I recently posted up a Q&A that I conducted with myself. It includes some thoughts on why the Soviet Jewry movement is still important today, beyond its Jewish context:

The story is still very relevant, and not only because Russia is behaving more and more like the old Soviet state in its suppression of dissent. One of the big questions the book poses is how a country like the United States balances its national security interests with moral imperatives. Soviet Jewry very much introduced this tension into the Cold War, turning it into a conflict that was about more than just who had how many missiles. This balance still poses incredible challenges for the United States. Take the case of China. On the one hand, the expansion of relations since the 1970s has had great economic benefits, but it has been accompanied by a deep undercurrent of discomfort about the censorship and repression that allows China’s nominally Communist authorities to stay in power. Iran is an even more dramatic example. The issue of how much and how publicly to support the growing democracy movement while also trying to stop their nuclear program strongly echoes debates from the 1970s surrounding Soviet Jews.

2 Responses to Q&A
  1. Jerry Goodman
    September 13, 2010 | 8:16 pm

    While Beckerman’s new book is extremely useful, this observation ignores the fact that the Soviet Union had a crumbling economy and an appalling infrastructure. It needed the West and was vulnerable to economic and political pressure. China does not face the same issues, nor does Iran. Both are also better immunized against Western public opinion, which was not the case in the 70s and 80s regarding Moscow.

  2. Gal
    September 14, 2010 | 6:56 am

    Thanks for leaving a comment, Jerry. Your point is very well taken. There are no perfect analogies. I guess what I was trying to get at is that some of the questions that policy makers grapple with today, about how to balance a foreign policy that promotes human rights with concern for national security (i.e. nuclear proliferation) echo the conversations and real tensions that existed during the years of detente.

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