Prepared for an Aspen Institute conference held in Burgenstock, Switzerland, August 12-16, 1987, this paper describes Eastern Europe as a core sphere of Soviet influence. Eastern Europe is a political, ideological, and military security buffer for the Soviet Union; a springboard for Soviet diplomatic, political, and military efforts to decouple Western Europe from the United States and increase Soviet influence; and a crucial political and ideological buttress, justifying Soviet leaders' belief that the Soviet Union is a world power whose socialist system is legitimate and historically ascendant. But rigidities in the communist systems have led to an increase in dissent and opposition throughout the region, particularly in Poland. The author discusses the situation and the prospects for political change.
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