ABSTRACT

Gorbachev's basic idea of a restructuring (perestroika) started making a visible impact on Soviet foreign and security policy in 1987. Gorbachev was faced with the fundamental challenge that in the long run the material bases of the Soviet Union's superpower position would be endangered lest the "pre-crisis situation" and the "mechanism of stagnation" were successfully overcome and an economic-technological upswing set off by far-reaching reforms. Within a decade or two the USSR threatened to drop to the level of a developing country unable to meet the costs of world-wide involvement and devoid of sufficient means for the basis of its earlier importance, i.e., military power. The country's economic-technological weakness worried Soviet leaders in more ways than one. It discredited the socialist model not only in the developed industrial nations of the West, but in the Third World as well. The concomitant traditional tendency to prop up foreign policy by military power and its intimidating effects has increasingly isolated the Soviet Union and caused other states to form an ever expanding defensive front. As critics of the earlier policy line stressed, the USSR had thus deprived itself of a decisive means of influence in the international arena.