TThe Kremlin has done its best to kill Krelinolohy, but an effort to revive it is afoot Leonid Brezhnev's survival in power for 13 years has made it look as if there is little point to Kremlinology, which seeks to penetrate the secrets of the Kremlin's struggles over power and policy. But in the last five years, five members of the ruling Politburo have been ousted from power - that is, one in three - and the pace of the struggle is quickening as Brezhnev's age increases and his health deteriorates. The question of what happens next exercises the world's Sovietologists more than any other.
They had all gathered - nearly 2,000 of the members and foreign guests of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies - for a convention that had more than a hundred topics on its agenda. The discussion on Kremlinology drew an audience far greater than was attracted by any of the 10 other panels in session at the time. One reason for this, perhaps, was that Kremlinology has a special fascination for Washington, with its agglomeration of intelligence agencies, think tanks, embassies, congressional committees concerned with foreign affairs, and the State Department's many Soviet-oriented sections.
Has Kremlinology retained its validity as a method with which to penetrate the Kremlin's secrets? Or has the new technology replaced Krelinology now that satellites can photograph missile sites, and the monitoring of long-distance telephone communications provides an endless stream of information about what is happening in the "closed" societies?
Kremlinology is concerned with how policy decisions are made in Moscow, and why. Short of having a spy sitting under the table in the Kremlin, the only way to gain an understanding of the Soviet policy-making process and to predict its likely course is to search the open sources, such as the Soviet press, for clues to the debates and struggles that go on under the surface.
The panel was headed by a man who had not long before been chief the Soviet section in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research - which is supposed to be the central point in the U.S. government for the analysis of Soviet policies. He recalled that, at several critical points, "we didn't know exactly who is in charge of the Soviet Union," and observed that the course of events often showed that things had been going on in Kremlin "that we didn't know at the time." The historian on the panel, who had once done wonders as a Foreign Office Kremlinologist, sadly concluded that things have changed since the days of Khrushchev, when the distinctive political personalities of the Soviet leaders, and the profusion of clues in the press, enabled us to follow the course of events fairly accurately.
The political scientist on the panel, the author of several highly regarded books, deplored the tendency of Kremlinologists to concentrate their attention on the highest levels of the Soviet leadership. He argued that there had been a diffusion of power from the few dozen men in the Politburo and Secretariat to the 300 members of the Central Committee and other policy-making bodies. He thought that we could now draw inferences from the social sciences about what was going on in the Soviet leadership.
A State Department Kremlinologist disagreed sharply with the political scientist. He had found the sociological studies of little use and chided the universities, which, he said, had almost never promoted Kremlinological research. It could take years of on-the-job training in the government, the said, to turn a political scientist into a Kremlinologist - and, he added. "I have not been favorably impressed by the result." Kremlinology, he concluded, was on the brink of extinction, and it survived only thanks to a "very small band of practitioners" who persisted in arguing that policy in the Kremlin was made in the process of constant struggle between opposing viewpoints.
The journalist on the panel - the last of a breed that once had representatives on all the world's major newspapers - refused to despair. He was prepared to use any tools that produced results. But he believed that there was a conflict about power and policy in the Kremlin, and that the struggle often embrated various sections of the bureaucracy. He argued that the signs of struggle could be found even today, even though the Kremlin was trying much harder to hide them.
The whole future of East-West relations, the very nature of the relationship, will depand on our understanding of the motives of the Soviet leaders, of the internal struggle in which they are already engaged in anticipation of Brezhnev's departure, and of the effect that this struggle has on such things as the balance of military power. Kremlinology can provide no unshakeable conclusions, but it is the only tool we have. It made it possible to predict some of the most important events of the post-Stalin years, such as the emergence of the Sino-Soviet dispute, the fall of Khrushchev, and the invasion of Czechoslavakia, all of which had resulted from decisions taken in the deepest secrecy in the Kremlin. Other, even more important, events may now be impending as Brezhnev departs from the scene.
But Kremlinology in particular and Sovietology in general are starved of the resources they need. The universities and the think tanks are cutting down on the study of the Soviet Union. The U.S. government spends vast amounts on the technology of intelligence. Hundreds of narrowly specialized intelligence bureaus are peopled with hordes of experts. But the Soviet section in the CIA's Office of Political Analysis has only 25 members, and the State Department's equivalent has only 10 analysts. Marshal Shulman, the Soviet-affairs adviser to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, argues that to train 10 or 20 people of high competence in this area would cost about as much as it costs to produce one cruise missile. We will soon be producing thousands of these - missiles, that is, not analysts.