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Doc Type: 
Chernyaev, Anatoly
Full Title: 
Chernyaev Diary 3 Nov 1988 Politburo Meeting
Language Type: 
English from Russian

In this diary entry, Chernyaev records a "historic" conversation at the Politburo, after the formal agenda items.  This is the first time Gorbachev presents his decision to announce deep unilateral cuts in his UN speech to the full Politburo.  Chernyaev notes that Gorbachev is "clearly nervous," because he is aware of the radical nature of the steps he is going to undertake, and because of the presence of Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov in the room, who would have to approve the cuts.  The General Secretary makes an unprecedented push for cutting Soviet military expenses and publishing the numbers as a matter of building trust.  He tries to impress the Politburo with the unreasonably high Soviet military expenses and the need to withdraw from Eastern Europe.  Gorbachev has  to walk a fine line—making the conservatives feel that they are part of the decision making process, and yet leaving them out of decisions on actual scope of the cuts—therefore he never mentions the actual numbers.  Only at the end of his intervention does Gorbachev mention that the cuts will be unilateral—a huge break with the past Soviet position, which demanded reciprocal cuts in conventional weapons in Europe.  
Chernyaev predicts this is "an event that may well take the second place of importance after the April of 1985" – referring to the party plenum when the policy of perestroika was formally announced.

From National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book 261