Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 03:55 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 03:55 | SYDNEY

The Soviet collapse, 20 years on


Sam Roggeveen


23 June 2011 11:00

Foreign Policy magazine does enjoy myth-busting, as it's recurring 'Think Again' feature demonstrates.

Yesterday, Andrew Carr linked to another example of this FP genre, a long article claiming that 'everything you think you know about the Soviet collapse is wrong'. But the article actually perpetuates one piece of conventional wisdom: that 'virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it one-party dictatorship, the state-owned economy, and the Kremlin's control over its domestic and Eastern European empires.'

An essay by Bruce Berkowitz published in 2007, which draws on FOI data, busts that myth, arguing that US intelligence 'detected the slowdown of the Soviet economy; it noted that the Soviet leadership was running out of options to save the country; it stipulated a set of conditions that might signal the crisis had reached a tipping point; and it notified top US leaders when these conditions were met.'

The interesting thing about Leon Aron's essay in FP is that he claims economic conditions do very little to explain why the USSR collapsed when it did. So I guess he would argue that, even if America's spooks did make the right call, it was for the wrong reasons.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.