officials in these bodies, which had a limited ability to select and interpret information passed on to the party leadership.

The Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet

The changes to the Constitution adopted in December 1988 altered the character of the Soviet legislative system (see Supreme Soviet , ch. 8). The changes invested the Congress of People's Deputies with "defining the basic guidelines" of foreign policy and expressly assigned foreign policy duties to the newly created position of chairman of the Supreme Soviet. The role of the Supreme Soviet in formulating and overseeing the execution of foreign policy was theoretically strengthened by providing for lengthy (six- to eight-month) yearly sittings of the Supreme Soviet. The duties assigned to the Supreme Soviet including forming the Defense Council, appointing the senior commanders of the armed forces, ratifying international treaties, proclaiming a state of war, and making decisions on the use of troops abroad. This latter provision was added to the list of duties of the Supreme Soviet, as explained by Gorbachev and other leaders, because of the closed nature of the decision process that led to committing troops to the invasion of Afghanistan. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was assigned responsibility for minor diplomatic functions and declaring war in periods when the Supreme Soviet was not in session. The chairman of the Supreme Soviet was to represent the Soviet Union in foreign relations with other states. He was also to submit reports on foreign policy to the Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet, head the Defense Council, and negotiate and sign international treaties. A Foreign Affairs Commission was also set up and its members empowered to formulate and oversee foreign policy execution. The new legislative structures apparently provided for greater legislative oversight of foreign policy execution and even for some input into the foreign policy formulation process, with the chairman and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet playing a guiding role in foreign policy activities.

Data as of May 1989