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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CIA Pondered Demise of Soviet Leaders

The CIA speculated on what would happen if either Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev or Russian President Boris Yeltsin were suddenly removed from power. From a newly declassified November 1990 intelligence report:

"Gorbachev's departure two years - or even one year - ago, while the traditionalists still retained considerable strength in the leadership and the democratic reforms had barely begun to get off the ground, probably would have set back those reforms many years. His demise in the next year would be certain to throwthe country into flux. ... But he is no longer 'the indispensable man.'

"Yeltsin has become the unofficial head of the democratic reform movement, and no one else in the movement currently has the stature to challenge Gorbachev. His departure would be a major setback to the movement over the next year but probably not a fatal one over the longer term. There are a number of other emerging democratic leaders who lack Yeltsin's popular appeal but have other strengths that over time might enable them to play a national role."