Alexei Bayer: Soviet Collapse Ruined the U.S.

Roundup: Talking About History

[Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, is a New York-based economist.]

In 2005, then-President Vladimir Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. As time passes, I find myself agreeing with him more and more.

To be sure, my regrets are fundamentally different from Putin’s. I’ve been a U.S. citizen for three decades, and my son is as American as they come. The United States is clearly my home, and I consider myself a patriotic American. This is why I decry the disappearance of the Soviet empire. Its demise may have dealt a potentially mortal blow to the United States.

The Soviet Union strained its resources and pauperized, exploited and oppressed its own people in order to compete with the United States, the embodiment of the bitterly adversarial capitalist system. Most Soviets didn’t believe the authorities who told them that they were living and working in a “workers’ paradise.” It was a struggle that its leaders believed would prove the supremacy of communism. It was bad for the Soviet Union but a godsend for the United States.

The Soviet propaganda droned incessantly about how workers are impoverished and exploited under capitalism. It tried to flip the truth on its head: to deny that the U.S. government after the Great Depression implemented policies that helped raise incomes while drastically improving the work conditions and financial well-being of workers.

In the 1950s, things got even better for U.S. workers. The gap between the rich and the poor was the narrowest in U.S. history, and the U.S. middle class reached new levels of prosperity.

Soviet forays into post-colonial Africa and Asia and the revolutionary movements it fomented in Latin America forced Washington to pay attention to those countries and assist in their development. Even discounting support for the occasional tyrant, it did much good and helped spread U.S. influence and American values around the world. Even if they are not always followed in practice, democracy and free enterprise have become dominant political values globally.

To counter the Soviet “Evil Empire,” the United States willy-nilly had to go for the moral high ground and become a moral arbiter in world affairs. Now, China is gradually replacing U.S. influence the world over...

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Arnold Shcherban - 10/4/2010

Although I consider some statements, treated by the article's author as historic facts, e.g. <Soviet forays into post-colonial Africa and Asia and the revolutionary movements it fomented in Latin America forced Washington to pay attention to those countries and assist in their development.> as, at the best, half-truths, the major premise of the article (Soviet collapse ruined the US) looks quite valid to me, albeit not exclusive.
I would add that the collapse of the USSR had done little good to the former Soviet Union, itself (and that was the main conclusion underlying the discussed Putin's statement.)
It not only impoverished and made unemployed millions in the former
Soviet republics and in Russia itself, not only virtually destroyed the economic, industrial, and social system around former territory of the Soviet Union, but led to the grand-scale theft of the country's finances, rise of ultra-nationalism, deadly ethnic conflicts, and consequently to terrorism, the events which have already killed dozens of thousands, combined, not mentioning the unprecedented crime wave - all the non-existent tragic phenomena under the late decades of the Soviet rule.
The same can be stated about the ethnic wars in some other former "socialist" countries, such as the former Yugoslavia after its cheered by the West collapse...