BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dusko Doder, co author of the new book, "Gorbachev: Heretic In The Kremlin." What would we see if we were able to see Mr. Gorbachev behind the scenes that we don't see on television?
DUSKO DODER, AUTHOR, "GORBACHEV: HERETIC IN THE KREMLIN": Well, like with any actor, you would see the real man. Behind the facade, the man right now is quite troubled. He's a different man from the guy five years ago when he took power, who has grown quite a bit in office, but who has also faced limitations of his power, and I think must be a frustrating experience.
LAMB: How close have you been to him?
DODER: I've asked questions of Gorbachev only in formal settings. He is a very private man. I had the good fortune to meet with a lot of people closest to him for a long period of time and talk. And, of course, there's an element of hagiography in this, because they always say good things about the boss. But, still, you can get some insights from them, what makes this guy tick, and the basic impulse on our part in doing this book was to sort of understand who this guy is. You know, where did he come from? You know, out of nowhere practically. I've been in this business for a long time, and even while I was in Moscow, for instance, in 1981 and beginning of '82, I never really considered Gorbachev to be a serious pretender, so to speak, because, for instance, one of the leading Kremlinologists just published a book in 1980 in which Gorbachev's name appears once. So the guy really came out of nowhere and dazzled the world. I mean, he's a great adventurer. I mean, he has taken his country and the world on an adventure, and we wanted to figure out who this guy is, what makes him tick.
LAMB: When were you last stationed in the Soviet Union?
DODER: I was stationed there from '80. Well, the last time was for a long period, from '81 to '85, but the last time was this year in February, and I've been in Moscow every year at least twice since '85.
LAMB: And when you were there for the long period of time, you were with The Washington Post.
DODER: Washington Post, yes.
LAMB: Then you were back with US News?
DODER: I went for US News to Moscow at least five times, I think, and once I went on my own just to do the research.
LAMB: You recently left US News. What are you doing?
DODER: Well, I'm going to try to make a living freelancing and doing books.
LAMB: Freelancing about what?
DODER: We'll move to Eastern Europe, where things are really happening in Eastern Europe, interesting things. And I would like to, you know, continue working there and also do some books.
LAMB: You're originally from Yugoslavia.
LAMB: Where were you born in Yugoslavia and when did you leave?
DODER: I was born in a town called Sarajevo, but my family comes from Montenegro, which is sort of the mountainous part of the country in the south. And I left first Yugoslavia when I was 12 years old, 13.
LAMB: What was the purpose of leaving?
DODER: My grandfather came to this country at the turn of the century when there was no Yugoslavia, and some of my relatives came before World War I. For us, Woodrow Wilson was always a great hero. After World War II, the situation in Yugoslavia was rather bad. It's a poor country. And I had relatives here, and I wanted to go to school here, and I went through school here.
LAMB: Maybe this is not a fair question, but why would somebody buy this book compared to all the other books on Gorbachev? What have you done special here?
DODER: I don't know what other books on Gorbachev there are, because I'm not familiar with them. But what is special is that my co author and I, between us, have spent 15 years together in the Soviet Union. We have studied the country. I speak the language. And I've spent a lot of time actually doing work and trying to figure out what makes this guy tick. I think that the book has more information -- as I said, I don't know of any other biography about Gorbachev that exists today. And we have some interesting things about Gorbachev. We found out some interesting things that give you an insight into his character.
LAMB: Name one.
DODER: I think, for instance, one of the interesting things would be that his grandfather served nine years in gulag. You know, he comes from an area of Stavropol, which was an area where peasantry was free. Most Russians -- 95 percent of the Russians were serfs until Alexander II abolished serfdom in 1862. But there were Russian peasants who lived along the edges of the empire and were given freedom in order to render service to the empire and defend the borders and so forth. And these are quite different kinds of people. The serfs have a serf mentality. I mean, the people who were free have a different mentality. Gorbachev comes from a stock of free peasants, and I think you can see in his behavior that he behaves differently from other Soviet leaders. He's free, in a way. In 1931 there was a famine because the whole country was being forcibly collectivized, and the peasantry resented that. And particularly this Farm Belt where he comes from in the Ukraine, and millions of people were sent into gulags or shot or whatever on various pretexts. I'm not sure exactly what the charge against Andrei Gorbachev was, but I've heard a couple of versions, and one was that he stashed away some food because the government was requisitioning food by force. Just -- "You have to give away all your wheat."
And, of course, peasants wanted to have some wheat for their families, and they burned meat. They slaughtered the animals and so forth just in defiance. He could have been denounced by somebody because it was common in those days. But I think it's important information of Gorbachev. I find that it as a central aspect of his character that early on, from his own family background, from stories that he heard from his grandmother and parents, he knew of the injustices of the system, that his grandfather was sent for nine years to Siberia for nothing. I think that he probably submerged this -- sublimated, as we say now, and I think that as an ambitious man, and he was an ambitious man from early on. He joined the party because this was the only venue to success. And it's strange in Russia, you know, in an odd sort of way, communism has broadened the base for political participation. You know, because in czarist Russia, it was a class society where political participation was restricted to people of privileged class while the Communist society opened up the base. You could join the party and move up provided that you obey, that you were like a soldier. You were a soldier of the party. And I think he became a soldier of the party and a good soldier. He did what he was supposed to do.
LAMB: How many brothers and sisters does he have?
DODER: He had two brothers. One was killed at the battle of Kursk. And the other one is, I think, is about 12 years younger. And he became the apple in his mother's eye, and I think it's interesting that the younger brother, who is now an officer in the Soviet army, has not been a successful man. I mean, his parents pampered him, and I wonder whether Mikhail Gorbachev resented the fact or not. I mean, I don't know. It's hard to tell. But the younger brother is a lieutenant colonel. I'm told that he doesn't see him often, and when he sees him, it's in a formal setting.
LAMB: What about President Gorbachev's father?
DODER: His father was not a Communist. See, although they tried to create a myth that he was in -- because in the official biography, issued after Gorbachev took charge, it says he supported the Communist Party, which implies that he was not against the Communists and so forth. And he was a mechanic with it -- you know, farmer mechanic with tractors and so forth. His mother was a religious person, and then he was baptized. I think that also had an impact on Gorbachev, at least later on, because he understood the diversity of views. You know, Stalin was seminarian. I mean, he was trained to become a priest, but he turned against the religion, in a sort of a vitriol -- in a violent way, while Gorbachev has not done that, and during his tenure in office actually, the church became respectable and one of the mainstays of his political support. And, you know, in China, where I live now, we get Soviet television, just like here -- just turn it on. And it's staggering to see how, you know, the change in programming. After the main newscast in the evening, for instance, a priest would come for 20 minutes delivering a sermon on charity. You know, having lived there before and been exposed to this for a long time -- I was correspondent there for the first time from '68 to '71, entirely different times. I mean, the changes are staggering, and I think, again, I happen to believe that individuals do play an important role in history, and this is why it was interesting for me to kind of try to understand who this guy is and who he comes from.
LAMB: You live now in Beijing?
LAMB: And you watch Soviet television?
LAMB: Why do they put Soviet television into Beijing?
DODER: They don't put it on. You just get it as a $20 attachment to the antenna, and the border is closed, you know, and it's flat, so you can pick up Soviet television just like any other channel.
LAMB: This is really off mark, but I read here a couple weeks ago that Robert Schuller is now seen in the Soviet Union -- his religious service out of California. Have you seen that?
DODER: I haven't seen that, but all sorts of things are possible now. I mean, the Soviet television has become like CBS "60 Minutes." I mean, they go out -- it's a really amazing change. And...
LAMB: Do you speak Russian?
DODER: Oh, yes.
LAMB: So you can understand everything that comes across that television.
DODER: I'm fluent in Russian. I don't speak it, I'm fluent.
LAMB: What are the things you see on Russian television that amaze you?
DODER: Well, you know, once you lift the restrictions, I mean, it's sort of a normal investigative program, because for such a long time, people have been fed the -- you know, propaganda, where people don't talk normally. I mean, and now they talk normally and tell you what they think -- maybe not all, but half of them do. I mean, even when you go and do reporting in Moscow now, you stop someone in the street and, you know, it's a 50 50 chance that he'll tell you exactly what he thinks. So in that sense, I think Gorbachev has been a liberating force. I mean, this glasnost is not exactly freedom of the press, because the Soviet Union is not a legal society -- in other words, it lacks this kind of legal constitutional infrastructure, which you cannot develop in five years. I don't think it's possible. And if you look in terms of American educational system, you see -- well, if people are here educated -- my son is educated from first grade, you know, in certain processes and so forth how -- Soviets don't have it. So I think they're trying to develop it, but coming back again to the press, he has opened up the press. I mean, they've stopped lying in a blatant way.
LAMB: Go back to the early years. He grew up in Stavropol. How long did he stay there?
DODER: Well, he stayed there till he was 19, and, you know, he was an actor -- he was very active in the drama group and he played leading roles in the school theater. And by all accounts, he was a good actor, and he considered going to drama school in Moscow. But he was an ambitious man and, you know, from his girlfriend -- the first girlfriend, you could see that this man was hell bent to succeed because his first girlfriend was the same age, and she was the daughter of a local teacher, but she was one grade up in school, and she first went to Moscow to study and she found the pressure there too much, and she returned. And she said later that she always felt that Gorbachev held it against her, that she was not steely enough to endure. And, of course, Raisa is quite the different type of girlfriend -- I mean, woman afterwards, because she's really tough and determined and knows what she wants. But his classmates at Moscow also said that was a man who studied hard and really got good grades and so forth, but he wanted to become a public -- you know, he wanted a career in politics.
LAMB: Did you go to Stavropol in your research time...
LAMB: ... talk to people that knew him when he was younger?
DODER: See, when I went to Stavropol, actually, they didn't let people talk. I mean, I did talk to some people who knew him there and so forth, but at that point they did not really want to talk that much. And even today, for instance, we don't know some of the basic things about his life because, of course, you know, all people say nice things now. It's very hard to kind of figure out exactly what -- he lived in a three room mud hut. Now there's a home, which is sort of a decent house, where his mother lives. I think that Gorbachev has been attached to his family -- he used to go every year to his village on his birthday, and I believe that the style of Russian government is such that once you reach the throne, you become the czar. It's improper to talk about the past. I mean, it's entirely different from American political system, so we want to know everything about the political leader. Well, Lyndon Johnson will show the scar to Princess Margaret as she comes up. There, the formal setting is very important because of the political and historical traditions.
LAMB: How far is Stavropol from Moscow?
DODER: Stavropol is about 1,200 miles from Moscow, and it's a wonderful place because it's full of mountains and lakes and wild rivers. It has captured the imagination of the Russians, you know, from 19th century on -- Tolstoy, Lermontov, Pushkin -- all went down there. You have wonderful stories and novels about this place, where you have wild Muslim tribes and, you know, veiled women and passion and subtropical climate. It's exotic for the Russians. And it was a great fortune for Gorbachev actually to be the leader of Stavropol. In Stavropol there are more sheep than people. It's a, you know, sheep grazing area. But it's so beautiful that most of the Russian leaders like to vacation there. And once he became the leader of Stavropol, the local governor, so to speak, it was his duty to meet all these dignitaries and play host. And, as you know, even in our business, you know, if I'm a correspondent somewhere, you know, if my owner or editor in chief comes, you know, I'm his host in a country. I can gain more access that way than any -- I cannot see these people in Washington, but they're on your turf there, see, so you can actually establish rapport.
And Gorbachev established rapport with these people, and he was skillful enough and he's a charming guy. He knows how to turn on charm. And they liked him, and the patronage of Andropov was especially important for him because he liked him, he saw a man of, you know, imagination, willingness to work, and uncorrupt and promoted him.
LAMB: Before we get to Mr. Andropov, he left Stavropol when he was 19. Where did he go?
DODER: He went to Moscow. He studied in Moscow for five years, and Moscow was a place at that time -- in the last years of Stalin -- I think that this is the peak of Stalin's cultive personality. He had a status of a semi god, so to speak. Gorbachev became immediately active in Communist Party youth organization, and he joined the party when he was 21. There is no -- I have not heard of any tales of Gorbachev being a nasty person or denouncing people or stuff like that. It seems to me that he was fairly straight -- Nanaj, the former Czech Communist who lived in the same dormitory with him and would become his friend.
DODER: In Moscow. At the university -- describes him as a decent man, fundamentally anti Stalinist -- not in terms of being against Stalin, but anti Stalinist in terms of not against this totalitarianist way of mind, I mean, he was not a man who would do just anything to get himself -- to claw his way up the ladder.
LAMB: So five years studying in Moscow. Then what?
DODER: He studied -- he got an award for neatness in Moscow University, which also tells you something about his character, that here's a guy from Stavropol, from a village. And he has made it to the capital, and he gets an award -- it's a big university. I believe at that time probably 40,000 or 50,000 students. And he gets an award for neatness. His room is the neatest, along with a couple of other guys. I mean, that's the first public mention of Gorbachev in the press. Before that, he had received the Kalinin Prize in Stavropol, which was the number two. The highest one was Stalin, and Kalinin was the president at that time -- figurehead president, but that was the number two slot. So there's a neatness, and he's got an organized intellect in a way. And if there's a flaw in his intellect, you could have -- you could see it even at that time, because he actually was very sure and cocky of himself. His girlfriend, for instance, mentions that even in high school, there was a teacher that didn't teach properly somehow and that Gorbachev actually got so angry to tell the teacher that he's got to mend his way; otherwise, he can lose his certificate.
But he felt that he was on sure ground to say that. There's something of a Boy Scout about him, you know, there's an element of self righteousness, also. He wants to do the right thing. He wants to be correct. Thre was always in his character that. And at Moscow, you know, he worked with well, and there he met the guy who's now his vice president, Lukyanov, was in law school, too. The choice of law school was interesting. Why would a guy from Stavropol go to law school? In those days law had no meaning in Stalin's Russia. Law was what Stalin said law was. And even then, it was violated. You know, they took people in the middle of the night they pick up a guy and without any due process, you're sent to jail. I remember there was a famous -- now dead -- writer, Nicolai Eckman who told me -- when they picked him up during Stalin -- he didn't even ask what he was signing. The NKVD is the KGB of the time, came, said, "You sign here. Sign." Take him out, send him to Tashkent in exile. So why did he choose law? I have no idea. He said he wanted to go to drama and considered several other alternatives. He chose law, perhaps because Lenin was a lawyer. He studied law. And perhaps he thought this was a way to get broader political education, which was right. I don't believe that at that time he was preoccupied with legalistic from, you know -- he didn't think in terms of having Soviet Union becoming a legal, you know, society run by laws and not by man.
LAMB: By the way, did you interview his girlfriend?
LAMB: You keep referring to her. I wondered where you learned what she had to say about him?
DODER: David Remnick of The Washington Post interviewed her, and used his material for that particular girlfriend. And I give him credit in the book. Why he went to law school, I'm not sure, but at any rate, it was a good thing because the law school was the only place in Moscow University where he would be exposed to books and authors other than Marxist Leninist nonsense. Because he had to learn Latin. He had to read Roman law. He had to read different -- he had to be aware of different kinds of law, he had to read Machiavelli, Mills, Hobbes, so forth. And why did he decide then to go from Moscow to Stavropol when he could have a promising career in Moscow in the bureaucracy is also interesting.
LAMB: He went back home, in other words.
DODER: He went back home.
LAMB: At what age?
DODER: After he finished. He was 23.
LAMB: What was his first job when he went back?
DODER: He went into the Communist Party youth organization.
LAMB: And how long did it take him to be noticed by former secretary of the party Andropov?
DODER: A long time. Long time because he had to work his way up. So what's interesting about him and Raisa is that they went to...
LAMB: When did they marry?
DODER: They married in the last year of studies in Moscow. That's in 1954. In 1955 they went to Stavropol. And while there in Stavropol, see, he decided he wanted to go to agricultural college and attended agricultural school at night and got a degree after three years. And she did her PhD dissertation, and I've looked at her dissertation, actually, because it's available at the Lenin Library in Moscow. And it's a sociological study, above average, I would say, even for an American college, where she devised her own questionnaire and went around these collective farms to figure out what -- you know, about traditions, how they break down and so forth. It shows intellectual ambition on the part of both her and him.
LAMB: When did they have children, and how many did they have?
DODER: They have one daughter, and she's now married, and they have two grandchildren. Her husband is a doctor. She's a doctor. Her husband is Jewish, so they don't publicize the name because in Russia, that's not an asset, I guess. But I think Gorbachev and Raisa showed an intellectual sort of curiosity of mind that was amazing. And then for some reason, they also traveled when they were in Stavropol, which I think also explains something about Gorbachev today, because in the '60s, when he was a minor official, they went on a trip to France, and on another occasion they went on a trip to Italy. And not as parts of official delegations, but as guests of local Communists, which means the simple people there and so forth. So they could see real life in the West.
And I think that Gorbachev saw and could compare France and Italy with the Soviet Union. And I think those trips have made an impact on his mind. The previous Soviet leaders never traveled anywhere. Andropov has never left -- I mean, Andropov was in Hungary as ambassador, this was part of the empire. I mean, Brezhnev never left until he became the leader never left the confines of his country. Neither Chernenko. So this guy has, you know, been around, has seen things, intellectually curious. His wife is quite curious and intelligent, interested in books, which is not an asset when you deal with foreign politicians because, you know, she gets involved sometimes in fairly sophisticated -- and she asked Margaret Thatcher, you know, somehow they start talking, and she was interested in the structure in, I think, C.P. Snow's novels or Iris Murdoch. I've forgotten which one now. But she was interested in a topic that Margaret Thatcher was not interested and -- and never thought of, I think. She's a politician dealing with different kinds of issues.
Most Soviet officials enjoy liquor. Provincial life is boring. A governor enjoys vast powers in the Soviet Union, the provinces, he's like a viceroy. And these two did not succumb to temptation in becoming either drunkards or something, but they went to school. It tells you something about them. There's another side, a flip side to this, and that is that there's this burning ambition on the part of people who are really still provincials and who have to prove themselves. And I've heard comments from people who've gone to school with him who say that they always had the feeling that Gorbachev was like a provincial actor who came to Moscow and who was on the stage and who was very good, but he always had to do a little extra to prove himself, to show that he is worthy. Maybe that's the force , that's his drive -- I don't know.
LAMB: When did he leave Stavropol and go back to Moscow?
DODER: He was in Stavropol for 23 years, and in 1978, in November of '78, he was called to Moscow. There's an interesting -- you know, the way the patronage in politics works, I guess, in every country, but that summer Andropov was pushing him to come to Moscow and, but you have to get approval of Brezhnev, who was then the party leader. And there's a meeting -- in fact, this is one of those things if you do research, you come across strange things. The railroad station in -- I've forgotten the name of the place down south in Stavropol -- Mineralnye Vody, yeah, which is in Stavropol -- at the railroad station. He had a meeting between Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov and Gorbachev. And this was, I believe, in July of 1978, the four future leaders, because Chernenko and Brezhnev were on the train to someplace, and they stopped off, and Andropov and Gorbachev joined them, because Andropov wanted to introduce his protege to them and get their approval. And then, later that year, by November, Gorbachev was appointed secretary of the central committee in charge of agriculture.
LAMB: Step back, though, and tell us when the Andropov Gorbachev connection was made.
DODER: The connection was made sometimes after 1970 when Gorbachev became first secretary of the Stavropol region, which means local governor. And Andropov, who had kidney problems and always used to go to Mineralnye Vody, which means "mineral waters," you know; it's a spa down there which is very pretty -- and this guy would meet him. Andropov was the chairman of the KGB. I think I've studied Mr. Andropov's side and know a little bit about how he also operated. I think he checked this guy out very well because he wouldn't have put his trust in him if there was something shady in his background. Because Andropov, in a sense, was also a puritan, and he wanted to get people who were not corrupt around him.
And I think that Mr. Gorbachev has also realized at that point that here is one of the most powerful people in the country who took a liking to him, that he had to exploit it also. There was his connection. And I believe he must have done -- you know, he must have talked to Andropov, and they established this intellectual rapport, which I think was essential to Gorbachev's rise to power and which helped him once he was in power because he inherited the support of the Andropov constituency. At least part of the KGB remains with Gorbachev. The intellectuals who were unhappy, the people who wanted change -- I mean, that constituency that formed around Andropov -- Gorbachev inherited that.
LAMB: What was Mr. Andropov all about?
DODER: He's an enigmatic figure, I think. You know, it's very difficult to talk about a man who was head of a a nasty organization for 15 years. And I know people who are very close to him who said that the one thing that they felt bad about was that he stayed with KGB for such a long time. On the other hand, you can judge -- you know, we don't -- Mr. Bush was with CIA for a year, but I don't think it's quite the equivalent. And also, one year is nothing. I mean, you know, I believe in political leadership of such organizations that involve nasty businesses. But 15 years is a long time. You begin to think like people you work with, and you develop, I guess, an instinct for, you know, back door maneuver. On the other hand, KGB was an organization that had a detailed picture of the disastrous situation in the Soviet Union and the need for change. And I think that judging, then, Andropov as the political leader, once he becomes secretary and president of the Soviet Union, you have to judge them not in terms of, you know, whether he was this or that and whatever, but what kind of a concept of the country he had and its place in the world, what should be done and so forth. And in that context, Andropov is the man who started the reforms of the Soviet Union because he was the first one who told them the truth, that they didn't know what they were doing, that things have to change, that this is not the Russian way of doing things.
LAMB: How long was he head of the country?
DODER: A very short time. About a year and a half -- less than a year and a half. And during that period, he promoted Gorbachev to the number two slot, because half of the time he was sick, and so Gorbachev became heir apparent by virtue of his connection to the top leader, but without, really, the clout and prestige of the top counsels of the country. And that's why the old guard was able to make this last stand and elect Chernenko, who was sort of a nice old man, but without a single idea in his head -- I mean, new idea or something. Cometent bureaucrat, but not imaginative at all. And it was Gorbachev's fortune that Chernenko didn't live more than a year so that, again, the country faced this -- you know, this succession of people dying. I mean, it's traumatic for a big country. He took over Andropov's constituency and Andropov's program, but then he pushed it with far greater vigor than anybody suspected, and I think that, had any of the Soviet leaders at the time who voted for Gorbachev anticipated what this man was going to do, they would have never put him in that job because, you know, he has practically destroyed communism.
LAMB: Do you think he's consciously doing what he's doing with a purpose?
DODER: I think that he came as a man who wanted to change and give a human face to socialism. I think that he still believes that he's doing the right thing, and I think that when he says he's a Communist, he still believes he's a Communist. But it's a different kind of communism. I mean, he believes -- I think the peak of his career is February of this year, he had the central committee of the Communist Party formally vote to abandon its, you know, monopolistic grip on power. I mean, you have an emergence of pluralism, and it's a tragedy of the -- you know, doing a biography of Gorbachev is like writing a novel of a man who starts out with high minded purpose and who encounters a series of calamities -- manmade or natural -- you know, take Chernobyl. It's such an enormous economic cost. You want to revive a moribund economy, and then comes Chernobyl, then comes Armenian disaster, and the earthquake. Then, you know, he lets loose -- he makes Lithuanian independence possible.
See, the very people who benefit the most from Gorbachev will destroy him. It's inevitable. I mean, he's almost like a doomed figure because he cannot -- you know, the very forces he unleashed, now he cannot stop anymore. He wants to create a new kind of federalism. I mean, I think it's an important subject to discuss. It's so hard to -- you know, the federalism of Soviet Union is -- as we have known it for the last 70 years is a fraudulent federalism. It's based on coercion. You know, you grab a piece of real estate, put your people, then you say we have federal -- you know, this is a republic. And I believe that he had realized that, but I think he had realized it only after he had come to power. I think that he has realized so many things under pressure of events, because obviously he is now reacting to events. He's no longer leading them. He's trying to channel them in the direction. His greatest successes were in foreign policy, because this is an area where you can use imagination, and a few people can come and sit down and make decisions, see. But when you come to the economy and the question of nationalities, you know, these intractable problems, what do you do?
LAMB: Does he have any personal friends?
DODER: I think his closest friend is Raisa. I mean, that also tells you something about Kremlin politics. It's like being in a snake pit because all these guys around you, you have to constantly watch all sides. And I've watched them work because, you know, in politics you can buy brains; you can't buy trust. And, see, Raisa is the person who watches other people, because you know, I'm talking to you and I have to talk and react, but I cannot see the reactions, see? She's the one who sees reactions, and he consults with her. And, it's a very touchy issue in the Soviet Union. When Tom Brokaw had an interview with him and the only question that was not broadcast on Soviet television was when he asked him about Raisa and whether he consulted with her on matters of state, and he said yes. But that was eliminated from the interview.
LAMB: Who are his closest advisers?
DODER: His closest friend and adviser is Yakovlev. And it's interesting -- here, it's interesting how Yakovlev's experience in Canada and in the United States made an enormous impact on his mind, because Yakovlev was the first Soviet exchange student who came to Columbia in 1959 -- spent the year at Columbia. And I think that our people have always sort of misjudged Yakovlev. He was always previously labeled as being anti American, but, you know, if you're in Soviet politics and if you have enemies and you have studied at Columbia for a year, it's always easy to accuse you of being pro American. So Yakovlev has always publicly taken a position that was critical of the United States, to, I guess, to protect himself, because his cast of mind is not that way. But then he was exiled to Canada as ambassador for 10 years, and I spent three hours with Yakovlev one day talking to him, because I covered Canada for a year for The Washington Post just at the time when he was ambassador there.
And so we were talking about Canada. He remembered the names of Trudeau's so, I mean, he knew everybody. And then he was telling me how much he liked Trudeau. He said they would spend time, you know, never talking politics but discussing Pushkin and Dostoyevski, philosophy. And I think that -- and, again, you know, the incidents and personalities, how they play these things -- the first trip that Gorbachev made was to Canada; first trip when he was the number two man. That was while Andropov was still alive. He made a trip to Canada and Yakovlev was ambassador to Canada. And he had six days in Canada -- seven days, and Yakovlev was his escort. And they talked about things. He saw Canada, and Canada, for the Russians, is sort of an -- see, they always see themselves as competitors to the United States, so it's very hard for them to kind of see United States except in this adversarial position.
But Canada was different. Big country, also, but different. And they went to these farms, and here's Gorbachev, an agricultural expert, and he sees what the Canadians do, and he's fascinated. It's unbelievable, because the Russians cannot feed themselves. Why? Just one fact I can tell you, from 1970 to 1980 -- 10 year period -- the import of agricultural goods is increased tenfold. In 1970, it's $800 million of imports. In 1980 it's $7.2 billion. I mean, it's enormous in -- why? And Gorbachev goes to Canada and sees how this works and, you know, Canadians have fantastic agriculture. And when you come to the United States, the Americans have a tendency to proselytize. The Canadians are not that way. They show them, "Here, see." And he was fascinated. And he was fascinated by Yakovlev, because Yakovlev is an intelligent guy, and to them it looked like -- you know, they know the domestic troubles and all that, and they know that they're in deep trouble. And they have to look for a way out, and obviously they have to go to the market. There's no other way. But if you're a political leader, how do you move from central planning -- you know, this has been inculcated in people's minds: To market means chaos, means that what they have been denouncing for years all of a sudden becomes official policy.
LAMB: Is your book going to be published in the Soviet Union?
DODER: I wish it would be. But, see, "Shadows and Whispers," my previous book, was not published there. It was published in China, by the way.
LAMB: Is there any book like yours that's published in the Soviet Union?
DODER: I don't think so.
LAMB: You have a co author, Louise Branson. Who is she?
DODER: She worked for the Sunday Times of London. And she has spent six years in the Soviet Union. She's a Russian specialist. She taught for a year at the Institute of Steel in Moscow and then worked for five years as a correspondent.
LAMB: How did you divide up your responsibilities?
DODER: Well, it was an interesting -- I mean, I would never go through it again, but it was an interesting collaboration, because I'm to the left of the political spectrum, and she is to the right of Atilla the Hun. And so we had to argue some things when it came to, you know, assessments of situations. But I think, on the whole, it's beneficial to have different points of view and kind of mesh them.
LAMB: Where is she now?
DODER: She's here in town. She's in China, too.
LAMB: Is there any way to know what this man is like in his private moments? What does he do when he has free time?
DODER: I think he's a workaholic. I think he doesn't enjoy fun. I think he's a man who's obsessed with a mission. I think he's taken upon himself more than a normal human being can take upon himself.
LAMB: How long will he last?
DODER: And I think even the weatherman is wrong 50 percent of the time on things like this. I would say that he cannot last very long because I think perestroika is dead. I think he's flogging a dead horse now, because you have to start all over again. You have to destroy what -- you know, this system and build it anew. And he's, in a way, a very tragic figure for me. Actually, once you do this, you begin to sympathize with a guy -- particularly, Gorbachev is a likeable guy. And the odds are against him. All odds are against him, but I think that he has wrought a change in the world that -- I mean, he's freed Eastern Europe, I mean, if nothing else. He has demolished the Communist myth. I mean, this whole century has been obsessed by communism. From 1905, in the first Russian revolution, in 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power; ever since, we have been obsessed by communism in there and here under Gorbachev, he presides over and he initiates the demise of communism as such. There's only China now, Communists, and Albania.
LAMB: If he's going to go, how will he go?
DODER: I think that his greatest problem is that he has not delivered meat and potatoes, and people vote with their pocketbooks. I mean, and there are people around who are -- you know, who are saying, "Read my lips," you know? "No price increases, no sacrifices." Yeltsin is that. The armed forces are very uncomfortable with this man because the strategic situation for him is disastrous. I mean, in Europe, you know, NATO exists and our problem is to give NATO a mission because there's no Warsaw Pact. But for him, problem is that there is no Warsaw Pact, and I don't know how strong the military pressure is going to be, but I think he has to watch, because the soldiers are unhappy that he's using the army to quell domestic unrest, to keep, you know, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Baltics quiet. I mean, they're unhappy. They don't want to be a police force.
LAMB: How's he going to go?
DODER: I think that this winter is critical for him, and he's not a quitter, although he has offered three times to quit. But he has offered three times to quit, I take this as an act of courage. He's an extremely courageous man. And it's not like Al Haig offering to quit and hoping, you know, he will be turned down. But I think that he said he knows only one way how to do it, and if they don't like it that way, they should find somebody else. He's got one way to do it. He's got one plan. He's got one vision. He's not going to stay in power simply to stay in power. That may change.
LAMB: If he quits, how do they get their next leader?
DODER: I think that there's a batch of new people emerging who are quite interesting, but I'll tell you one thing. Soviet Union is no longer a superpower. That's a problem for us, because, you know, if you want to have superpowers, you have to have two. There's a game. You can't play with -- and I think we are creating now a superpower of the Soviet Union that says it's a country enormously troubled. The empire is gone. I mean, Mr. Gorbachev -- you know, Mr. Bush speaks for the West when he talks sometimes. We have allies. We have solid relationships. We may not always agree, but, I mean, we basically share a certain, you know, volume of common ideas and interests. And Mr. Gorbachev represents only Soviet Union now, and even within Soviet Union...
LAMB: Let's say he quits or ousted or -- I mean, what I'm getting at -- is there ever going to be a free election for the president of the Soviet Union?
DODER: I think you already have an emergence of pluralism -- just the very fact that you have Yeltsin. I mean, we say, "Oh, big challenger." It's a consequence of changes. He has been extremely successful in making political changes in the Soviet Union.
LAMB: Let me ask it a different way, because we're running out of time. Do you ever envision the possibility that we wake up one day, the military's taken over, everything changes, glasnost is out the window, and they're back to where they were a couple years ago?
DODER: I can see that scenario. Yes.
LAMB: Can you see them moving back into Eastern Europe?
DODER: No. No. I can see the scenario where they can go back and stop the momentum of change on glasnost and so forth, but that can be a temporary measure. You know, the soldiers cannot -- soldiers are very bad politicians. They don't know how to do things, and it seems to me that ideas are important. I think freedom is a measure of power. I've always argued that. But ideas are important. See, as long as people believed in -- there's something like, you know, future happiness, utopia and so forth, they supported the system -- even reluctantly, maybe, but somehow. That's gone.
LAMB: Unfair, probably, but in 10 years predict what the Soviet Union will be all about.
DODER: I think in 10 years Soviet Union probably will be a second rate power.
LAMB: How will it be governed?
DODER: I think that it's going to merge toward some kind of a pluralistic society. It will take more than a generation to evolve towards democracy because there's no infrastructure, but that there's a movement in that direction I have no doubt about.
LAMB: Our guest for the last hour has been the author of the new book "Gorbachev: Heretic In The Kremlin," Dusko Doder, former Washington Post reporter, US News & World Report, bureau chief in Beijing, now a free lancer still living in China. Thank you for joining us.
DODER: Thank you.
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