Czechoslovakia, after Khrushchev’s removal in 1964, began to show signs of independence and sought credits from West Germany. Czechs and Slovaks no longer needed to study Russian, and a majority in the party favoured recognising West Germany diplomatically. Brezhnev arrived in Prague in December 1967 to observe the removal of Antonin Novotny, who had reneged on Slovak autonomy. He had taken over from Klement Gottwald after the latter’s death in 1953. Gottwald was a brutal leader and handed down 230 death sentences during his five years in power, and about 200,000 were sent to prison or forced labour camps. Novotny was not brutal but rather a conservative bureaucrat unable to cope with the rising ferment of the mid-1960s. The new top comrade was Alexander Dubček, a Slovak, but his proposals for change alarmed Moscow which began to suspect a Western plot to undermine the socialist commonwealth. Aleksei Kosygin, the Soviet prime minister, rejected this analysis and thought that the goal was social democracy, along the lines of Austria. This was sacrilege as it could lead to the loss of Soviet war gains. Dubček naively believed if he swore allegiance to Moscow, he could engage in building socialism with a human face at home. Marshal Andrei Grechko, the Soviet minister of defence, stated that action had to be taken even if it provoked a Third World War. Leonid Brezhnev was fed exaggerated reports of the dangers facing socialism by Yuri Andropov, the KGB chief, but some of his associates thought he was suffering from a ‘Hungarian complex’. This referred to his time in Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution and led him to believe that any ideological deviation had to be nipped in the bud before it began to undermine socialism. Brezhnev accepted Andropov’s analysis, but Kosygin did not.