Seeing Our Future by Looking Into Our Past

Russian army in Afganistan

     If anyone wants to take a glimpse into the future, just take a look into the past. What the United States is currently going through is eerily similar to what the Soviet Union went through back in the 1980’s. 

Old Soviet Factory

     By 1985 the Soviet Union had been in Afghanistan for roughly six years and Gorbachev had just come to power. Just like Obama, Gorbachev was the darling of the media –  a charismatic, “New Thinking” Russian leader. Gorbachev inherited a nation that had a failing economy with a military budget that represented 27% of government spending. (Currently, the United States spends over 30 percent of our tax dollars on defense). By the time Gorbachev ushered in the process that would lead to the dismantling of the Soviet administrative command economy through his programs of glastnos (political openness), uskorenive (speed-up of economic development) and perestroika (political and economic restructuring) announced in 1986, the Soviet economy suffered from both hidden inflation and pervasive supply shortages aggravated by an increasingly open black market that undermined the official economy. Additionally, the costs of superpower status—the military, space program, subsidies to client states—were out of proportion to the Soviet economy. The new wave of industrialization based upon information technology had left the Soviet Union desperate for Western technology and credits in order to counter its increasing backwardness. By the late 1980’s the western media began to expose the short comings of the Soviet Union: rampant drug abuse, pollution, outdated factories, government corruption, and the mishandling of the Chernobyl Disaster.


Abandoned Soviet Military Hardware

     Gorbachev’s efforts to streamline the Communist system offered promise, but ultimately proved uncontrollable and resulted in a cascade of events that eventually concluded with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Initially intended as tools to bolster the Soviet economy, the policies of perestroika and glasnost soon led to unintended consequences. By 1990 the Soviet government had lost control over economic conditions. Government spending increased sharply as an increasing number of unprofitable enterprises required state support and consumer price subsidies to continue. Tax revenues declined as republic and local governments withheld tax revenues from the central government under the growing spirit of regional autonomy. As a means of reviving the Soviet state, Gorbachev repeatedly attempted to build a coalition of political leaders supportive of reform and created new arenas and bases of power. He implemented these measures because he wanted to resolve serious economic problems and political inertia that clearly threatened to put the Soviet Union into a state of long−term stagnation.


Russian army in Afganistan

     The weakening of the Soviet government led to a series of events that eventually caused the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a gradual process that took place from about January 19, 1990, to December 31, 1991.

Steven Hooker
   Trenton Illinois


Poverty in Russia Old woman begging

[From Rourke:  As someone who lived through part of the Cold War and witnessed the decline of the Soviet Union – I had not realized the similarities of those events in the paast – and what is happening now.]

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  1. Outstanding post! There’s a good book about life in the Soviet military after the fall of their economy, it’s called “One Soldier’s War”. Very good look at daily life as an enlisted man when gov’t money dries up.

  2. I can see this happening with us already. It is unfortunate that we do not heed the warnings of history. I am saddened by the thought of this and hope that we dont head down the same road. We need to wake up and smell the coffee. Great post.

  3. Very well thought out and written post. The similarities between the old Soviet mindset and ours now are uncanny in their likeness.

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