Interview, Washington, D.C., Dupont Plaza Hotel. August 14, 1990
Dr. Yuri Maltsev, an emigreé economist now working with the International Center for Development Policy – an extremely interesting outfit; Alexander Povolofsky, now Head of Research Department at Soviet Peace Committee; and a woman lawyer, Nina Solovyanenko, of the Institute of State and Law.
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
Spencer: I am trying to identify how ideas moved from one conversation to another, East and West, and any impact they had on important debates of policy issues.
Spencer: I participated in the foirmal dialogues that the Peace Committee organized, and I asked Igor Filin for transcripts. Can you provide those?
Povolofsky: I am afraid that Filin is on leave, so in a fortnight we will be back in Moscow and I will remind him about it. That’s a promise.
Spencer: Also, you mentioned that big changes have been taking place in the Peace Committee and I would like to know what kind of changes.
Povolofsky: Melville is a new person at the Peace Committee.
Dr. Yuri Maltsev: The Institute for Development Policy was founded in 1977. It was focused on Central American issues, and also was very active support of democratic movements in the Philippines, in South Korea, and Taiwan. For example, the first president of our centre (for six years) was [Senator Mongopolis??] of the Philippines, who is now Foreign Secretary there. And practically all members of Corazon Aquino’s party were close to our centre and the same visibility for South Korea, because we supported the Democratic Party there.
Since the beginning of the 80s we have also paid lots of attention to the establishing of a peace dialogue with the Soviet Union and the best accomplishment of this, to me, is the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1986. Lindsay Mattison, the Executive Director of the centre, with several staff members, went to Moscow and talked to Mr. Primakov and to [Mr. Polokov?? 003] from the Central Committee of the Party, saying they were interesting in helping in the peace process in Afghanistan. And so in 1987 there was some kind of a deadline in the Geneva and Paris talks on Afghanistan because there had been negotiations between the Soviets on one hand and 12 Mojahideen groups.
Unfortunately the Mojahideen groups were very different. They were fighting, not only the Soviets, but each other as well. And Lindsay Mattison went to Peshawar and he talked there with different factions of the Mojahideen movement. At last we (the Centre) made an agreement, providing conditions for agreement between the Soviets and the Mojahideen groups who had been controlling the highway between Kabul and [Pushka?] that he would not interfere while the Soviets were withdrawing from Afghanistan. At that time we established good relations with Mr. [Shakhnagar??], [he must mean Shakhnazarov?] who is now a political adviser to Mr. Gorbachev and a member of the Presidential Council of the Soviet Union.
Another project we have with the Soviets is a joint venture we have with the Institute for World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. It’s called “Soviet-American Centre for Development Studies” and it is operated jointly by the International Centre for Development Studies here in Washington and IMEMO. The Deputy Director of IMEMO, Mr. N. Simonia [?], he is the head of the centre there. The idea of the centre is to coordinate Soviet-American policies in the Third World, especially in the field of human rights and in the fields of mutual cessation of aid to the warring parties here and there. For example, we have been supporting our Congressman, David Nagel, who on the 21st of May, submitted a bill which is called the International Economic Security and Cooperation Act [??] of 1990, with a provision, for example of mutual cessation of aid to Afghanistan.
Right now the same kind of legislation is prepared here and I think it will … on the mutual cessation of aid to Salvador, to Kampuchea. That’s why the Centre has gained some visibility here. Usually we are working with the Democrats but sometimes we can command bipartisan support for some of the projects. Now Mr. Mattison is in Moscow, conferring there with Mr. Shakhnazarov and Mr. Krasin, who is director of Institute of Social Sciences of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. That is the institute which was mostly involved in the teaching of Third World leaders Marxism-Leninism and things like that, but right now it looks like they don’t have anybody to teach or anything to teach with and so they are trying to re-structure this place so it will be something like an inter-congressional centre for parliamentary democracy.
The idea is that we have a pretty strong backing here from the Association of Former members of Congress, which unites something like 650 former members of Congress, both Senators and Congressmen, who are able to provide expertise on problems of constitution, of legislation, and what not, of the democratic process, and they would go to Moscow and they would in seminars with the deputies of the Supreme Soviet. It is strongly supported from the very top there – I mean Mr. Shakhnazarov, for example, is strongly backing this idea. We also have support from George Mason University, from other groups, like Parliamentarians for Global Action, like environmental groups (including I think Greenpeace – we are just negotiating with them). Because also we would like to have, not only seminars on legislation and congressional matters, but also on the issues of environment, nuclear energy, economics, international aid, security. So the idea is that the organizations from this side of the ocean will bring people with some kind of expertise and experience in this field to Moscow, who would conduct seminars and lectures for the Soviet legislators. And they will also come here to engage in public speaking here to inform the American public about how perestroika is going and what is new in the field of domestic and foreign policy.
Another project we have, we want to form here the Soviet-American Chamber of Commerce. There is one already, but it would be something very different from that official one because there is strong support for the improvement of economic relations with the Soviet Union on behalf of groups of American business, like Philip Morris, for example, Honeywell, … they display interest in business in the Soviet Union. We already held a conference here in Washington at the end of May for about 500 American businessmen, as well as for the Soviet side, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland. We sponsored it together with Columbia Institute, which professionally organizes any kind of conferences. Also, we had for example, Mr. Ansuricaf [????] Deputy Chairman (Abalkin is the Chairman) of the Committee on Economic Reform of the USSR. We had ministers of trade from Poland and senior officials from Czechoslovakia.
We have 74 Members of Congress on our Congressional Advisory Board. We have 5 commissions there: the Commission on U.S./Latin American Relations, the chairman of it is Ambassador Robert White, formerly of El Salvador and one of the most vocal critics of American policy in Central America, and we have a commission on South Africa, and one on Asia, which is right now establishing some kind of a working group with the Soviet/American/Israeli working group on the Middle East. … Five Israelis, five Soviets, five Americans, and right now Mr. Nyshenko[?] from the Insitute of World Economy and International Relations is in Tel Aviv I think in some talks with the Labour Party to find some kind of alternative solutions to that deadlock. I think that if the Soviets will join this dialog in a constructive way that will be a great help.
Spencer: What can you recall of the Soviet/American meetings of, say, five years ago?
Maltsev: Well, five years ago I was in the Soviet Union, so I was a participant. The meetings then were mostly one-way. For example, the Volga and Don River cruises you mentioned – there would be a couple of professionals. Usually from the All-Union Knowledge Society, which is something like the AAAS here.
Povolofsky: They publish a newspaper called Arguments and Facts, which sells 3 million copies.
Spencer: Oh yes. We can get it in Toronto.
Maltsev: They had a bunch of lecturers who could speak some other languages and these lecturers would be speaking for the foreign audiences, and I was one of them. So I can tell you that it would not be the Soviet public who would be represented there, but mostly professional people, for whom this so-called “external propaganda” would be an occupation.
Spencer: Yeah. Oh, I know that.
Maltsev: So, five years ago I think such meetings were not so helpful for the Soviet part of it. Unfortunately there were practically no opportunities for the Americans to mingle with Soviet people in people’s diplomacy. And also the same was, I think, obvious when trade unions created conferences and symposia. There would be some kind of professional peacemakers from the Soviet side and some union representatives of grass roots organizations from here. But now the situation has changed and there are more grassroots organizations.
Spencer: I participated in a number of things, but not cruises, and I met independent activists and got, in fact, deported from your country.
Spencer: ’86, maybe. Something like that. Maybe ’85. By the way, I have two co-authors in this project – Olga Medvedkova, formerly of the Moscow Trust Group, and Tair Tairov. What I am saying is that I am very familiar with the fact that the people who were doing the official contacts were officials. But I was also aware of something personally, which is what got me started: Conversations that I would have, so to speak “onstage” – that is in formal meetings where transcripts were being made and so on – they would say one thing. And somewhat later at a party some of the same people would say something quite different.
Maltsev: Very different, yes.
Spencer: Yes, take the Group for Trust. If I mentioned the importance of handling that as far as western public opinion was concerned, the answer would be one thing officially and then the same person would privately say, “Keep going. You’re saying exactly the right thing. Talk about it some more. Don’t stop.”
Povolofsky: But you have touched a touchy point – all this double talk, so to speak. Maltsev says that he himself was giving these lectures and at that time he was thinking, it seems to me, exactly what he is thinking now. But he was speaking in quite another way. For example, Tair Tairov. You know he was a representative in the World Peace Council for a long time.
Maltsev: You know, it just occurred to me, maybe I will also tape this if you don’t mind.
Povolofsky: And this is a very serious psychological phenomenon. You see, it is not just because of cowardice that people were not speaking their mind, but behind stage were speaking in quite a different way. All these decades, under Stalin and after him, really people were suppressed. This was a way of survival. It is not the way of cowardice. Only a few people – practically only those who had nothing to lose – were brave enough to speak out. And some of them really were brave people. But life is life and all of us are just human beings and those speaking onstage one way and backstage another way, between themselves were talking as they were speaking behind the stage. So this “double-thinking,” doublepspeaking, all this hypocritical atmosphere in our country, was … in our country and it is changing – but very slowly. As we are touching this aspect of East/ West relations, at the governmental levels, well I guess we can say it is great progress. Our foreign minister and the Secretary of State just made a joint statement on Iraq about a week ago when Iraq invaded Kuwait. It is for the first time since World War II when the U.S. and the Soviet Union just made a statement as allies, not as adversaries.
So as far as the governmental level is concerned, everything is clear. But as we go now to the people’s diplomacy, you see, this euphoria of the last several years, since the Americans found out the Soviets have no tails, no horns, so Soviet people have just found out the Americans are the same as Russians. The image of the enemy had been created from both sides and are to be blamed equally. But it is a very difficult situation now in our country. There is a split within the nation as a whole, because some groups (liberal democrats) are saying we should take all the experience of the West just to move forward. The other side (Rightists) are just saying that it will bring capitalism, and so on. And as far as public opinion is concerned, there is just shilly-shallying.
Some are looking toward the experience of the West. And that is why Nina and I are here now, to meet with non-profit organizations and to find out the mechanism of fundraising and activities of a number of organizations in free-economy conditions. Nowadays in the Soviet Union we are just trying to implement a free market and we want to know what it means for nonprofit organizations to live in such conditions. And also nowadays we have a lot of domestic problems which are overwhelming, surpassing all international problems. Because the stores are empty. Only five packs of cigarettes per person after an hour in line. There are strikes because of lack of cigarettes. Even in Moscow, goods are being sold only to residents.
Spencer: I have three Soviet students who are spending the summer with me and that is the main topic at dinner. I am restricting myself in this book to the 1980s – conversations that took place, primarily about military issues. Your moratorium, for example: How did that happen? I know lots of people who have conversations intended to persuade. Just ot mention my own experience, I remember having made interventions about mathematical models of accidentally starting a nuclear war during times of crisis when the locks are off the weapons. I reported on a study and Lev Semeiko, the strategist …
Povolofsky: From the U.S. and Canada Studies Institute.
Spencer: Yeah. A white-haired guy. He wanted me to understand that what I had said would be listened to. So I had the experience myself of being listened to very well. It always surprised me because I thought, if I tried to see my own Member of Parliament, I wouldn’t get this far. Or if I tried to talk to a Canadian general, I wouldn’t have any influence, but General Mikhailov listened to me. And Arbatov obviously listened to me and to all of us. I never understood why they were paying so much attention to us.
But people were talking privately too, and I would have liked to know, when Semeiko said “We will talk about this further, you can be sure of it.” What did they say? What difference did it make? I was convinced that this was real. And I am collecting stories of people who remember encounters that seemed significant. And then I will try to talk to the other people to see how it seemed to them too. Does that make sense to you?
Povolofsky: Yeah. You see, I am for six years with the Soviet Peace Committee and I was witness of these meetings in the 80s.
Spencer: Were transcripts made? Did they type this stuff up?
Povolofsky: It depended on the importance of the meeting, the importance of the particular issues. There was a very important point that was dividing us. As far as nuclear war was concerned, we were together …
Spencer: Let me intervene though, because there were changes. Things were not the same at the end as at the beginning, and things happened along the way. The test ban moratorium, for example. And we were talking about non-provocative defense and I remember Sergei Plekhanov talking about “GRIT.” Where did he get this word? It came from Charles Osgood and his notion of unilaterial initiatives. How did he get that idea and how did it fit into the discussion at home. After all these meetings, someone was talking about GRIT and nonprovocative defence, translated as “reasonable sufficiency.” How did that move happen as a policy?
Povolofsky: You know, in politics there should be just an appropriate time. If a move is made just a little bit earlier, it will not be accepted. So sometimes you have been a little ahead. So after a lot of meetings there were memos made which had been sent to high specialists. You just mentioned Arbatov; you know very well he is a high figure, with the right contacts with Gorbachev. So all these memos were sent to people at the Central Committee, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Defence. All these were analyzed. All these had been preparing gradually because a lot of people had been sharing the same opinions and had the same proposals. By the way, you know there had been a lot of precedents. The American side proposed a lot of initiatives which had been rejected by the Soviet side. And afterwards, the Soviet side had been proposing exactly the same thing – only in other words. Because a lot of people in high echelons had been sharing the same opinions. But this confrontation, put ideology over common sense and it was a stumbling point. [?] And after accumulating gradually all the material which had been summed up after the meetings, conferences, and so forth, … had been pushing all those people in the high echelons of decision-making toward acceptance of these proposals. Sometimes it took a lot of time, sometimes not so long a time, for them to come to the same conclusions. Because you should keep in mind, this hypocritical attitude, it’s reality, this double-talk.
Spencer: You say memos were formed. Did you see such memos? What was your place in this job? By the way, I don’t want to leave you out, Nina. Please include yourself.
Nina Solovyanenko: I’m a lawyer in Moscow. I work in the Institute of State and Law of the Academy of Science. I work in Civil Law, Commercial Law, and now in the law of enterprise, including joint enterprise, joint ventures. All my work deals with the economy, and now I am breaking rather new ground. It is the legal activities of the nonprofit organizations. It is my opinion, I think little has changed in our minds, but our domestic policy became more important to us because our domestic changes are the most important thing in our life, but we continue to find an enemy. But now our enemy is not abroad but in our country. It is my opinion about our psychology. Maybe when we abandoned seeing the enemy as the United States, the pity is that we began to see it in our party, in our many nationalities and so on. Our psychology changes not so rapidly as we want it to change. We became uncritical toward the West and became too critical of our own leaders, our own Council of Ministers, who really work. It is very difficult work to establish radical changes. I think it is one more reason for the destabilization of our economy. We have no stable economic policy because every little mistake makes a huge negative reaction. Sometimes our people who want changes prevent their government from doing so.
Povolofsky: I am head of the research department of the Soviet Peace Committee. It is a rather new structure. Before, I was with the Information Department of the Soviet Peace Committee [?] There is also one important point. Now we are emphasizing critical attitudes toward our own government – not because we were blind about all these doings before, because for all these years we have been keeping our mouths shut. And now we have opened them. It is quite natural, after being silent for so long –
Spencer: You are answering her, in a way.
Povolofsky: So you just touched the point of memos. I’ll talk only about the Soviet Peace Committee. You know that we have been blamed for being a governmental organization, or being a department of the Central Committee of the CPSU. There is something right, but a lot of wrong in this. But in any case, after conferences and meetings, we have been just passing information to whomever we could – to the Foreign Minister, the Central Committee of the CPSU, to the Minister of Defence, to the Supreme Soviet, that American side at the grass roots or at the level of nongovernmental organizations, nonprofit organizations, anti-war organizations, are pushing this particular point.
Spencer: You’d make a summary of it.
Povolofsky: Yeah, yeah! We have been also putting our own proposals. And by the way, it was a part of the Soviet Peace Committee’s activity, that our government accepted this moratorium on nuclear tests because there had been a lot of pressure from the American side and a lot of pressure from Soviet public opinion towards the American public opinion. So the Soviet Peace Committee took a great deal just to push this on the agenda of the government.
Spencer: So you can say this was actually in the memos? This was a recommendation, or what were you saying?
Povolofsky: During these years, public opinion didn’t pay the role that it is playing now in the Soviet Union. But in any case, the SPC had been trying its best just to formulate this public opinion and just to put some emphasis on specific issues.
Spencer: You didn’t do polls of Soviet public opinion? How did you get a sense of what the public opinion was?
Maltsev: I think “forming” of public opinion, not “polling” of public opinion.
Povolofsky: We were forming it. And nowadays we are polling.
Spencer: Am I hearing you right? You said that at the time of the test moratorium, the SPC was promoting it on the basis of the fact that Western grassroots people were suggesting it and that you thought that Soviet public opinion favored it also?
Spencer: If you thought so, why? How did you know that?
Povolofsky: Well, you know that the SPC has around 150 local peace committees in all the republics, territories, and so on. And so they have branches and their own activists, and so on.
Spencer: But you couldn’t really call that a representative sample of Soviet public opinion, could you?
Spencer: Were these activists self-chosen? I always had the feeling that you sort of had to be invited to be an activist in one of these branches.
Maltsev: Oh, if a person were very eager to play a part, and if he were not involved in some kind of _____ group, he would be accepted. If he would not be concerned with human rights issues, or if he would not be some kind of Jewish activist, or if he would be a worker or an intellectual who would be loyal to the system and if he would like to play a part –
Povolofsky: Every day a lot of people are coming to the SPC with their proposals, with their demands and so forth. Some of them are a little bit coo-coo, let’s be frank. But some of them have got really serious projects. For example, take this Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement in Kazakhstan, this grassroots movement for the closure of the test site at Semipalatinsk. Also nowadays there is also another antinuclear movement in Novaya Zemlya at the north where the military are just trying to move the tests from Kazakhstan to that area. The people there are just trying to form this kind of anti-nuclear movement.
Spencer: Okay. You were getting feedback from the peace committee branches that they would like a test moratorium?
Povolofsky: You see, it was just a double way. The SPC was trying, through the mass media, to form public opinion. And also there was a reciprocal movement from the branches, from the grass root level. There were a lot of cables, letters, petitions sent to the SPC. So there was the ground for the SPC to form it as a demand from the Soviet people – or at least a demand from the Soviet peace movement.
Spencer: Were you ever involved in making these summations, minutes of these meetings?
Povolofsky: If there are important aspects. Not only meetings and seminars, some good ideas come from conversations, sometimes even with tourists who were coming to the Soviet Peace Committee. Unofficial talks. Some bright ideas. And so we are putting this on paper and just trying to disseminate it at wide range.
Spencer: How did that work? If you wrote up a memo of some bright idea that you got, no matter where, how did that dissemination take place? Did you share it among your colleagues in the Peace Committee office?
Povolofsky: No, no. As I told you already, we sent it up.
Spencer. But you would have talked about it informally among yourselves.
Povolofsky: Well, certainly we are talking about it! And if some bright idea can be implemented in some domestic project or international project, this is put on the agenda of all meetings of the bureau, the presidium of the Soviet Peace Committee, which is just a public body.
Spencer: What happens then, at that meeting?
Povolofsky: Some proposals are considered not to be right. Some proposals are considered that unfortunately the time is not ripe for this proposal to be moved, and then for this it is necessary just to form public opinion. So it can be an article in some newspaper or magazine on this aspect, so that public opinion will be moved toward this direction. …
(Passage missing because tape needed to be turned over.)
Povolofsky: Well for example, four years ago we were staying in this hotel and we had a conference across the street in that building with General La Rocque. It was the first time that Soviet retired generals had been conferring with American counterparts. And a lot of aspects were touched on during this conference which later on have been continued in Notre Dame University. We touched on the moratorium, disarmament problems and so on, which later on have been put into effect at the governmental level. Because those generals and admirals (and one of them was Gen. Milshtein, I guess you know him). Despite the fact that they are retired, they are still generals. They have got their own ways. This was one of the ways to put into effect the ideas that had just been discussed at this conference – about arms control, about SDI, about moratorium. Unfortunately, generals when they retire they can just talk.
Spencer: Why “unfortunately?” Thank God they can just talk!
Povolofsky: By unfortunately, I mean that I wish they were bright enough when they were in service and could do more.
Spencer: But Milshtein was involved in such conversations for a number of years, was he not?
Povolofsky: Yeah, and we have a committee in the Soviet Union – Retired Generals and Admirals for Peace and Disarmament.
Spencer: Leonard Johnson, in Canada, a retired Major General, is a member. There must be a dozen of these people from NATO and WTO.
Maltsev: Bastian, I think from West Germany.
Povolofsky: And also there are lots of proposals from the grass roots level which are also being put into effect by the Soviet Peace Committee. For example, this worldwide “peace wave.”
Spencer: That’s that Japanese thing?
Povolofsky: No. It started from Japan; it was proposed that it start on the 6th of August, so it was quite natural that it start from Japan on that particular day and move from the East to the West. With the move of the sun there will be the wave of peace all around the globe through different time zones, so that , let’s say, at 12:00 there will be rallies and peace activities and so on. Then one hour later it moves to another time zone and so on. And this was the idea of a small group of peaceniks. This was their idea. They proposed that all enterprises should stop their work, all buses, all railways should stop for a minute and stop about human beings, about life, about death. Just meditate. We have been forced to ____ this idea because it is unfeasible.
Spencer: And this was a Soviet proposal.
Povolofsky: Yes. Genrikh Borovik just made this proposal, I don’t remember now. It was about 3-4 years ago, at a conference in Japan. He talked about this with Japanese hosts and so it was a kind of joint proposal, but the roots of it were in just a tiny group of Soviet peaceniks, which brought this idea to the SPC, which took it to Japan. They accepted this idea and made it their own.
… omitting Spencer comments here. …
Spencer: I’m hearing a little contradiction between what Yury told me a while ago and what I am getting from you now. He said that the people making visits were chosen, professional peace …
Maltsev: Well, for example, when you listen to that spokesman, Vladimir Posner. He is all the time changing his mind. [ … unclear ???] I know the guy personally. He’s been thinking the same way I think for the last 20 years, but he is just a spokesman. He doesn’t represent himself.
Spencer: Yes. I’ve met a lot of people of whom I wonder whether they WERE always thinking the same thing. For example, the first person from the Soviet peace committee I ever met was Ailita Khodareva.
Povolofsky: Yes. She is with the department that formerly was called “Relations with the Peace Organizations in the Socialist Countries.” She’s been with the peace organizations in Eastern Europe.
Spencer: Okay. She’s a tough lady. I would be astounded if you said that privately she was talking, and held the same opinions, that you do now. The invective with which she spoke indicated to me that she didn’t have a democratic bone in her body! What you’re saying is that there are some people who were just going along with the movement, but –
Povolofsky: Maybe what I’m going to say will explain the situation. As Yury just said, when I am speaking on behalf of the Soviet Peace Committee, I’ll be speaking in quite another way. Not because I am thinking in some other way, but simply because this particular organization has its own policy and since I am representing it, I should just express exactly the policy of the organization.
Spencer: Yes. What is being erased on this tape so I can put this on, is an interview with Audrey McLaughlin, the head of the New Democratic Party of Canada. Now what she would say, I think she would mean every word of it, but of course she would be speaking as the leader of the New Democratic Party. If she has a quibble with some of its policies, she wouldn’t say it on tape. You’re not any different from Audrey McLaughlin, then. You have to represent the policies of your organization.
Maltsev: No, I cannot agree. She is the leader of that organization. That is one thing, and I have a lot of friends who are in the Department of State and who are left liberals. Right now they are promoting the Republican policies, which they can easily disagree with inside themselves. I have a friend who is working with a right-wing organization in Philadelphia, but she is liberal herself. When speaking on behalf of the organization she would say one thing. But she is an employee of the organization, she is not a leader of it, she would never form this kind of group. But it is common in the West, I think.
Spencer: That’s my point – that it is common in the West. I don’t know that it is any different when you, as a member of the Soviet Peace Committee, you can’t say what you think, but you have to speak for it. That’s fair enough. But sometimes you are now saying, “But, heart of hearts, there is a very different point of view.” Now what I don’t know is, how widespread is that internal reservation? How many people are like this woman in Philadelphia, who is working for one thing and believing something different? How widespread was that? How much did it change? And it doesn’t resolve MY problem: How am I to understand this person who is obviously speaking what she had been told to speak. In private would there be a different story? Sometimes there was, and sometimes there didn’t seem to be. I mention the name of Ailita Khodareva because it seemed to me she was a person who absolutely believed it.
Maltsev: But you never know. Maybe that’s just because she had the feeling that it would be dangerous to say anything else. It would be stupid, I think, to talk to a foreigner in any kind of capacity. It’s better just to talk to their husbands or wives, maybe. There are plenty of people I know there who would not talk even to their loved ones.
Povolofsky: There are lots of examples, in the West, when some spokesman has been talking on behalf of the government, later on the statement has been denounced.
Maltsev: Sometimes here, for example. The Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, his statement has been denounced as only his private opinion, not the official position.
Povolofsky: When people are just speaking the same in private as in public, it only means that they have the same opinion as their organization. But if people privately speak in some other way, it means that, despite the fact that they work in this organization, in this particular field, they differ. So it’s quite natural, it seems to me. It doesn’t mean double- thinking. It may mean double-speaking, but it doesn’t mean hypocritical attitude. It is quite natural. When, in private, people talk first one way and then another way, that is one thing. But when someone is speaking in an official capacity. … For example, the President can have any ideas of his own in private, but since he is expressing the attitude of his country, he may talk in quite another way.
Spencer: Okay, fair enough. (To Maltsev): Tell me about your own odyssey.
Maltsev: I am a permanent resident of the United States.
Spencer: You were giving lectures on the river boat cruises?
Maltsev: Yes. Actually, I was giving lectures I’m not ashamed of. I never was lying about things. I am an economist, which is very different. You just speak of figures. But sometimes, certainly, for self-preservation you would not make any conclusion. You could show that the system doesn’t work, but if you say, “The system doesn’t work,” that is just to give a notice that you are leaving. [?]
Spencer: How did you happen to come here?
Maltsev: (laughs) Boredom. One deficit we don’t have is the deficit of boredom, I’m sorry to say. I am just enjoying myself here. I think I have made the transition much better than Poland. Without big bangs or a reduction in the standard of living. You see, I am the same as I was. I am working for this liberal think-tank because I am liberal myself. I had a chance because a lot of right-wing people would be very interested also in getting me with them. Some liberals would disagree with me, actually. For example, I have a liberal starting point, but I am very much against bureaucracy, against bloated government. Especially here in D.C. it is easy to see evidence of bloated government and unnecessary bureaucracy. After you have been in the Soviet Union for 38 years, you would also have the feeling that less government is better. But I am not against some of the welfare programs.
Spencer: (to Povolofsky): Back to those memos. Can you think of a particular example when you know there was some sort of impact?
Povolofsky: A lot depended on the people who received the memos. Some just ignored them. Some people just ignored public organizations at that time. But nowadays it is difficult. Before it was easy in that the International Department of the Central Committee was very important. Nowadays, there are many different bodies, so to whom should this information be sent? But still we have got the Foreign Ministry. But the most important organization these days in the Soviet Union is the Supreme Soviet. And the Congress of People’s Deputies. To some extent it is a little more difficult to express public opinion among decision-makers, but in other respects it is a little easier these days because the SPC has got five members in the great Congress of People’s Deputies: Genrikh Borovik, a writer who is also Vice- President of the SPC, Ananip [?] who is deputy chairman of the committee on international relations or foreign affairs of the Supreme Soviet. So we have got channels. And nowadays the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation becomes even more important than the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. We have got channels, contacts with the right persons.
Spencer: I was intrigued at the END conference in Tallinn by a published dialogue between Tairov and Melville. The interviewer noted that Tairov believed he had to leave the establishment in order to promote the kind of changes that he wants, whereas Melville thinks he can work within the SPC. But the interviewer asked Melville whether he still believes that. He said he was less hopeful than he was a few months ago. That was about six weeks ago.
Povolofsky: I read that interview too. The situation of the SPC is a very complicated one. There are a lot of people on the decision-making level who belong to the old generation, who stick to official policy and believe in being a kind of propagandist for whatever government proposed. Now it is very easy to support the government now, because this government – at least the ideas of Eduard Shevardnadze –
Spencer: Magnificent ideas. Superb.
Povolofsky: Yeah. So why not support these ideas? But before, you know that the Soviet Peace Committee was supporting the invasion of Afghanistan. And still those people who were supporting this invasion, they are still at the wheel of the SPC. And…
Spencer: I know you can’t name names, but I would assume that Lukshin and Filin would be among those, and you don’t have to answer.
Povolofsky: No, no, I can’t agree. Because Lukshin is really very bright. I can agree that he was maybe really sincere when he was speaking all these things he was speaking, but at the same time he was one of the first people, not just in the SPC but in theSoviet Union. He has written a book about conversion. Really he was one of the first people in the Soviet Union and maybe in the world who has touched this particular problem.And he was one of the few in the official organizations of the Soviet Union (that is organizations that were contrary to the dissent movement) which was supporting the idea of human rights. Try to understand that.
You should understand that sometimes the time is not right to be too frank. We have a saying, “Don’t stick your head out while in the tram, because your head will be cut off by the tram going the other direction.”
Spencer: Could you have said the same thing five years ago? Privately, could you say, the time is not right, but I can see how, in the future, I will be able to say something.
Povolofsky: We never know what will be in five years. We can only guess. I was always expressing my ideas, but not when in an official capacity for Soviet Peace Committee. Privately I did say that the Afghanistan War was a mistake. In private I can say what I think. At that time, I have a wife, a son. I can jeopardize my own life but I have no right to put them into jeopardy. That’s why six years ago it wasn’t feasible for me to say this. Because we have got a very black past, you know quite well.
Spencer: Tell me why there was interest in the Western grass roots. Why were people taking notes when we were talking? Why people like myself?
Povolofsky: In your country, as in all civilized countries, public opinion plays a great role.
Spencer: No. I’ll tell you how I got started in this project. I was having dinner with David Cortwright, formerly the head of SANE/Freeze, the biggest peace organization. Now he’s at Notre Dame writing a book on the impact of the American peace movement on American policy. I said, that’s a hard one to show. It would be much easier for me to show that the Western peace movement had an influence on Soviet policy. It was evident to everyone who was there that we were being listened to. The Pentagon and the White House weren’t paying attention to us, so why were you?
Povolofsky: Maybe there was this illusion that Western public opinion has an impact. That’s why we were inviting, and we are inviting. I can’t agree with you that public opinion in the Western countries have no impact.
Spencer: Well, there was no immediate impact. The polls would show that the public didn’t want cruise missile testing, for example. But it made no difference. There would be cruise missile testing anyhow. Millions of people were on the streets in Germany, with water cannons squirting at them. Seventy percent of the Dutch citizens didn’t want cruise missiles deployed; they went ahead and deployed them. It is really hard for us to be convinced. I was a total, full-time peace activist at the time. It was hard to believe we had any influence at all.
Povolofsky: I can agree that there was no immediate impact. But a good gardener first prepares the soil and only then plants. We have a saying that drop by drop cuts the stone, drop by drop. In your country and, I hope soon, in our country as well, there are just mechanisms to put pressure on the decision-makers by opinion polls, by some other ways of expressions of public opinion. I also understand that the impact will not be immediate. But drop by drop.
Spencer: Nina’s making a face. You’re not agreeing?
Nina Solovyanenko: When we denied the experience of the Western countries in our policies. But our policies failed, so we tried to take quite a different way.
Spencer: The swing of the pendulum.
Solovyanenko: The reason is not in foreign affairs, but it is psychological. We can see it in many aspects of social life – in policy, in our attitudes toward our leaders, beginning with appreciation and ending in quite the opposite way.
Spencer: You made a face at what he said and then you said this. I don’t see that this is a reaction against what he said. Can you explain?
Solovyanenko: Maybe I was making a face toward my own thoughts. I think it is very complicated why we began to pay attention to the words of Westerners. Maybe it’s paying attention to the opposite world. For a long time we regarded the West as the opposite. There was the World and the anti-World.
Povolofsky: In our country we were always making a distinction between government and people. And you were representing people. That’s why our decision-makers were talking to you, because you were expressing the opinion of at least some groups. And there is also an important point. You are so accustomed to your ways of democracy that it seems to you that there was no impact on decision-making. In our country, before, I can’t say there was NO impact, but at least public opinion had a tiny impact. Because practically almost every time public opinion was ignored. Nowadays we see that people can put great pressure on decision-makers. That’s why it seems to me that you, just because this democratic system is to natural to you, that you have no impact. But even the electoral system in this country, and besides, people who are represting you in Parliament or Congress, they depend upon you, they depend upon public opinion if they wish to be again in Parliament or Congress. So they must harken to public opinion. They should take some of it, at least. If it is only just one action, they can ignore it. But they cannot ignore it when it is continuous. That’s why I say, drop by drop.
Spencer: You started to answer my question about why Andrei Melville said he is not optimistic. You said some of the same people are still running the Peace Committee. What is there that is hard to change? And do you, yourself, believe that it is too hard to change?
Povolofsky: Yeah, I believe that it is difficult to change. Those people who are defining the policy of the SPC belong to this old generation of peace movement activists. They prefer to be on the same line as the government. And when Andrei -it is difficult to speak for another person, but it is my own opinion. It is just one year ago that he came to the SPC and he was enthusiastic because he simply didn’t know all this or that. He was full of bright ideas because really he is very bright, enthusiastic, energetic. But when you are putting out one idea and it is ignored, and another idea, and again, then your enthusiasm decreases.
Spencer: That sounds like a general depiction of why bright people throughout your government, who have wonderful ideas, have difficulty getting things implemented.
Povolofsky: It is a general situation for our country. Hard-core decision-makers. People of the same generation, even. It doesn’t even have to be a generation gap. It’s only differences of way of thinking. Plenty of young people are just as hard-core as anyone else.
Spencer: I had the idea that probably young people were less likely to be hard-core.
Povolofsky: No. The older generation brings up the younger ones, and they pass their ideas to them. Some of this young generation sticks to these ideas. For example, you know this movement, Pamyat, why it is so awesome, so fearsome, is not only because of its fascist ideas, but because there are lots of youngsters among the members and followers.
Spencer: I did ask Mr. Filin for the records of those symposia and the names of people who participated.
Povolofsky: Yeah, I will remind him. You want also the memos?
Spencer: Well, I want everything, but you can’t give me everything.
Povolofsky: Well, I am afraid that there may no longer be memos. A lot of people have left the SPC.
Spencer: Well, anything you can give me. I can contact people and reconstitute some records by asking people who participated if I can get the lists.
Povolofsky: There is one proposal. This is my idea. It can be done also in such a way. Some of the people who have been active in the SPC have been writing a lot of articles, so it will be very interesting to compare what they have been writing those years and nowadays.
Spencer: Such books as? I get a lot of stuff through the mail, but I haven’t done anything systematic with them. For me, the interesting question is, what happened to change these ideas?
Povolofsky: What i am proposing is a different project, on double-talk. Not only about those people from the Soviet Union to follow the progress of changes of mind. Hypocritic attitude in some people, but in some people it’s real change. If you take Gorbachev, for example, his ideas have changed. It doesn’t mean he’s a hypocrite. It will be really very interesting to follow the change of mind.
Spencer: It would be. That’s your book, you should write it.