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Old 03 June 2010, 02:47 AM
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Default Did increased US military spending prompt more USSR spending and bring the USSR down?

Did the USSR attempt to match the US defense buildup in the 1980s, and then collapse because of it? I've heard that cited as the way that Reagan brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union. But what I've read about the fall of the USSR makes it seem more like it was brought about by internal corruption and divisions and a population that was sick of having a low standard of living compared to the West.

One easy test of this would be to find out whether the USSR increased its military spending in a proportion that resembled the US's increase. Does anyone know how to get that information?
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Old 03 June 2010, 03:29 AM
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It certainly is the "prevailing wisdom," and I've seen it quoted not only by Reagan's fans, but by his detractors too. The Soviet economy wasn't any too strong to begin with, and the constant drain of weapons purchases couldn't have helped any. (Other than to keep unemployment artificially low...)

The only alternative theory I've ever heard -- and it seems a bit crankish -- is that by providing a threat that the Soviet leadership could point to, Reagan's hard-line actually helped prop up communism. They could use us as their scary boogie-man, and thus promote a kind of fear-based patriotism, postponing the final collapse of the Soviet system.

(Of course, our leaders did the same thing... But McCarthy style blacklisting of moviemakers and novelists, as bad as it was, never amounted to a per cent of a per cent of Stalinist violence...)

Silas
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Old 03 June 2010, 03:50 AM
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AnglRdr AnglRdr is offline
 
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The Soviet Union would've likely collapsed in roughly the same time frame regardless of who was in the White House. Its economic structure was simply unsustainable as it was.

Gorbachev is probably not given nearly enough credit(?) for the collapse of the Soviet Union, at least in the US.

Here is a pretty interesting article about it.
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Old 03 June 2010, 05:03 AM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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Certainly, the Soviet economy was not functioning that well - generally no economy will when most of the decisions are made by people whose fortunes are not tied to the success of the particular enterprises at issue. It therefore could not meet the populace's aspirations and there was discontent. As I recall, the Soviets were trying to roll out new wealons systems, as well as manage their invasion of Afghanistan, and this all required putting more and more resources into defense. Reagan's buildup was not the sole problem, but it may have been ione of the final straws leading to the breakdown. You have to add, though, that perestroika had given the Soviet subjects a much greater view of the rest of the world, which whipped up the frustration (much the same thing happened with the French Revolution, where the rulers tried to back off on their ruthlessness, and the populace pounced on the opportunity to be done with the rulers entirely). I have also heard that the availability of faxes allowed for coordination among disidents that had not previously been possible.

But let's recognize - Reagan announced that this was his strategy, he implemented the strategy, and the result he predicted occurred. I am sure that he recognized that the sclerosis of a government-led economy would eventually cause the collapse, but by calling a strategy to hasten it, and by all appearances, having what he predicted occur, he gets the credit.
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Old 03 June 2010, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by AnglRdr View Post
Gorbachev is probably not given nearly enough credit(?) for the collapse of the Soviet Union, at least in the US.
I think if you asked people in Europe they'd probably start talking about Solidarity in Poland, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, then Glasnost and Gorbachev's policies, and not mention Reagan until later if at all. I certainly don't think of him as being the main cause. I haven't studied the subject and am just going by my memories of the late '80s / early '90s and my general impression of what happened, which is sort of relevant to one side of this discussion at least.

The Eastern Bloc was already "collapsing" en-masse by the time the Soviet Union finally broke up.

(eta) Reagan wasn't even President when it collapsed... it was George H W Bush.
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Old 03 June 2010, 12:42 PM
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I think you could probably include the death of Stalin in that list, as well, and certainly Kruschev's.
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Old 03 June 2010, 02:36 PM
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I've said it before and I'll say it again. The USSR was brought down by Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, through a combination of tax cuts, steely resolve, and Jesus. The end.
http://www.opinionjournal.com/column.../?id=110006523
http://www.peggynoonan.com/article.php?article=32


Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
The only alternative theory I've ever heard -- and it seems a bit crankish -- is that by providing a threat that the Soviet leadership could point to, Reagan's hard-line actually helped prop up communism. They could use us as their scary boogie-man, and thus promote a kind of fear-based patriotism, postponing the final collapse of the Soviet system.
I've heard this as well, and it's certainly plausible. Is there any serious scholarship or writing from this viewpoint?
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Old 03 June 2010, 08:22 PM
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I never thought of the fall of the Berlin Wall or the breakup of the Warsaw Pact as contributing to the fall of the Soviet Union - they were part of it. To my mind, it was more like the decline of the Soviet Union led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Warsaw Pact. Maybe it was a feedback loop, bacause those things could then contribute to the fall of the Soviet Union.

When it fell apart, the former SSR's became independant nations. I wonder, of China were to undergo a collapse like that, would the far western parts of China (Tibet, Xinjiang, etc.) break free? Is China the worlds last Empire, or is it a true nation state?
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Old 03 June 2010, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
But let's recognize - Reagan announced that this was his strategy, he implemented the strategy, and the result he predicted occurred. I am sure that he recognized that the sclerosis of a government-led economy would eventually cause the collapse, but by calling a strategy to hasten it, and by all appearances, having what he predicted occur, he gets the credit.
He gets the credit, yes. Whether he deserves it is another thing.

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Originally Posted by Simply Madeline View Post
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The USSR was brought down by Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, through a combination of tax cuts, steely resolve, and Jesus. The end.
http://www.opinionjournal.com/column.../?id=110006523
http://www.peggynoonan.com/article.php?article=32
If you look up "hagiography" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Peggy Noonan gazing reverently at Ronald Reagan.
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Old 03 June 2010, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
. . . I wonder, of China were to undergo a collapse like that, would the far western parts of China (Tibet, Xinjiang, etc.) break free? Is China the worlds last Empire, or is it a true nation state?
I think there's no way to know, because there are so many contingencies. For instance, how would the Chinese government react to the first signs of breakup? By sending in the military, or by something positive, like a big new jobs program? I *think* they've learned their lesson from the Tienanman Square massacre...but who can really guess?

(My personal assessment is that China is still a "bound confederacy," not at tightly controlled as an empire, but far from as unified as a nation state. There are regions that would like independence, but for which the economic realities make breaking away impossible. They've embraced manufacturing and exports as a basis for their economy, which certainly is a great leap forward from the disastrous "Great Leap Forward.")

Silas
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Old 11 June 2010, 12:02 PM
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Well, you'll be laughing, but current Republicans (and, certainly, Reagan) are fighting against the very elements that brought down USSR.

Do the rewind back into the 70es and the 80es. Most of the stuff is still manufactured in US, Europe and Japan. There are unions; workers in the West have actually better social security and protection then they ever did in USSR (to start with, changing jobs, careers, and, in particular, place of residence was very, very problematic in USSR. You can't just move and buy or rent a place somewhere else. There is a bureaucratic procedure for getting a new place to leave, for leaving work, for being hired at the new work, for registering at the new city, for sending your kids to school in a new city. All these things could take years). Yes, there was unemployment, but the unemployment in USSR was kept artificially low and a lot of people weren't really working. Service industry is crap. The quality of consumer goods is crap. There is a lot of buzz around catching up in "cathegory 2 goods" (i.e. clothes, food, furniture, and the like). To put "catching up" in perspective: when I was born (in 1981), my parents got in line for a landline phone, furniture and the like. We've got my bedroom's furniture in 1987; the phone ine 1990. It was crap.

However, the flip side is that if you had money things were looking brighter, and there were money to be made. Both of my parents were scientists; I think circa 1985 their combined salaries were some 400 roubles (this is to put things in perspective). They didn't really have a lot of perspectives for making more at work, if they were just doing thier jobs. However, since my father knew English, he was making close to 700 roubles a month translating US patents (this, to be frank, was one of the ways KGB was trying to keep up with what US was doing). Eventually, he bought a 4-room condo in an analog of US mortgage; the payments were some 60 roubles a month. If I look back at where the money went, a lot of it went straight for consumption (some 200 roubles), with a savings towards vacation and big ticket purchases (I believe that a colour TV we bought in 1987 was some 700 roubles). However, the interest was practically nonexistent.

The situation with money was pretty similar elsewhere. Soviet economy did have something pretty similar to free market in quite a few segments. Imagine, for a second, living mortgage free and directing most of your income towards big ticket items and consumer goods. While technically illegal, there were a lot of people out there making a few thousands roubles a month. Like, well, funeral workers, who could demand a cut for "doing a funeral right". Or waiters. Or taxi drivers. Or, actually, like my grandparents, the farmers, with meat selling at 2.20 roubles a kilo officially and close to 5 on the market (I think in mid 80es my grandparents have some 50k robles in savings, which, if you think about it, is equal to 100 years' worth of work by my parents). It was a pretty funny economy, when any service job could potentially bring in a lot of money. There was a (restricted) free market, and a lot of highly paid jobs were tied to free market, but it just was very localized.

My parents, and a lot of their peers, were genuinely pissed off by the situation, largely because the equivalent of public servants and office jobs got short changed pretty badly. A lot of menial jobs (say, a truck driver or a forklift operator) brought in a lot more than, say, a teacher or a doctor or a research scientist. There was a lot more free market for the said truck drivers (in reality, there was much less supply and a lot of demand, so a lot of bureaucracy was fast tracked for the high demand jobs). They moved around a lot more and could command higher wages.

The argument was: if free market works so well for these jobs, why can't we have it everywhere? It apparently works well in US. They apparently have more social protection than we do here in USSR. They apparently manufacture better goods. Why not?

The irony is, that, in the hindsight, my father attributes the collapse of USSR to one of such measures. He thinks that the time bomb that started it all was one small idea that paying people for innovation with real cash could close the technological gap between USSR and US.

I have to make a short statement here: USSR had a tiered monetary system. There were "roubles" that could be exchanged into US dollars. There were "roubles" that could be exchanged into lesser currencies, like Polish zloty. There were roubles that could be spent on equipment. And there were roubles that could be paid out in salary. They were not interchangeable; with central planning, a specific amount of goods could be produced that would roughly match the amounts of each types of roubles in circulation.

However, with that directive things changed rapidly. It became possible to convert "equipment" roubles into "salary" roubles. To put things in perspective: as I said, my father's salary was rougly 200 roubles. However, the equipment at the lab he was working was worth a few tens of thousands of roubles. Effectively, with the lack of control and kickbacks some people managed to manufacture a lot of makeshift equipment and line their pockets with exorbitant amount of cash. Before that reform, the price of the said colour TV or furniture would have been prohibitive enough to ensure stable supply (TV was worth 700 roubles, furniture - close to 3000). After the reform, there was a lot of easy money flowing around, a chronic lack of goods and a lot of people who had to get by just on the salary. If we look back, we can see a lot of Russian multibillionaires coming from academia.

Pretty much, things got only worse when Gorbachev came to power, since the "free market" was further expanded. A lot of goods were indirectly subsidized; in late 80es my parents made a few thousands by going to Poland and selling stuff like electric kettles in Poland, since it was much more expensive there. Really, it had nothing to do with military; it had everything to do with more money chasing less goods, cohorts of people (well, including regular army) unable to raise their salaries, and the prices of some goods kept artificially low or artificially high. Add corruption, cronyism and rigidity to the mix, and you can see that USSR was doomed. Whoever was in power couldn't really rule, since the decisions were very diluded when they got to the ground. Andropov's attempt to actually toughen things up didn't last for long (since Andropov died pretty early); but, hell, the entire late Politburo was geriatric.

In short, USSR was doomed. But Reagan had little to do with it. I actually wonder if the breakdown as executed would have happened had USSR lasted till 2010, with the rise of China and everything.

Another note: USA did everything they could to alienate Russia in the 1990es, so whatever Russia became now is actually pretty much Clinton's fault. USA will have to live with what it made out of USSR for very, very long, since "but in the 90es" is pretty much an inrevokable argument, and will stay that way for quite a while.
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Old 23 June 2010, 05:45 AM
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Too much to quote there, but you can say Reagan had little to do with it only from the viewpoint that it was going to happen at some vague future "is it someday yet?" timeframe. What Reagan did was assert that this collapse was going to happen as soon as possible before the USSR became the hybrid financial giant that China is now. To say that "Reagan had little to do with it" is disingenuous.
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Old 23 June 2010, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Sebbenth View Post
Another note: USA did everything they could to alienate Russia in the 1990es, so whatever Russia became now is actually pretty much Clinton's fault. USA will have to live with what it made out of USSR for very, very long, since "but in the 90es" is pretty much an inrevokable argument, and will stay that way for quite a while.
I would be very curious to know how so.

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Originally Posted by KermieD View Post
Too much to quote there, but you can say Reagan had little to do with it only from the viewpoint that it was going to happen at some vague future "is it someday yet?" timeframe. What Reagan did was assert that this collapse was going to happen as soon as possible before the USSR became the hybrid financial giant that China is now. To say that "Reagan had little to do with it" is disingenuous.
It is highly doubtful that the USSR could ever have become anything like China, I think mostly in large part due to the federation structure the USSR had, and the support Russia had to provide to what were, and still are in some cases, welfare states.
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Old 23 June 2010, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by KermieD View Post
Too much to quote there, but you can say Reagan had little to do with it only from the viewpoint that it was going to happen at some vague future "is it someday yet?" timeframe. What Reagan did was assert that this collapse was going to happen as soon as possible before the USSR became the hybrid financial giant that China is now. To say that "Reagan had little to do with it" is disingenuous.
I see nothing that evidences this. Certainly nothing that says spending huge buckets of money reviving war technology that was outdated 50 years before, had anything to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. The money spent for weapons by Reagan had nothing to do with the fall.

You might be able to make the argument that on the diplomatic side Reagan provided a relatively soft landing as the empire fell. At least, we didn't promptly invade. But he could have done that without spending the many billions on weapons.

The soviets fell under their own weight and the "vague" time frame was really only plus or minus a few years. The US defense spending had zero affect one way or another.
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Old 23 June 2010, 11:25 PM
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. . . You might be able to make the argument that on the diplomatic side Reagan provided a relatively soft landing as the empire fell. At least, we didn't promptly invade. . . .
Invasion, of course, was never a possibility, as they still had LOTS of ICBMs. In fact, the worry in some quarters was that their hard-line communist leaders might say, "Well, okay, if that's the way it has to be..." and pop goes the planet.

The credit for the soft landing goes, in large part, to George Bush, who had the "realpolitik" expertise not to twist the knife or laugh in the face of the dying empire. His adroit ducking of the Baltic Republics issue was elegant: when asked to recognized Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, he said, in essence: we don't have to, as we never stopped recognizing them from 1940.

Silas
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Old 23 June 2010, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmy101_again View Post
I see nothing that evidences this. Certainly nothing that says spending huge buckets of money reviving war technology that was outdated 50 years before, had anything to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. The money spent for weapons by Reagan had nothing to do with the fall.
The issue was the USSR overcoming the perceived threat cutting edge technology, not reviving outdated 50+ year old technology. This statement could not be farther away from fact.

Quote:
You might be able to make the argument that on the diplomatic side Reagan provided a relatively soft landing as the empire fell. At least, we didn't promptly invade.
This is correct

Quote:
But he could have done that without spending the many billions on weapons.
We're still going to disagree here, and you'll find far more objective experts in the field who disagree with you than agree.

Quote:
The soviets fell under their own weight and the "vague" time frame was really only plus or minus a few years. The US defense spending had zero affect one way or another.
This again, flies in the face of what most objective experts will argue on the topic, particularly the assertion that the vague timeframe was only plus or minus a few years. Without viable references, this is merely repetition without substantiation.

Even Gorbachev said in his memoirs about the time of the fall"... it turned out that military expenditure was not 16 per cent of the state budget, as we had been told, but rather 40 per cent; and its production was not 6 per cent but 20 per cent of the gross national product".
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Old 24 June 2010, 12:18 AM
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AnglRdr AnglRdr is offline
 
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Kermie, I posted a link that supports jimmy101's claim way upthread.

And, fwiw, your unsubstantiated claims are no more valid than other unsubstantiated claims.
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Old 24 June 2010, 12:26 AM
KermieD KermieD is offline
 
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Originally Posted by AnglRdr View Post
Kermie, I posted a link that supports jimmy101's claim way upthread.

And, fwiw, your unsubstantiated claims are no more valid than other unsubstantiated claims.
I'd have thought that quoting the guy who had the inside track on how both the CIA's and even the USSR's estimates on the spending were less than half of what was initially thought counts as a little bit of substantiation. Not sure what your standards are for substantiation, though, so YMMV.
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Old 24 June 2010, 02:12 AM
KermieD KermieD is offline
 
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Originally Posted by AnglRdr View Post
Kermie, I posted a link that supports jimmy101's claim way upthread.

And, fwiw, your unsubstantiated claims are no more valid than other unsubstantiated claims.
Also, the article you linked to does not really provide any insight that actually disputes the claims that military spending was the cause of the economic collapse. Instead, boiled down to its barest essence, it merely states that the 2nd half of Reagan's presidency somehow proves that the collapse was clearly not specifically engineered down to the last detail by Reagan's policies and does so by misrepresenting a number of facts. In fact, when Reagan originally offered to share SDI at the Rekyavik talks, Gorbachev said essentially that "hey, you won't even share oil processing equipment wit us" (not a direct quote, but close), a statement that flies directly in the face of the assertions of that article. Again, straight from the mouth of the guy directly involved.

Again, though, I merely said that most would disagree.

http://www.stanford.edu/group/wais/H...randreagan.htm
http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...t/1995/BMH.htm

Even a liberal outlet such as msnbc.com. Note the quote by Gerasimov in the story:

Quote:
“Reagan bolstered the U.S. military might to ruin the Soviet economy, and he achieved his goal,” said Gennady Gerasimov, who served as top spokesman for the Soviet Foreign Ministry during the 1980s.

"Reagan’s SDI was a very successful blackmail,” Gerasimov told The Associated Press. “The Soviet Union tried to keep up pace with the U.S. military buildup, but the Soviet economy couldn’t endure such competition.”
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5145921/

Quote:
Here was Gorbachev speaking at a session of the Politburo in October 1986, days before he traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland to offer Reagan a groundbreaking disarmament plan, including a 50 percent reduction in nuclear arsenals. If he didn't propose these cuts, Gorbachev told his colleagues:
[W]e will be pulled into an arms race that is beyond our capabilities, and we will lose it because we are at the limit of our capabilities. … If the new round [of an arms race] begins, the pressures on our economy will be unbelievable.
http://www.slate.com/id/2102081

Quote:
The seasoned diplomat Andrei Gromyko charged that 'behind all this lies the clear calculation that the USSR will exhaust its material resources…and therefore will be forced to surrender.'
http://www.historynet.com/president-...e-cold-war.htm

These are the guys who had to swallow a lot of pride to make the statements they did, being on the losing side. Usually they say that the victors are the ones who write the history books, but here we have the guys who lost their battle confirming the established viewpoint of history. Given that, I'm not sure why anyone would try to go about trying to revise this particular event in history and I'm completely baffled as to why we would give it any credence whatsoever.
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Old 24 June 2010, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Invasion, of course, was never a possibility, as they still had LOTS of ICBMs.
Not only that, they still had a vastly superior conventional weapons capacity (and probably still have, even today), and they would have been fighting in their home arena, without need to send their stuff all the way from another continent.
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