At the same time it probably stands confident of its own ability to do so. Without a doubt, the difficult economic issues will constitute the most important factor in the disputes, conflicts and realignments which will accompany these successions. Third, the political and economic situation of the Soviet Union may significantly affect Eastern Europe in the 1980s. The two most important consequences will be a sharply intensified competition for scarce resources among sectors, and an equally intense competition among regions. If arms spending continues at the same pace as in the past decade, the burden of keeping the Soviet military juggernaut in shape will be felt to a much greater extent than at any time in the Brezhnev era. Mature Soviet citizens smoked, drank immoderately, breathed dirty air and died prematurely of organ failures and cancers. The situation will be further complicated by changes in the composition of the new labor force, which will … To what extent the existing police controls and the management of mass expectations can keep the Soviet working class docile during a prolonged stagnation of its living standards is an open question. The Link Between Foreign Languages and U.S. National Security, Aung San Suu Kyi’s Major Speech on Rakhine State, Creating a State Department Office for American State and Local Diplomacy, Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives, Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading, Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions. Today the Soviet Union faces a United States that has for the most part left behind its post-Vietnam and post-Watergate doubts and uncertainties. Reply. Last week, Russia expelled an American diplomat, accusing him of being a spy for the CIA. The Soviets cannot help but notice that the European attitude toward increasing Soviet military power is rather conciliatory and that European resistance to Soviet political pressures is weaker than ever before. The Central Asian region has a limited infrastructure, especially in the technological sector. We will now discuss some of the key domestic issues. The USSR in the 1950-1980’s There are some awesome shots back from times of the USSR. It may well be that they will be less cautious, more prone to take risks than the present leadership, precisely because they have no first-hand experience of the costs of building Soviet might and are used to the Soviet Union's great-power status. The episode—complete with cheap looking wigs, fake glasses, a compass, a street map, and a laughable "Dear Friend" letter—seemed straight out of the Cold War. Nor do I expect them to favor the highly ideological, frantic, campaign-like reforms associated with Khrushchev. Serious economic difficulties in Eastern Europe have a way of translating into social and political unrest and internal destabilization, to which the Soviets are very sensitive. Even more dangerous is the situation in Poland, the pivotal country in the Soviet empire, a situation with incalculable implications for the future of both the Soviet empire and the Soviet Union itself, regardless of what course of action the leadership adopts. After World War II (1939-1945), the U.S. and the Soviet Union were locked in a fierce battle for power and influence around the world that lasted for nearly half a century. Rather, they display a curiosity that surely reflects intense concern with the patent inadequacies in the working of the Soviet system. 4) The Soviet Union will face an energy balance that will affect its economic growth unfavorably, particularly with regard to oil. My recollections of watching Soviet TV programming in the 1980-s, when I was a kid and a teenager. Such a prospect becomes all the more likely as contenders in the succession struggle compete for the support of one key group, the military establishment. I should like to make one thing clear. I can only say from the stories of my parents. A curious situation has developed in which the East European standard of living is and will continue to be higher than that in the Soviet Union, and in which the Uzbek peasant lives far better than his Russian counterpart. It is even highly probable that in the political mood of the 1980s the Soviet leaders will try to increase persuasive, normative efforts for the purpose of mobilizing the population and promoting sacrifice. Major Martin Manhoff documented every day life in the Soviet Union while he was serving as an assistant army attache at the US Embassy in Moscow from 1952 to 1954. At the same time, the Soviet policy of offering carrots may not preclude a simultaneous policy of using sticks. The Soviet Union faces a situation marked not by competitive accommodation, but rather by the greatest challenge to its global ambitions of the last 20 years. The pattern of recent Soviet-American relations suggests scant likelihood that the United States will serve as a key partner in mutual economic enterprises. According to Gur Ofer, this created a “radical change in the quality of life in the Soviet Union” (Ofer 1987, p. 1790), with an increased variety and quality of goods leading to significant improvements in the standard of living. The Soviet Union made little use of the new science of non-infectious and degenerative diseases. One of its crucial formative political experiences-if not the most crucial-took place during the protracted ferment and shock of Khrushchev's anti-Stalin campaign, a campaign that admitted the monstrosities no one had hitherto dared to name, a campaign that questioned authority and established truths and thereby stimulated critical thought. Brezhnev suffered a series of life-threatening health issues … Our family received a scare when a fellow American journalist was arrested by the KGB in 1986 and accused of espionage, apparently in retaliation for the arrest of a Soviet UN diplomat in New York City. At the same time I should not be surprised if they were reform-minded within the limits of the Soviet framework or if they were dissatisfied with the thoroughly conservative attitudes toward innovation which pervade the present Brezhnev administration. While the Soviet Union remains unshakably committed to controlling its East European empire, increasingly it will be forced, owing to economic difficulties, to maintain its domination by intimidation and the threat to use force. If this is the case, it may produce, in some Central Asian regions, the sort of major social displacement associated with rapid industrialization. Even so, there was a string of scandals in the 80s that caused both the Americans and Soviets to increase their vigilance. Equally significant is the rapid changing of the domestic and international conditions and circumstances which have shaped the character of the past decade and a half. The capacity, the potential and the instruments for such policies already exist. In the long term, no leader can hope to gain and hold power without formulating and implementing major solutions to the country's serious economic difficulties. The development of the Siberian oil and gas reserves will constitute a new, major-and increasing-burden on Soviet investment resources. On the one hand, certain pressures will work to continue expanding Soviet military might regardless of cost. The new generation is clearly a Soviet generation in its typical and persistent adherence to the cult of the state. Westerners faced dangers too; diplomats and reporters could be expelled, or worse, if they ran afoul of the dreaded KGB. A fourth area where domestic developments might influence foreign policy relates to the extension of foreign trade, the infusion of advanced foreign technology, and the attendant questions of credits, foreign indebtedness and cooperative arrangements. Its model of rule and development, however, is increasingly considered irrelevant by both Marxists and non-Marxists, and the Soviet socioeconomic and political system is held in greater contempt than ever. It was, for example, securing political client states in Africa. Even if one rejects the worst-case scenarios, which predict oil production capacity at eight million barrels a day, the decrease will be sufficient, it seems, to impose major constraints on the Soviet economy and to limit the Soviets' ability to utilize fully their existing economic capacities. Sectors of the leadership and elite groups competing for resources may press to cut the military budget, a decision that has been unacceptable since the early 1960s. At the same time, one is not persuaded that they judge this system suitable or desirable for a developed Western society. The economic viability of the East European empire, moreover, depends to a large extent on economic help from and interchange with Western adversaries of the Soviet Union. In the coming decade, when the Soviet economy slows down, the divisive pull of conflicting claims concerning investment resources will increase to a level unknown during the Brezhnev era. In Kundera’s case, his decline into obscurity is probably connected to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union enters the 1980s at least partly conscious of such paradoxes and the resulting dilemmas. The first and foremost response of Soviet authorities to the difficulties that they face-both the economic difficulties and the volatile political situation-will be to strengthen the authoritarian character of the Soviet party-state. A photo posted by alina_mcd (@mcd604) on Jul 27, 2016 at 3:41am PDT 19. Meanwhile, it confronts a China which is no longer pursuing a self-destructive course of permanent revolution but is concentrating on modernization and the pursuit of virtual alliance with the United States, Japan and NATO. A crucial question here is the degree to which the Soviets will have to cut oil deliveries to Eastern Europe and allow the East European nations to compete for available oil resources on the international market. In view of the major claims on Soviet resources by other sectors in a period of declining growth, it will be extremely difficult for the Soviet leadership to continue its policy of consumption growth, even at the lower rates of the most recent Five Year Plan announced in February. 2) The Soviet economic-political system of management, pricing and incentives is ill prepared to maximize the possibilities for growth from increased productivity of both capital and labor (i.e., intensive growth). The most important of these characteristics is the fact that it almost inevitably will combine the replacement of the top leader with the replacement of the core leadership group and a large part of the central elite, as well as with the beginning of generational turnover among the Soviet elites. While the 26th Party Congress showed some recognition of the changing international and domestic environment, its attempts to grapple with the resulting issues and problems have been minimal. 1 A. We lived in walled and guarded compounds, drove in specially marked cars, shopped in hard-currency stores, and attended foreign schools. Although the CIA no longer estimates that the U.S.S.R. will be a net oil importer by the mid-1980s and other economists dispute the extent of the projected decline, they agree that Soviet oil production will decline. On what major premises was Soviet foreign policy of the 1970s constructed? In the Soviet Union, vending machines selling soda were at every corner. The sharply increased sectoral competition for resources and the dilemmas which it will create are not difficult to envisage. It will constitute one of the key contentious issues of internal politics. Seweryn Bialer is Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and Director of its Research Institute on International Change. Even without other negative factors, and assuming no decline in the quality of the traditional Soviet leadership of the economy, the growth of the Soviet gross national product (GNP) in the 1980s will only be approximately 2.5 percent per year. The post-Stalin experience of a society without terror was at the same time the experience of a society with a steadily rising standard of living. The energy problem facing the Soviets in the 1980s will demand mammoth and prolonged investments, beyond those which have already begun to be made. But in this respect, the leadership's manner of responding to the dilemma posed by the new demographic trend in the growth of Soviet labor resources will be the most important issue on the Soviet agenda concerning the nationality question in the 1980s. In international politics the Soviet Union was very strong and seemed only to be getting stronger. In any case, one can expect political and economic pressures to be increasingly concentrated on the European theater and on compelling expanded economic relations with Western Europe. Moreover, during the time of extreme stringencies and particularly sharp one-sided development, the system was guarded by a mass terror apparatus, introduced by Stalin and dismantled by his successors. The post-Stalin generation's entrance into Soviet politics coincided as well with open recognition of the gross inadequacies of Soviet development and the backwardness of Soviet technology and, at the same time, with extravagant predictions of matching Western achievements in the foreseeable future, predictions that collapsed with no little embarrassment. Given the fragmentary evidence at our disposal, we must at the outset underscore the tentativeness of this profile of the post-Stalin generation. On the road to power, such programs and alliances often prove transitory and tactical in nature. The band were fans of the Smiths from early on (quite a phenomenon for such music to reach the Union that quickly), ... especially dating back to the 1980s. Throughout their history, the Soviets have persisted in holding the share of investment in the national economy and the levels of investment growth very high. The stress on law and order, social discipline, unswerving loyalty, nationalism, and punitive and restrictive measures against anti-social behavior may become more pronounced than it was in the 1970s. 15% of the population lived in areas with pollution 10x normal levels. On the economic front, for the first time in its history the Soviet leadership was able to pursue successfully and simultaneously a policy of guns and butter as well as growth. I. Such change will originate in the impending turnover of the leaders and elites, a turnover that will inject a more pronounced element of unpredictability and uncertainty into the overall Soviet political process than is characteristic of its operation in "normal" times. Revolts, rebellions, unrest, and reform movements have almost always erupted in one satellite country at a time. The Soviets have not yet devised a way to assure even the present inadequate levels of agricultural production without infusions of long-range massive investments. ©2020 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Moreover, because of the decline in long-term growth in other sectors, the unavoidable agricultural fluctuations will have increasing influence on the size of the Soviet GNP. As growth declines and resources become increasingly scarce, the costs of a continuing military buildup at the rates of the past decade will burden the Soviet economy and polity more greatly than at any time during the 1970s. At the same time, however, the Soviet Union has suffered major failures and significant reverses, most notably in the Middle East, where it lost its pivotal influence in Egypt. The last 15 years have seen a growth in the standard of living of the Soviet people that was rapid by any-but especially by the Soviet-measure, particularly in the area of durable consumer goods. Popular music 1980s Alfred schnittke was the best composer in the soviet union during the 1980s. The period ahead offers a strong potential for destroying the bureaucratic inertia of the departed leaders and for halting the unrelieved drift of their policies. 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