Guide Security Dynamics in the Former Soviet Bloc

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Only forms of legitimacy that are generated in a dialogical manner within and between societies can generate the true sovereignty that comes from the authenticity of the autonomous resolution of historical problems. Neither legitimacy nor sovereignty can be borrowed but have to be created.

Skip to main content. The idea that Russia needs a buffer zone or cordon sanitaire.

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But why? The Cold War is over. To protect itself from whom? Who since Hitler has been insane enough to even consider invading Russia? Economic security. A loss of favoured market access as a result of membership of a free trading area such as the EU. The Russians had a valid argument around the issue of goods being manufactured in the EU and re-packaged in Ukraine and then exported to the Russian Federation as Ukrainian produce.

Dispatch: Energy Pipeline Politics in the Former Soviet Union

But their main concern is around the geopolitical implications of Ukraine not being in their trading bloc. Either way, to be competitive, Russia will need to make better cars, clothes and consumables. Best not to antagonize Russia, it could provoke unpredictable reactions, perhaps even military conflict. Also conceivable. How far?

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What are the limits? Is threat of nuclear annihilation a trump card Russia can bring out at any time? Best not to antagonize Russia, the West needs to trade with it. Ideally, yes. But at what non-economic cost? If the above is nuclear blackmail, is this not economic blackmail? Maintain geopolitical balance against the US. Big states have always held sway over small states.

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It was true in classical times and it is true now. There is nothing we can do about it. Historical determinism notwithstanding, it may be true that Russia is more committed to the other post-Soviet states than the West is. Vital to this understanding is the cost inflicted by the superpowers on the rest of the world: allies that had to be kept in line, and persuaded to over-allocate to the military, suppress tendencies to seditious ideas or consideration of a separate peace, and so forth.

But the cost to the non-aligned societies was monumental, even though the compradors were well rewarded by the Soviets and Americans.


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Both superpowers interfered in the ex-colonial regions, making and breaking governments, looking for reliable allies or denying access to the other, loading them down with weapons, and in such dramatic cases as Vietnam and Afghanistan actually intervening massively and destructively in their civil wars Singer, The tragedies unfolding in those regions today can largely be traced back not only to the original colonizers but also to the more recent Soviet-American struggle.

Yet a third consequence of our failure to anticipate the major changes in the USSR, and recognize and respond to them more promptly is the tumult and instability of that region now. Had the Western powers and their analysts appreciated the power shift in the Kremlin, and reacted to its foreign policy implications in a timely and positive fashion, the transition might have been more gradual.


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  • Having failed to do so, we probably deprived the Gorbachev-technocrat reformers of the reinforcement they needed to move at a pragmatic pace at home and abroad Kegley, We could go on at considerable length as to the observed, as well as the possible, cost of perpetuation of the East-West rivalry beyond those windows of opportunity that appeared every few years after Stalin's death in until Gorbachev's initiatives from onward.

    And one reason that these opportunities were inadequately recognized and repeatedly ignored is that the conventional wisdom -- in both East and West -- had no room for the possibility of a Soviet retreat from the fray, and few incentives to even contemplate the possibility Hopf, Whom should we have expected to predict this dramatic turn of events?

    Security Dynamics in the Former Soviet Bloc - CRC Press Book

    First of all, scholars and analysts from the USSR or its closer allies should have been the first to suspect Rocca, To begin, there were all of the long-standing indications that the economic system was in a shambles; that its technology, even in the military sector, was largely obsolete; that its farms were unproductive; that the universities had become stultified; that the bureaucracy was dominated by a self-serving nomenklatura: and that most of the citizenry was dissatisfied, sullen, and ready for change. Another clue was that the Kruschev reform efforts, while clumsy and inadequate, might have succeeded were it not for the Cuban missile crisis and other foreign policy failures.

    But the clearest evidence of impending change was the rise to power of Gorbachev and his Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. Even though the American elites sat slack-jawed and cynical through the domestic and foreign policy initiatives of and , some of the natives must have made correct inferences. To be sure, there had been a few Russians such as Znakov , Amalrik and Solzhenitsyn who went public with their jeremiads and suffered exile and worse as a result.

    Turning to those of us in the West, to whom these charges are really addressed, the worst performance of all was the so-called intelligence community. Generously funded and politically lionized, these people were trained and paid to observe, analyze, and anticipate the Soviet scene. But a moment's reflection should make us less shrill in our criticism. To begin, most of the East Europe "experts" in the CIA, DIA, State, and Pentagon were trained in the most conventional manner, meaning little if any exposure to the scientific style, reminding me of a phone call several years ago from a colleague in Langley; he wanted to recruit a new Ph.

    Inasmuch as the significance of this will not be obvious to all, it will be addressed below. To be sure, some individuals in the Directorate of Intelligence -- if not the Directorate of Operations -- must have come close to understanding the processes under way in the Soviet Union, but the party line in the "free world" was only marginally less intimidating than that on the other side. And by the mids, the US foreign and military policy establishment had already been well-purged of those who questioned the premises and the policies of the cold warriors, if not over China policy in the early s, ballistic missile defenses and then the Vietnam intervention of the mids, and Pershing deployment in the mids; there were all sorts of grounds for wondering whether one or another of us "fully understood the nature of the Communist threat.

    Another group whose members might also have done better were the journalists. While untrained in the social sciences, or perhaps even the history or culture of the regions they were assigned, media people in the West typically pride themselves on being on top of contemporary events and conditions. And, even if neophytes when they first arrive, they tool up quickly, hang around with the veterans, get to know some of the natives, and soon become "inside dopesters" Reisman, Whether working close to home in the West or out in the field in Eastern Europe, however, they soon discern the party line, and with no need for formal indoctrination, become comfortable operators on what Lenin called the transmission belt of public opinion Breed, To be more accurate, one might use the past tense here inasmuch as American journalists seem in the past few years to be moving to a more independent and responsible role in foreign affairs since the demise of the USSR.

    But such cheerleaders as Cronkite, Reston, the Kalb brothers, and Richard Burt all come to mind as people who had acquired Max Weber's "trained incapacity" to analyze and comprehend affairs in the Eastern bloc. And as Dorman and Farhang document in the context of the Iranian hostage case, US press coverage of the issue could best be described as "the journalism of deference. Thus, given the rewards of conformity -- and several of those mentioned above actually became members of the official foreign policy establishment -- it comes as no surprise that our media people fared little better than their governmental brethren in anticipating the dramatic changes that were soon to come in Soviet foreign and security policy.

    In response to the Gaddis focus, we should now take a closer look at the academic community Crawford and Biderman, Let me begin, however, by noting that a fair number of Western academics had been raising questions as to the viability of the Soviet system, and even going so far as to explicitly predict the collapse of the regime.

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    For instance, invited to a conference organized by the Professors World Peace Academy in Geneva, on "Post-Soviet Russia," several of us declined on the grounds that it was sponsored by "the Moonies," and legitimized by quite a few ardent cold warriors, distrusted because they used the brutality in the Russian empire as the justification for a belligerent and provocative foreign policy against them.

    On reading the four-volume collection Shtromas and Kaplan, emanating from that conference, it is evident that this turned out to be a serious and responsible enterprise, and I owe an apology to the organizers. As the above suggests, academics in the West were by no means uniform in their outlook on the USSR, but a few impressionistic generalizations seem appropriate. One might expect this convergence with the orientation of the foundations that funded many of them, the media that quoted and lionized many of them, and the government agencies, war colleges, and think tanks that legitimized and reinforced them.

    As noted above, there were some exceptions, and somewhat surprisingly their work often appeared in Problems of Communism published by the US Information Agency. Another contrast worth noting is that West European scholars were consistently less rigid and dogmatic about the Soviet system than their North American counterparts; they had more contact with Soviet colleagues, heard some of their dissenting voices, and thus tended toward a more differentiated and complex model of that benighted society. This group, while distressingly homogenous in its premises regarding the Soviet regime, their national security establishment, the dynamics of the armed rivalry, and even the "nature of" international politics, arose out of quite diverse backgrounds.

    Along with the usual suspects from political science, we had "defrocked" economists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, and all sorts of engineers. From a social scientific perspective, this was a truly amateurish aggregation, but what they lacked in historical understanding, political sophistication, and epistemological standards, they more than made up in political legitimacy and bureaucratic clout inside the beltway. With, once more, the happy exceptions, these "defense intellectuals" bought into the "realist" school, worst case analysis, technological fix, and a touching faith in the theology of strategic deterrence, all of this informed by a view of the USSR remarkably similar to a provincial party apparat's view of the US.

    Nor could the Pentagon or the weapons labs come up with a weapon system they didn't like, from tactical nuclears to MIRV to BMD; even the Reagan "Star Wars" system still commanded an impressive measure of support in those circles as late as Even if one granted the most cherished assumptions of that community in and out of uniform, one could demonstrate the careless reasoning of their strategic doctrine. I tried in a book Singer, and a dozen or more scholarly or popular articles, and endless conferences including Pugwash, but to little avail. Not only was there the fear of being "soft on Communism" along with a host of other peer pressures.

    History of the Soviet Union (1964–82)

    There were the perks of having a top secret or Q clearance, generous consulting fees, "research" contracts covering one's grad students and summer salary, the opportunity of intimating that "if you knew what I know, you wouldn't question my statement," access to marvelous "I was there" anecdotes to awe your students, and of course, close proximity to the nomenklatura! In sum, it is no surprise that these peripheral beneficiaries of America's most generous entitlement program found it easy to assume that the cold war would happily continue -- at least until they retired!

    In closing this section, and before moving on to those political scientists who are singled out for some unwanted attention by Gaddis, one might want to add one group to those discussed above. Reference is to the professional historians who are not really specialists in a given region of the world or given period of time.