Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev cut an expensive deal with the KGB to win the secret police agency’s support in heading off a serious challenge to his political reform plans, a private Kremlinologist says in a study released Thursday in Santa Monica.
The September, 1988, bargain placed KGB chief Viktor M. Chebrikov--believed to be uneasy with the pace of reform in the country--in a position to influence constitutional revisions and possibly to become a candidate for supreme power himself, researcher Jeremy Azrael said.
“Gorbachev is in an uphill battle,” Azrael wrote in a summary of the study. “He won a very narrow victory based on cutting a deal with the head of the KGB, who is on record as being dubious about his policies. Chebrikov is not only the chief contender should Gorbachev go belly-up, but someone who is evidently willing to give him a shove in that direction.”
The analysis by Azrael, a former State Department planner and adviser on Soviet affairs, comes in a $137,000 study by the RAND Corp. for the government-funded National Council for Soviet and East European Research and the Center for the Study of Soviet International Behavior, a joint operation of RAND and UCLA.
Gorbachev may have headed off a bloodless coup through the intercession of the KGB at a September, 1988, plenum of the party’s Central Committee, Azrael writes. However, the researcher suggests that a humiliating defeat of his political reforms, rather than his ouster, was the more likely intent of a group of Gorbachev adversaries that included his chief rival, Yegor K. Ligachev.