SOVIET UNION: Whoa, Comrade Brezhnev

Since last spring, Leonid Brezhnev has unofficially ranked as the primus inter pares in Russia's collective leadership. But Brezhnev is handicapped by a bothersome pecking-order peculiarity of the Soviet system. As General Secretary of the Communist Party, he is the Soviet Union's most powerful official. On diplomatic protocol lists, however, he stands only No. 3. First is Nikolai Podgorny, who as chairman of the Presidium holds the position of head of state. Second is Aleksei Kosygin, who as Premier ranks as chief of government.

According to diplomatic custom, Brezhnev is not entitled to the top red-carpet treatment accorded to foreign...

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