Restructuring and the Polarization of Soviet Politics

by Jeremy R. Azrael

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This Note examines the economic and political changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union since Mikhail Gorbachev's accession to power, and assesses the longer-term implications of those changes. Following an evaluation of Gorbachev's "first-term" performance as a crisis manager, the Note examines the current situation and concludes with speculation on future prospects. The study concludes that (1) Gorbachev has presided over, and contributed to, a deepening systemic crisis; (2) militant opposition to Gorbachev has been building on both the right and left; (3) while Gorbachev may be able to use his new presidential powers to keep things under control, the Soviet Union may be on the verge of a civil war; and (4) the existence of a clear and present danger of a violent implosion in the Soviet Union has significant implications for U.S. policy.

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