LONDON, March 4, 1953 (UP) -- As Premier Josef Stalin lay gravely ill in Moscow, the western world today asked two vital questions.
Who will succeed Stalin?
What will be the chances of peace under a Stalin successor?
Here are the answers to these and other questions, as western experts on Russia see them:
Q: Will the death of Stalin increase or decrease the chances of World War III?
A: It probably will decrease them, at least temporarily. Whoever takes over power will be busy consolidating his position inside the Soviet Union. His first attempt will be to get all factions in Russia behind him, and there will be no time to launch any foreign adventures.
Q: Who are the Soviet leaders most likely to come into power?
A: There are three men who appear in line for succession. They are Georgi Malenkov, Vyachesiav Molotov and Laurenti Beria.
Q: Who is Malenkov?
A: He is round-faced, pudgy 51-year-old Communist who rose to power during World War II. He came up in the ranks with Stalin and has exercised ironfisted control over the all powerful Communist Party. During the war he was a member of the committee of five which directed Russia's defense. He is the man Washington and London believe is mostly likely to succeed to Stalin's powers. He has the party- the major source of Russian power- under his thumb as head of the secretariat of the Central Committee, the group that runs the Communist Party affairs in Russia.
Q: What would he be likely to do as leader of the Soviet?
A: If he wins the struggle for power, American and British officials feel he will continue the course laid out by Stalin, that is, the drive for world domination. But they believe he, like Stalin, will avoid war if possible.
Q: Who is Molotov?
A: He is the best known to the western world. He is Malenkov's most formidable opponent. Molotov, 62, is vice premier of the Soviet Union and a member of the Communist Party Presidium- one of the most powerful bodies in the Soviet Union. Personally he is tough, wiry and a seasoned campaigner. His name has been closely associated with that of Stalin for years. Before the war he was considered the almost certain heir to Stalin's power.
Q: What is known of his policies?
A: He is characteristically bad-tempered and bitterly anti-western. He is ultranationalistic and has no respect or love for anything non-Russian. His accession to power quite possibly might worsen East-West relations.
Q: Who is Beria?
A: He is generally considered to be an outsider in the race. Beria, 53, is the ruthless chief of the Soviet secret police, the elaborate Soviet security network and Russia's atomic projects. He has long enjoyed the implicit trust of Stalin who, like himself, is a Georgian. If he should elect to challenge Malenkov and Molotov, he would have the potent weapon of his 250,000 crack agents in a sort of private army. But informed sources say there is no present indication Beria is likely to make the daring bid for power.
Q: What is known of his policies?
A: He probably would follow much the same course in world affairs as Stalin. But little opportunity has arisen for him to express himself on foreign affairs since his duties and his party government responsibilities have been primarily concerned with maintenance of internal order and party discipline.
Q: What is likely to happen inside Russia itself?
A: The struggle for power within Russia almost certainly will precipitate a new series of purges- probably duplicating the blood baths which marked Stalin's own relentless drive to attain absolute despotism following the death of Lenin. The purges may not come for some time, but whatever man or group of men finally gains supreme control almost certainly will liquidate his rivals.
Q: What are the chances that some form of Titoism may develop among the satellites?
A: If any of the Iron Curtain slave states have the urge and the leadership to break away from the Kremlin's control, now is the time to do it. Stalin's death is bound to weaken the grip the Soviet has on its neighbors.