The Cold War has long been over, but recent documents reveal how western powers misunderstood the thinking of Soviet leaders during the hot summer of 1968 when Russian troops entered Czechoslovakia to crush the attempt by its leaders to transform a communist society into one based on democratic socialist principles. Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev was concerned about events during the spring of 1968 as Czech Communist leaders began to relax tight controls on the population under leadership of Alexander Dubcek. Recently released documents reveal Brezhnev was undecided how to respond to the situation and he apparently wanted to avoid bloodshed, but pressure from Party hard-liners led him to take a firm stand. He called Dubcek to his summer retreat in Yalta and they discussed the situation with Brezhnev seeking a moderate solution. None was forthcoming and the troops were sent in.
The story reflects what may well be a factor today in examining the Middle East. Frankly, few Western leaders have actually discussed on a one-to-one basis with Iran’s religious leaders the issue of nuclear development. There are many “assumptions” regarding the thinking of Iranian religious leaders, but who knows which of the assumptions is correct. Senator Barack Obama’s call for negotiation highlights the importance of talking face to face with those with whom one has disagreements.