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Old 03-14-2010, 09:45 PM
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Default TSiG, Ch2: Soviet Reform, Pt. 2


TSiG, Ch2: Soviet Reform, Pt. 2


Overall, 1992 proved another good year for Danilov. During 1992, Danilov began to outline a general philosophy for the direction of the Soviet Union and a means for getting there. The initiatives of 1991 were shaping up nicely, and he was able to parlay his success into support—not always enthusiastic—for further efforts.

Danilov wanted an end to the Cold War. The ever-escalating arms race had made a mockery of Communist promises to improve the lives of the people. This fact in turn made it necessary for the Soviet leadership to keep itself in power with a security apparatus that would be insufficient at any level of funding. It was a cruel trap, and according to Danilov the only way out was to bring an end to East-West hostilities.

The Kremlin boss also badly wanted to reform Soviet industry. Though not obliged to compete directly with the West in the global marketplace, the Soviet Union nevertheless was in competition with the West for global resources. While the Soviet Union made virtually everything that industrial societies manufactured, important raw materials and agricultural goods were available elsewhere in the world. For the USSR to compete with the West on anything like an equal basis would require the ability to successfully export those items the USSR possessed. Oil wealth, though useful, would only go so far.

The first step to controlling the East-West arms race was genuine détente. The resulting thaw in Soviet-Western relations following the Gulf War was very promising. Danilov’s unilateral drawdown of 200,000 active-duty troops gave the United States some reason to believe that the Soviets meant what they said about changing the relationship between the US and the USSR. This made it possible for Bush and Danilov to meet in Vienna in the middle of 1992.

In Vienna, Danilov outlined a startling plan to Bush. The Soviet leader wanted to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the superpowers, both in numbers of warheads and numbers of launchers, by half. He rightly pointed out that the strategic arms possessed by the superpowers were gratuitously in excess of anything that could be called necessary for security. Eliminating half the launchers and half the warheads would change nothing in the either the strategic balance or the ability of either nation to destroy the world at will. Both sides needed the resources being wasted on nuclear competition, and both sides could profit from the demonstration of good will.

Bush was wise enough to take Danilov’s offer seriously. The President was up for re-election in the Fall, and he was suffering in the polls as a result of a recession that had been nagging the US economy for nearly two years. An arms deal with the Soviet Union might be just what the doctor ordered.

There were other problems that would not be so easily solved, however. Soviet activity in Africa increased sharply in 1991. Cuban troops returned to Angola in 1992. The sale of obsolescent Soviet arms to the Third World did not greatly concern the Bush Administration. The sale of state-of-the-art fighters, missiles, and ground combat systems was another matter. Here, Bush pressed Danilov for some sort of an agreement.

For his part, Danilov was not strongly motivated to curb either the renewed activity in Africa or the sale of advanced military technology around the world. Events in Africa following the Gulf War had opened the door for the USSR to redraw the lines of influence south of the Sahara. Control of the vast mineral resources of sub-Saharan Africa through African client states was too good a prospect for Danilov to forego.

In terms of arms sales, Danilov pointed out to Bush that the United States was now the world’s leading arms exporter. Moreover, the US held a commanding lead in the sales of high technology items like fighter aircraft. Unless the United States was willing to enter into an arms export limitations agreement, the Soviet Union could hardly be expected to stand by while the US scooped up all the potential customers. Congress and the Democrats would use this issue to nullify the gains Bush otherwise would have realized from an agreement on strategic arms reduction.

Danilov also wanted to redefine relations with Eastern Europe. His crackdown during the Black Winter was less an effort to shut down Eastern European nationalism than to manage it. Danilov knew that the Soviet Union could not maintain control of Eastern Europe ad infinitum. Yet the need for a strategic buffer between the West and Russia—specifically, between Germany and Russia—remained an imperative. The answer, Danilov believed, was a series of neutral Eastern European states that would be kept out of NATO and the European Community by treaty agreements. He wanted to go there in a series of carefully-considered steps that would demonstrate to the West and to his own government that Dmitri Danilov was calling the shots, and that a pell-mell tumble towards Eastern European independence would not be tolerated.

To this end, Danilov held a summit with the other Warsaw Pact leaders. He outlined a plan by which the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe might be gradually scaled back. At the same time, modest reforms in the Eastern European economies would be permitted. Modest increases in contact with the West would be permitted. Ideas on improving state-run industries would be welcomed. Naturally, the Eastern Europeans were dubious. However, they were willing to act within the boundaries laid out by the Danilov regime.

At home, matters progressed for Danilov. While the state-run agricultural apparatus creaked on towards general collapse, the private plots fed the nation. By the end of the 1992 growing season, private plots using about three percent of the tilled land in the USSR produced about sixty percent of the food. Hard-line Communists grumbled that people were allowed to spend too much time and energy on their own gardens. Were they forced to invest themselves fully in the state-run system, the results would be better, argued the Stalinists. Danilov maintained that if this approach were going to work, it would have done so at some point over the last sixty years. The hard fact was that the state-run agricultural system was not capable of feeding the Soviet Union, regardless of what the ideologues might have preferred. Agricultural reform would continue for the duration of Danilov’s stay in the Kremlin, with commensurate gains for the food situation in the USSR.

The energy with which the Soviet peasants launched into their cottage industries amazed the CPSU officials. In actuality, this sort of thing had been going on for decades. The black market economy had been providing for low-end consumer needs for some time. Now allowed to operate with official sanction, the Soviet people demonstrated a remarkable ability for what could only be called micro-capitalism.

At the end of 1992, however, events in the United States were to have a significant effect on the long-term prospects for Danilov’s reform efforts. Arkansas governor William Clinton was elected in November 1992 as a result of general discontent with the domestic state of affairs in the United States. The American voting public interpreted Soviet actions during the Black Winter and Desert Shield/Desert Storm as a sort of my-side/your-side philosophy on the part of the Soviets. The USSR would not intervene militarily outside their existing sphere of influence, while the US would decry Soviet actions behind the Iron Curtain but not interfere. Even the strategic arms reductions talks were credited more to a changing overall scheme of US-Soviet relations than to Bush personally. As a result, the American voters were more concerned with the US economy than with foreign politics. Bush was blamed for the recession, and he was voted out in favor of someone who talked a better game.

Clinton was interested in trade and better relations with the USSR. However, he harbored a deep-seated resentment over the Black Winter that would not become apparent until later. This would have a critical effect on world history.

The new President embraced strategic reductions. He embraced trade with the USSR. However, he refused to make any changes in the conventional strength of the United States. He had undercut Bush’s accomplishments in managing the arms race partly by promising to keep America strong enough to meet any challenge anywhere in the world. The conventional forces of the US thus would be maintained at roughly the same level as they had enjoyed at the end of the 1990’s.

For most of the next three years, Danilov pursued a vigorous reform policy. He moved along parallel tracks: making real changes to the nation’s industry and agriculture to improve the long-term health of the USSR and making immediate short-term changes to convince the Soviet citizenry that things were going to get better.

The latter policy struck many Soviet apparatchiks as odd. The master of the Kremlin, indeed the CPSU as a whole, did not require the approval of the people. Traditional Soviet thinking held that the Russian people (and therefore all Soviet people) would live with whatever was given them. Danilov questioned the apparent contradiction in this mode of thinking. If the Soviet people could be relied upon to put up with whatever was given them, why did the Soviet state require such a massive security apparatus? Why were hundreds of thousands detained and shipped to gulags every year? Why were sabotage and theft so rampant that Soviet industry was practically on its knees? Why was the Soviet government propped up by a level of thuggery unimaginable under the last tsar?

Danilov needed real gains in national productivity to stay in power and to move ahead with his reform program. By the end of 1992, the grumblings of the hard-liners both within Danilov’s cabal and throughout the Soviet government were becoming louder. Never mind that Danilov was doing exactly what the cabal had agreed needed to be done to save the Soviet Union. Never mind that relations with the West were as good as they had been at any time since the end of the Second World War. The iron grip of the state appeared to be softening, producing an intestinal discomfort among the Stalinists. Danilov needed progress to keep them at bay. To get this, he needed greater productivity in the economy. To get this, he needed to bring the theft, sloth, sabotage, deceit, and corruption under control. To accomplish this, he needed to make the Soviet citizenry believe that the Party was at long last going to deliver on its promises to improve their lives. Major reform in the operations of the centrally-planned economy was going to take time. In the interim, Danilov sought an internal propaganda victory.

Housing in the Soviet Union was chronically short. Danilov started a major housing initiative. Despite the new-found sufficiency of food in the USSR, the Soviet diet was bland. Danilov strove to bring in fruits, vegetables, and spices from other parts of the world to add color to the Soviet markets. The Soviet premier also increased the meager allocation of Soviet resources to consumer goods by twenty percent.

The moderate Party officials were ecstatic. The ultra-conservatives were tight-lipped. From the standpoint of the latter group, Soviet security came at the point of a gun. Spending on housing, imported vegetables, and consumer goods could only come at the expense of security. Indeed, Danilov appeared ready to move ahead with a unilateral reduction in the Strategic Rocket Force regardless of what the new American president did.

However, the ultra-conservatives could do little as yet. Danilov was a KGB man, and he enjoyed wide support within the organization. The premier had done nothing to affect the power or funding of the internal security groups. The military chiefs had lost little and gained appreciably as a result of Danilov’s draw down. And the fact remained that things were better in the Soviet Union than they had been for a long time. Until Danilov made some mistake, he was not going to be vulnerable.

Between 1992 and 1995, the Soviet Union made remarkable progress towards recovering the vitality it had enjoyed in the 1960’s. Oil exports grew dramatically, bringing in much-needed hard currency. The availability of housing, which had seen moribund growth in the 1980’s, increased nearly ten percent in three years. Industrial productivity jumped significantly. Agricultural output rose as private plots came to account for four percent of the tilled land in the USSR and a staggering seventy percent of the output. The cottage industries, now out in the light of day, rapidly gained in efficiency and effectiveness. The Soviet GNP, long stagnant or in decline, grew by more than five percent in 1993 and 1994.

In Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact countries accelerated their own experiments with liberalizing their economies. Though Communist control of the political sphere remained firm, the economic sphere began to diversify and pluralize. The Pact countries remained tied to the Soviet Union for the time being. However, by the end of 1994 there appeared to be no risk of a repeat of the Black Winter. Led by Poland, the countries of Eastern Europe were beginning once again to chart their own courses.

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