The foreign policy factor played a very important role in the disintegration of the Soviet Union, because the USSR, despite having a vulnerable economy, still ventured to support all its external friends, those who purported to be embracing the path of socialism. Those were tens of countries that received significant support from the Soviet Union, including totalitarian regimes created with the support of the Soviet Union. The most important external factor, however, was the arms race, which undermined the Soviet Union’s economic potential. This was stated by political pundit Igor Boțan during an IPN debate dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the United Soviet’s dissolution.
“The best intellectual resources, the best technologies were classified and used to increase the potential of the armed forces. And the economy, which was supposed to raise the welfare of its citizens, was in a very bad shape. This gave rise to the (system of favors colloquially known as) blat for consumer goods in short supply, which subsequently corrupted the political, Party and Komsomolist elite. Then there was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to save a regime whose leaders were nominally communists. The Soviet Union went on to occupy Afghanistan for ten years, where it became embroiled in a war with insurgents, and the international community was forced to impose sanctions on the Soviet Union. The price of crude oil plummeted, which, since the 1970s, had been a lifeline for the purchase of technologies and consumer goods”, he said.
According to him, the external factor in the disintegration of the USSR is often wrongly speculated, when the obvious truth is that the Soviet Union bit more than it could chew. “The USSR sought the victory of communist regimes around the globe, and the free world had to intervene on multiple occasions, for example, in the Indochina War, in the Korean War, wars that were seen by the free world as attempts to expand the influence of the Soviet Union. Of course, the external factor had an impact, but what mattered most was that domestically people in the Soviet Union were experiencing a serious deficit of consumer goods. And this made the young generation, especially the Komsomol elites, look at the gerontocratic government of the Soviet Union with contempt and become a promoter of change”, said Igor Botan.
On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall 10 years ago, the Institute of Public Policy commissioned a survey that included the question: “What do you think about the collapse of the Soviet Union?” “Almost 56% of Moldovans regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union. This did not necessarily mean that they were in favor of building the Soviet Union back, but that they were regretting the dissolution of the USSR, and that regret was based on two things. One: after Moldova declared its independence, the feeling of social protection disappeared and social stratification manifested itself very strongly, where 1-2% of the citizens are rich, almost 30% are poor and another 40% have a standard of living that allows them to meet their basic needs, and only a very narrow segment of citizens, 12-15% are part of what is called the middle class, who wants to be active and change things. Five years later, this question was repeated in polls and the percentage of those who regretted the dissolution of the Soviet Union decreased, but not by much, to about 46% of Moldovans. This nostalgia persists in Moldovan society because of this social stratification where contrasts are very stark”, pointed out Igor Botan.
The expert believes that the restoration of the Soviet Union is unrealistic. “I really doubt there is a single nation state that wants to become a province of an empire. I don’t think there is such an ideology that can be attractive to citizens, such as the Marxist ideology. We have neo-Marxism, opportunistic currents, which have manifested themselves fully and well in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. But I do not think that this ideology of the Bolsheviks can be revived, and all the recurring ideologies, the revisionist ones, have long since developed, we have welfare states, which combine free entrepreneurial activity, individual rights, with the social protection of citizens. But a communist regime can only be a totalitarian one”, said the expert.
The debate titled “Thirty years without the USSR: why did it disappear, why is it still alive?” is the 216th edition of the “Developing Political Culture” Series, a project implemented by IPN with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.