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THE KREMLIN: Disorder & Destruction

3 minute read

All week long the Kremlin put on a spectacular display of diplomatic pinwheeling which included a little bit of everything: threats, retreats, explosions, entreaties and insults. Some of it was planned confusion. But for the first time in living memory, Western observers also detected signs of frantic disorder in the Kremlin. On two occasions, the terrible-tempered Nikita Khrushchev shouted such insults at Western diplomats that they turned on their heels and left (see below).

Only in the Middle East did the Russians’ bewildering profusion of moves seem astute and controlled. The Kremlin began the week counting out loud the number of Russian “volunteers” begging to set off for Egypt. At midweek, the counting abruptly ceased on receiving plain warning from President Eisenhower that the U.S. would oppose Russian intervention in the Middle East. Next day Premier Bulganin piously denied to France and Britain that Russia “follows in the Near East some sort of special aims directed against the interests of the Western powers.” Thus, without expending a single Russian soldier, Russia got credit among many Arabs for having made peace possible in the Middle East. (Among those not fooled was Egypt’s top leadership, which saw that the Russians did not intervene to prevent the Anglo-French attack, but only sought to exploit it.)

The Kremlin’s Middle East maneuvers had the advantage, and perhaps the design, of diverting attention from a far more important event: the gallant and tenacious resistance of Hungary’s patriots, the most important revolt in 39 years of Communist rule. The fact that the whole nation rebelled could not be concealed, veiled, or transformed by slanders, and the entire world could hear the echoes of the savage repression. Even party comrades were repelled. Other satellites stirred. It was necessary to create new diversions. With a flourish of phrases (“faithful to its policy of ensuring peace”) Radio Moscow announced that Russia was now “ready to examine” President Eisenhower’s “open sky” aerial inspection plan. deployment” between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces, which would allow the West to inspect satelliteland and a sliver of Russia, but permit Russian planes to fly over a disarmed Germany, most of France, and half of Britain.

After this fake little paean to peace, the Kremlin announced “a new nuclear explosion” had been “carried out at a great altitude.” If the world by now was left a little breathless and confused, the distractions were working well. But not all the confusion was planned. Before the week ended, it was clear that the Kremlin was suffering from divided counsels, hot tempers and international distress.

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