Russian, not Soviet

Category:  Historical reprints
Source:  The Register-Guard, Wednesday, November 16, 1984 (Eugene, Oregon)

Russian, not Soviet

By Don Bishoff

JOSEPH IOFFE IS, literally, a wild-eyed zealot on the subject of the government of his former homeland — and makes no bones about it.

“You can say that I am a Russian and that I speak English with a very Russian accent,” he said in a very Russian accent.  “But I speak English without any Soviet accent.  My job in America is to give hell to those Americans who speak perfect English with a heavy Soviet accent.”

He includes Walter Mondale in that metaphorical lot.

“In America, I live in Minnesota, and the first thing I should do is bring an apology to you — an apology that Minnesota was the only state carried by Mondale …,” he said.  And liberals, he said, are leading “the terrible way of American downfall, of American disaster.”

Ioffe was in Eugene this week for a speech co-sponsored by the Defense Education Committee, a Lane County pro-defense group, and the Willamette World Affairs Council.  He is a 57-year-old former professor of economics and political science at the University of Crimea who came to this country in 1978.

He is part of what seems to be a U.S. cottage industry:  disillusioned ex-Soviets who earn their living here by making apocalyptic, liberal-scourging, speeches about U.S.-Soviet relations.  Last month, the local John Birch Society heard a similar talk from Tomas Schuman, a Soviet emigre who used to be a KGB employee.

I think these folks have some legitimate things to say — about having no illusions over the nature of the Soviet leadership, for example.  But their message tends to get obscured by the medium — them.

Schuman’s talk was a sarcasm-laden tirade that veered off into attacks on everything from Dr. Spock to Social Security as he predicted a subversion of the United States from within.  Ioffe looked and sounded like an old-time evangelist as he put on an arm-waving, eye-rolling half-hour performance for reporters, warning of the danger from without.

WHAT THE TWO HAVE IN COMMON is a view of the Soviet Union as an empire even more evil than Ronald Reagan believes.  A view that U.S. policy toward the Soviet regime should be absolutely unyielding and rocket-waving, involving not just nuclear parity but nuclear superiority.  A view that almost any U.S.-Soviet relationship likely is to be hazardous to our health.

Here’s Ioffe, for example, on negotiations with the Soviets:

“President Reagan was reproached many times by Mondale and Ferraro (who said), “Look, Reagan for four years did not meet anyone from the Soviet Union.”  It was a crime in the eyes of the liberals.  Carter met many times.  Carter kissed Brezhnev.  He was the only president to kiss the Soviet leaders.  So what?  Any better?  No.  It’s a waste of time. …

“I say don’t talk to the Soviets.  It’s absolutely useless.  The Soviet mentality is plain:  If you are strong, you are safe; if you are weak, you are lost.  That’s all.  Don’t waste time for talking.”

Or on U.S. liberals’ attempts to end the arms race:

“The bitter truth is you will have the arms race, you will have nuclear weapons as long as the Soviet Union exists.  And no peace movement, no freeze movement, no crazy marches in the street will change it.  When Russia is free, you will have peace and security forever.”

And how is Russia to become free?

“By revolution,” he said.  “A people’s revolution, supported by the army. … There are many patriotic generals who are nationalistic Russians who are very unhappy with the regime.  But they can’t do anything as long as the liberals in America and other countries are in power and the Soviets are advancing.”

There’s a certain amount of non sequitur there:  The conservatives — not the liberals — have been in power in America for four years, and yet the Reagan administration claims the Soviets still are advancing in such places as Nicaragua.  Meanwhile, there have been no signs of revolution in the Soviet Union.

HOW CAN THIS COUNTRY encourage the revolution?

“You will stop the Soviet aggression by being strong.  And if you stop the Soviet aggression, you will discourage the Soviet government and encourage the Russian people to resist.  So you don’t have to send soldiers, give money, conduct covert operations.  You can save your freedom by being strong.”

Interestingly, a somewhat similar view — in more academic terms — is advanced by Richard Pipes, who was a National Security Council official early in the Rea­gan administration and who now is a Harvard professor, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs quarterly.

Pipes doesn’t predict another Russian Revolution, but he argues for “staunch resistance to Soviet expansion and military blackmail; such resistance will have the effect of foreclosing for the (Soviet leadership) the opportunity of compensating for internal failures with triumphs abroad.”  And by denying economic aid to the Soviets, he says, the West can encourage pressures inside the Soviet Union, forcing the leadership to liberalize internally and to be more peaceful internationally.

There’s some plausibility to that theory — Pipes cites the changes in China as evidence that it works.  But the counter-argument is that Western pressures and belliger­ence toward the Soviet leadership tend only to produce counter-belligerence — and enable the leadership to use a real or imagined threat from the West to divert its populace’s attention from internal troubles.

There’s also the problem of the additional threat of nuclear war from further-strained East-West relations.  But, In Eugene, Ioffe said not to worry about nuclear war.

Why not?  “Because It’s not an American intention and not a Soviet intention — because the Soviet intention is to take over America without nuclear war. …”

“As for accidental nuclear war, the probability is no more than (that of) the Earth being hit by a space rock.”

– 30 –


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