E. Howard Negroponte,
INTERVIEWER: Did you see in a sense Central America to be the weak link in the whole, what would you call it North American arming of the Americas, that this was the place where you could really cause the most trouble.
YURI PAVLOV: Well it was certainly the underbelly of the United States for us, and in a sense I remember our old Foreign Minister Shevernadze for instance I remember on one occasion I was discussing with him , our policy towards Panama and saying that probably we shouldn't give much support to General Noriega, not to antagonize the US government unduly, and he said "Well the government is not very particular about our position in Afghanistan, they don't think they should avoid provoking the Soviet Union there. Why should we be, why should we be so careful about their caring about the interests in Central America?" So I mean in a way it was a kind of Quid pro quo and in a Wyoming on one occasion when Shevernadze was and Secretary of State Baker was negotiating yet another communiqué on the policy of both countries in the hot spots of the world. I remember on one occasion on the American side saying to us "okay we'll accept your formula on Afghanistan,", something about again trying to reach peaceful solution "if you accept our formula on Central America.". So in that sense it was kind of a Quid pro quo, both sides understood that these are weak spots for the other side and the US government officials frankly admitted that the United States was provoking the Soviet Union in Afghanistan unduly, but they always referred to the strong pressure from the Congress. Well at that time we couldn't refer to strong pressure from Soviet parliament, so we had to take the whole blame on us.
INTERVIEWER: I'll now move to Grenada, what were your main aims in Grenada? And how far were you supporting Maurice Bishop's government?
YURI PAVLOV: Well we could support it only on a limited scale a far away country, not much of an economy. We could buy some of their main products, their export products, those nuts whatever they're called.
INTERVIEWER: I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to start again
YURI PAVLOV: Well we could support the Granada, Grenada revolution only to a limited extent, mainly for economic reasons and transportation costs involved. Again Cuba was taking what we could afford to give our assistance in the area, for another thing, no one in his right mind was thinking in Moscow along the possibility, along the lines of any possibility of turning Grenada into yet another Cuba. It was too small and too susceptible to economic and political pressures and could not be defended militarily. therefore people were rather skeptical about that and I remember the Grenada revolutionaries who send their embassy to Moscow were even disillusioned with the lackof support they were getting in Moscow. They expected quite a greatest degree of support. But they did get some support from Cuba of course and again had it not beefor a their internal strife, probably they would have survived, because Maurice Bishop was a moderate leader and in a way I could compare him to Manley of Jamaica who eventually had undergone considerable evolution of his political views. And that could be the case with Maurice Bishop later on, but then it was very opportune for the United States with this internal discord led to this coup d'état and Maurice Bishop being assassinated. It was quite easy to make a surgical strike but that led to very serious consequences in Central America in the sense that probably for the first time the Sandinista revolutionaries were seriously convinced that the United States would not stop short of invading Nicaragua, so they increased their pressures on the Cubans, on people in Moscow to give more military and economic support to them. To sustain their revolution.
INTERVIEWER: Did you give that aid and support? Did you send more helicopters?
YURI PAVLOV: Well certainly military support was increased, yes.
INTERVIEWER: Can you give me details about it?
YURI PAVLOV: Well I wouldn't remember the details but it came only later when already started to negotiate peace in Nicaragua that the kind of coordinated our efforts in that area with the US side for instance there was an occasion when Soviet helicopters were already on board the ship while the Soviet government had already assured the US government that no military helicopters would be sent, shipped to Nicaragua, since the United States stopped their military aid to contras. But then we received information from the US side that these helicopters can be used for military purposes and when we phoned the appropriate soviet agencies, people there had to admit that yes, they have some implements to be fixed to them to make them not just means of transportation, but to be used also as military. So the ship was de-routed, returned back to Soviet port and these supplementary parts which would make them military machines were taken out. But that came much later and of course helicopters like I think Mig 25 were powerful weapons, quite a match to the US military copters and they were making US, the Sandinista government, much less vulnerable to the contras military tactics against them.
INTERVIEWER: In the whole of this central American I don't know disaster you might call it, hundreds of thousands of people were being killed, hundreds of thousands wounded and many others had to become refugees, who should take the major blame for this? It's always as a result of the cold war a battle between the superpowers.
YURI PAVLOV: Yeah but then we have to go into the origins of the cold war. Who was to blame, I think both sides were to blame. Both sides overreacted to the moves made by each other and overreacted repeatedly starting from the first conflicts, not military conflicts, but conflicts in policy up to the second world war, but as I say if you try to weigh the blame, still I would say that the greater blame should be put on the shoulders of Soviet leaders, for the Cold war and the consequences of the cold war. Rather than on the shoulders of the American leaders. Although I say both sides were to blame for the cold war. Both sides had their own purposes to pursue, both sides have a kind of fanatical ideologically minded leaders, some people in the west saying better be dead than red, others on the soviet side were saying that "okay what's wrong with violence and armed struggle as long as they lead to a better future for humanity?" So that's the cost all revolutions have. So as I say both sides were to blame, but in of course initially it all started well going back into history from 1917, with the appearance of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union as a kind of an alternative to free market system and the fear which it instilled in the minds of many people in the west, like Ronald Reagan and others that Soviet Union was an evil empire intent on destroying the west by whatever means, and while the Soviet Union leaders never intended seriously to launch an armed attack against the west, they were getting ready for that, just as the west was getting ready to deal a mortal blow to the Soviet Union. And if you look into the lets put it this way contingency military plans of the general staff in Moscow and in Pentagon, you'll see a lot of similarities. Both sides played out the scenarios and both sides tried to get more friends, and ignore the fact that most of their friends were bloodthirsty dictators, they could be son of bitches, but it was okay, they were our son of bitches. And that referred equally of course to the US policy and the soviet policy. Both of us had friends like that, and all this was sacrificed to the altar of the cold war.
INTERVIEWER: Terrible cost of human life
YURI PAVLOV: Oh yes, and we still suffer the consequences. This situation with Cuba is one of the conse, the Cubans are still suffering the consequences, the Cuban people.
INTERVIEWER: Just one final question, you were the chief Soviet negotiator in peace talks in Central America, do you feel that the peace which has been got will stand, or do you think it will fall apart?
YURI PAVLOV: Well analyzing the situation in Central America, most people in Moscow, including the military experts had to come to conclusion that if you take Nicaragua okay, each year the Sandinista government would assure us that okay we'll deal a final blow to the contras. So they dealt some blow, then the contras would melt away into Honduras and they would infiltrate back and every year it was a repetition of what happened before. In Salvador it was a military deadlock, and clearly neither side could win the conflict militarily, while the economy on both sides was being destroyed and eventually even the square headed Salvadoran military and hard headed right wing sections of the business community came to understand that its war just destroyed the economic infrastructure of the country and to deprive them selves of their resources and the ability to engage in normal business in the country. So eventually both sides started to press all their leaders to do something about it. And by that time it was a quite a happy coincidence that both Soviet and American leaders, also changed considerably their policy, making now main emphasis on peaceful solutions and advising their friends, strongly advising their friends to seek peaceful solution. I think the determining factor was when the US Congress banned any further military aid to the contras. This enabled us in Moscow to overrule the objections of the Soviet military and some political leaders against stopping or reducing and then stopping our military aid to Nicaragua for instance. So it worked both ways.
INTERVIEWER: Perhaps a silly final, final question. These two ideologies, the free market and socialism, communism, call it what you will, which one do you personally believe in?
YURI PAVLOV: Well I don't believe personally that either of these two ideologies suits perfectly the needs of humanity. Both are extremes and something should be found in between which would kind of combine the advantages of the free market economy system over one would say, well free market there isn't such a thing as free market, always there are some limitations, some controls but a free market, or free enterprise system with a big role of the state be it Federal government or state government in terms of creating safety, social safety net for those who live in deprivation and deprivation and who starve. If you go to any of these extremes this will lead only to further trouble. Further rise in left wing activities and probably to new revolutions.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very very much.
Chat and cut
INTERVIEWER: Mr. Pavlov could you give us an answer to Jim's question about the Cuban drain as it were on the Soviets?
YURI PAVLOV: Well certainly the Cuban drain was one of the major factors which was bleeding the Soviet economy, although noprobably the main one. The main one was the arms race. Which Soviet leaders say was imposed by the United States, which others might say was imposed by the them themselves on their country. Here again both sidwere to blame, but certainly when the Star War Initiative was announced it made many people in Moscow think that now we have come to the moment when we can no longer afford it. We should do everything possible to stop the Americans from doing that. We can't just do the same, so that was I think one of the factors, which influenced Gorbachev in changing rather drastically its foreign policy, and agreeing to Western controls on disarmament and agreeing to the first steps to actually reduce the number of nuclear missiles one hit and created with Ronald Reagan. That was certainly a major factor. Now to say that Cuba or arms race actually were main reasons for the demise of the Soviet Union as a country, I wouldn't say so because let's put it this way, the Soviet system was of such a nature that Soviet leaders who continue for some time more for a number of more years to survive, well, making their people suffer economic consequences, but justifying these by the necessity of avoiding nuclear war things like that, because the most people feared was nuclear war with the United States, therefore Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders, particularly after Cuban missile crisis, one of the soviet leaders made a firm decision not to be outnumbered by the United States in terms of the number of nuclear missiles. The Soviet Union would not be humiliated again and that led to an immense defense expenditure under Brezhnev and his successors. But it could have taken for some more years to come had not Gorbachev embarked simultaneously on political reforms. Had he chosen the Chinese way of making some steps towards free enterprise economy while maintaining tight political control, probably the situation would have been different power and the Soviet Union probably would have existed still.
INTERVIEWER: One personal question, Che Guevara, what did you think of Guevara yourself, and his policy of armed struggle, armed revolution being the only answer?
YURI PAVLOV: Well one could admire him always
INTERVIEWER: Could you say one could admire Che Guevara
YURI PAVLOV: Yes one could admire Che Guevara's motives, his bravery, personal bravery, his dedication to the cause as a revolutionary and he actually became a symbol for millions and millions of young people all over the world. And yet, for us in Moscow it was clear that it was an adventure which could not possibly lead to any success because conditions in the countries of Latin America were quite different from those which were in Cuba, and he could not possibly count on success *** So it was a tragic sacrifice, a vain sacrifice and again I never met Che Guevara personally, but I talked to people who met him, and he was a very likeable man, good humor and he told his Soviet counterparts for instance a story of how he became minister of the economy in the first Cuban government. The revolutionary government. And Castro after taking power assembled his lieutenants and he asked "well are there economists here?" and Che Guevara raised his hand, and he was appointed minister of the economy. But then it transpired that Fidel Ca, he thought that Fidel Castro was asking "are there any communists here?" therefore he raised his hand. Coming by pure accident to occupy this position although he had no preparation for that. He was a likeable person and other people liked him as a man. And they were sorry that he ended this way but they admired him.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you.
END OF ROLL #10842