Soviet Union Riding a Dangerous Wave

Gorbachev keeps his balance, but the sea is getting rougher

The image is gripping: Mikhail Gorbachev as the daring surfer, nimbly sliding across a wave, vanishing into the spume, only to reappear, confidently using the giant comber looming over him to increase his speed. That is the Soviet President's way with crises. He seems to react to them faster than any of his rivals, skillfully turning them into vehicles to help accelerate his perestroika program and bolster his crusade against the immobile bureaucracy. Gorbachev's adroitness at converting danger into momentum is a high-risk performance that can make onlookers hold their breath as they wonder how long the daring rider can survive.

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