High Costs of Empire Sink Soviet Union

By Justin Burke, | The Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 1992 | Go to article overview

High Costs of Empire Sink Soviet Union


Justin Burke,, The Christian Science Monitor


THE Soviet Union was guided by ideology and geopolitics, not economics, as it built its empire, a flaw that doomed it from the start, political experts say.

"It was counterproductive from the beginning," Oleg Bogomolov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Economic and Political Studies, said of the Soviet client-state policy. "It may have been justified ideologically but it was never justified economically."

The list of Soviet client states started with Mongolia in 1921 and gradually grew to encompass Eastern Europe, North Korea, and Cuba by the early 1960s. By the 1970s and '80s, the list expanded to include such states as Vietnam and Afghanistan in Asia; Syria and Iraq in the Middle East; Angola and Ethiopia in Africa; and Nicaragua and Grenada in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Statistics on financial outlays by the Soviet Union to the client states are unreliable, but amount to at least $40 billion over the last several decades, Mr. Bogomolov estimates. But much of the Soviet aid to friendly, so-called socialist countries came in the form of military weaponry, for which expenditure figures were sketchy at best. And even for other forms of aid, experts say, the data is unreliable because of the secrecy associated with the Communist system.

"Nobody kept accurate records of both military and economic aid," says Yelena Aryefieva, a researcher at Moscow's Institute for World Economics and International Relations. The statistics also don't accurately reflect the immense costs incurred by the Soviet Union by buying products, such as Cuban sugar, at prices several times higher than the world rate, while selling commodities to the client states, including oil and gas, at artificially low prices, she adds.

For all the money spent on its client states, the Soviet Union received little in return. But economic returns were never the driving force behind Soviet foreign policy. Most important were the principles of Marxism-Leninism, which ideologically bound Moscow to give assistance to other states seeking to "throw off the shackles of capitalism."

Moscow also felt compelled to take on foreign responsibilities due to the geopolitical chess game it played against the United States following World War II. "Military doctrine also played a role in the Soviet relations with Socialist countries," Bogomolov adds. "Because of the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West, the Soviet side was concerned about surrounding itself with a protective layer."

In spite of all the ideology involved in its relations with its client states, the Soviet Union did receive a few notable economic benefits, primarily from Eastern Europe. For example, rail cars produced in the former East Germany and Ikarus buses from Hungary are widely used throughout the country. And though the cost was exorbitant, Cuban sugar is essential in a nation that has a population with an almost insatiable sweet tooth. Beginning of the end Beginning of the end

Some experts point to the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan as the beginning of the end of the empire. Moscow's first large-scale entanglement in a colonial war underscored many of the inherent weaknesses in Moscow's imperial policies.

"It was not in line with our economic capacities or resources," Bogomolov says, referring not only to the Afghan invasion, but also to the Soviet proxy fights in Ethiopia and Angola during the 1970s and '80s. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

High Costs of Empire Sink Soviet Union
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.