In an essay dated January 1, 1991, and published last July, on the day Mikhail Gorbachev met John Major in London, I forecast the former's demise. "Sadly for his Western admirers," I wrote, "even unprecedented dictatorial powers cannot guarantee political longevity in Gorbachev's case. He is a dictator by the grace of the secret-police apparatus: what it giveth, it can also take away. The issue here is not Gorbachev's 'liberalism,' of course, since if the KGB deems it expedient to stop or turn back the clock of reform he will have no alternative but to do its bidding, convincingly and with enthusiasm."
"But should the KGB find Gorbachev outmoded or ineffective," I went on, "it has at its disposal plenty of fiery 'liberals' ready to step into the dictator's role, and will replace its super-Stalin as easily as Stalin used to replace his secret-police chiefs."
Gorbachev's Western admirers, John Major among them, did not believe me when I wrote that Gorbachev was the most powerful dictator since Stalin's day. Nor did they believe me when I wrote that Gorbachev—despite the colossal power vested in him by the KGB apparatus that had wrested total control from the Communist Party in Brezhnev's last years—did not matter. Two weeks later, George Bush was in Moscow to sign another set of meaningless arms-control accords.