Q. You've always been a strong critic of the Soviets, yet just in the past month you have been given a standing ovation at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, you've been respectfully interviewed in Pravda and even given prime- time coverage on Soviet television. What has it been like for you personally?
A. Well, I wouldn't be human if I didn't confess to a certain amount of ego gratification. When I stood in front of the foreign policy establishment in the Soviet Union and was given a generally empathetic reception, I had a sense of, if you will, historical vindication. But I also had a sense of something much more important. There was a breakthrough taking place in the thinking of people who for 70 years were artificially divorced from the intellectual and philosophical currents of the Western world. They are now in the process of restoring some of those connections, of rejoining that process. They are much , more willing to be self-critical and to listen to criticism. They appreciate the degree to which the Soviet Union has fallen out of step with global development, and that has driven them in the direction of seeking far-reaching changes.
The last two years of this decade could be the Spring of Nations in Central Europe. I am deliberately drawing the analogy to 1848, which was called the Spring of Nations because Central European nations rose against authoritarianism.
Q. Given the violent aftermath of 1848, that's not a very happy precedent.
A. No, it isn't. But if things in Central Europe or the Soviet Union go wrong, which they could, I don't think we'll see a return to an assertive, confident, Stalinist renewal. Instead, we'll probably see a turn toward some highly nationalistic form of dictatorship, perhaps what I call a "Holy Alliance" between the Soviet Army and the Russian Orthodox Church, galvanized by a sense of desperate Great Russian nationalism. That would then produce even more intense reactions from non-Russians. It could be a very ugly picture.
Q. What's the worst case you can imagine?
A. I can imagine a Soviet intervention in East Germany, where the Soviets have a lot of troops on the ground and therefore on the spot. If the East German Communist regime were to collapse through violence and if the Soviets were to remain passive, then the whole thing would collapse, in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Soviets know that if they let go of East Germany, Poland is lost.
That's why it is so urgent for us, the West, collectively, to give this turbulence a chance to work itself out constructively in the direction of some form of pluralist democracy. So far, we have not responded in a manner that does justice to the magnitude of the opportunity, or, alas, to the magnitude of the threat inherent in these truly earthquake-like political phenomena.
Q. What should we be doing?