Evolution of the Brezhnev doctrine :a case study, Czechoslovakia, 1968



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The development of the Brezhnev Doctrine of limited sovereignty was inspired by historical experience, and tempered by a revolutionary ideology and a contemporary international power struggle. A natural evolution of attitudes toward the Eastern European states has occurred within the Russian mind over the centuries. The Soviets did not always have the capabilities to insure this Eastern European buffer zone, but historically maintained this as an objective of Russian foreign policy. Having attained this strategic frontier position, despite the economic evolution of the Satellite States, and the introduction of the idea of polycentrism, or separate roads to socialism, the Soviets are determined to maintain their hold over the area they deem essential to the survival of the Soviet Union. The preservation of this position in Eastern Europe, from the Soviet view, is essential for the future development of the Soviet foreign policy and attainment of its objectives. This buffer zone makes possible the Soviet approach to international disarmament and arms limitation agreements between the East and West. It further enhances and perhaps insures, a security of the Soviet European border while Soviet attention can be directed to the role of leader of the international communist movement in the world, and the security of the Sino-Soviet border. The Soviet leaders believe it is essential for Soviet hegemony to exist and to be perpetuated in the Eastern European states because it enhances the attempts of the Soviet Union to develop her position in what may be a tri-polar world power structure in the 1970’s and the 1980’s. Without the existence of at least a compatible, or as the Soviets term it, a friendly bloc of nations on her frontier, Soviet international attitudes would probably be manifestly more belligerent. This Soviet interpretation of their position in Eastern Europe is a logical historical development. The maintenance of this strategic frontier position by the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the neutralization of the threat of the western nations as the Soviets saw it, was to insure the cohesiveness of the buffer states which are the touchstone of the Soviet security sphere. Various motives entered into the decision to halt the liberal elements within Czechoslovakia. The historical and national interests probably carried the most weight in the Soviet analysis. The ideological motives were molded to suit the situation. Yet, the manifestations of internal dissent in the Soviet Union combined with economic stagnation, both of which were present in Czechoslovakia, may have given impetus to the decision to invade. There was also the desire to stabilize the states on the Soviet border in Europe so that Soviet attention could be turned to the Sino-border. The doctrine of limited sovereignty, or the Brezhnev Doctrine, was the policy statement which outlined the justifications for using military force to insure the continued existence of nations on the Russian border that were not hostile to the Soviet Union.



Brezhnev Doctrine, Limited sovereignty, international power struggle, Easterm Eurpean states, Russian veiw of Eastern Europe