“The Divine Plan”: a Review
In 1970, the Russian dissident Andrei Amalrik published a short book, Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? Another, more famous refusenik, Natan Sharansky, has said that when he was in a Soviet prison in 1984 and Amalrik’s prediction came up during his interrogation, his KGB guards laughed: “Amalrik is long dead, but we are still very much present!” Amalrik had died in 1980.
Well, as history would show, Amalrik was wrong, though only by a few years. He had believed the Soviet bureaucracy with its brutality, the USSR’s ethnic diversity, its economic stagnation and simmering social unrest would be the death of the Beast. All true. And he thought a war with China was imminent and would devastate Russia. That was wrong, of course, but substitute Afghanistan for China, and he looks more prescient.
Like most dissidents, Amalrik was frustrated by the Western policy of détente. Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter had all met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to little avail, and all liberty-loving Russians (and their millions of allies behind the Iron Curtain) knew there could never be freedom of speech or religion or in economic activity as long as communism ruled.
Amalrik died just eight days after Ronald Reagan was elected as America’s 40th president, so he didn’t live to see how an alliance between Reagan and Pope John Paul II would become the force – joined to the others Amalrik had identified – that would lead to the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The story of that alliance is told superbly in Robert Orlando’s new documentary, The Divine Plan: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Dramatic End of the Cold War.