Top Soviet officials, including the military chief of staff, said Saturday that serious mistakes were made in foreign policy under the late Kremlin chief Leonid I. Brezhnev.
The officials told reporters the Soviet Union allowed itself to be provoked by the West, didn't consider political options before resorting to force in conflicts and mishandled public relations."We were too carried away by polemics, scoring points, polemic points, propaganda points. Indeed, the propaganda proponent very often was in the way of real work," said Yuli M. Vorontsov, who was a top official in the Foreign Ministry and ambassador to India and France under Brezhnev. He became First Deputy Foreign Minister in 1986.
The unusual self-criticism came at a news conference to discuss foreign policy issues on the agenda for Tuesday's 19th All-Union Party Conference, a meeting of 5,000 Communist Party members who will review Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's programs.
A British reporter asked what foreign policy mistakes the Soviet Union made during what Soviet officials refer to as "the period of stagnation" - the latter years of Brezhnev's 1964-1982 rule.
During that period, the Soviet Union sent troops into Czechoslovakia to quash reforms, responded to NATO's deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe by deploying its own missiles, and sent troops into Afghanistan.
"In the 70s and the early 80s, we used to be too forthright in our reaction to the arms race pursued by the West," said Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, who held top military posts under Brezhnev and was made chief of staff and deputy defense minister in 1984.
But he said the West should share the blame for the arms race.
"It was the Reagan administration that started that in the early 80s. I think we had to show more initiative in finding political solutions, political ways of reacting to the dizzying growth of the military budget in the United States," Akhromeyev told reporters.