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The Kremlin and the West: A Realistic Approach View other pieces in "The New York Times"
By Mark Danner January 25, 1987

A Realistic Approach
By Wolfgang Leonhard
Norton, 7.95

Wolfgang Leonhard would seem well qualified to deliver what he promises here - a ''new policy toward [the] USSR.'' Arriving in Moscow in 1935 as a 14-year-old German, Mr. Leonhard spent the war years in the Soviet Union and at war's end was whisked off to Berlin as one of the original members of the ''Ulbricht group,'' charged with setting up a Communist state in what became East Germany. He defected in l948 and now teaches history at Yale University. Although he provides a useful account of how the Soviet system functions, his proposed ''realistic approach'' is disappointing - a combination of sensible but vague and not terribly new ideas. Mr. Leonhard's central argument is that a more sober Soviet foreign policy is inextricably tied to internal liberalization: moderation will come only with political strictures (whether formal or not) at home. The West should encourage liberalization by bolstering institutions like Radio Liberty; by firmly linking arms agreements and East-West trade to internal moderation; and by insisting that important trade deals, such as grain shipments and other dealings with the West be publicly acknowledged within the Soviet Union. He argues that the West must maintain relations not only with the Soviet Government, but with the Soviet people as well, and urges that the West vigorously support human rights groups within the Soviet bloc countries. Useful but familiar advice, and hardly the new course Mr. Leonhard promises between the ''primitive anti-Communism'' of the Cold War and the ''over-optimistic illusions'' that he believes accompanied detente. 


© 2021 Mark Danner