The demise of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe not only for its own people but ultimately for the entire world.
In a referendum held on March 17, 1991, Soviet citizens were asked if the USSR—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—should be preserved. Eighty percent of voters cast ballots (148 million people). By a huge majority (76.4 percent) they voted to preserve the Soviet Union. Today, over a quarter of a century later, most Russians (64 percent) would still vote to preserve it.
However, on December 25, 1991, Christmas Day, against the wishes of most of its citizens, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved . This breakup was engineered from the top down by powerful factions within the Soviet elite who envied the wealth and status of Western elites and resented the limitations on self-enrichment built into the Soviet system. Taking advantage of economic turmoil introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev’s ill-considered reforms, and using the alcoholic Russian President Boris Yeltsin as their point man, they destroyed the Soviet Union and its system.
Communism was rapidly replaced by capitalism. Soviet assets—the fruits of decades of labor—were sold off to the highest bidder, often a bargain basement prices. Unemployment soared. Pensions disappeared. Social services collapsed. Those who still had jobs sometimes went for months without pay.
While many of the elites—the famous “Russian oligarchs”—became fabulously rich, the masses of ordinary people were plunged into poverty and despair. Increasing mortality rates led to several million excess deaths. Recovery was excruciatingly slow: only today has the GDP per capita climbed back to what it was in Soviet times. No wonder people are nostalgic.
The destruction of the Soviet Union was not simply a calamity for its own citizens. It led to millions of deaths in the former USSR but also to millions of deaths in other parts of the world. The reason for this is very simple: the USSR was a superpower that provided the only real deterrent to the United States.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has been almost constantly at war, attacking and destroying one country after another. Millions have been killed and wounded. Millions have been rendered homeless. Millions have become refugees. True, the US waged atrocious wars before the breakup of the USSR, notably in Korea and Indochina, but the pace notably quickened as soon as the deterrent was gone.
Let’s look at a partial list:
- Yugoslavia. The US actively supported the break-up of Yugoslavia by encouraging nationalist and ethnic separatist movements and casting Yugoslavia as the enemy. A terrible civil war claimed over a hundred thousand lives.
- Kosovo. Not content with breaking Yugoslavia into its constituent republics, the US waged war on Serbia to pry away the Kosovo province. Thousands were killed.
- Iraq. The US waged two wars against Iraq as well as imposing a murderous siege between the wars. Millions died and the country is ruined.
- Afghanistan. The US invaded Afghanistan and has now waged war there for decades. Millions have died.
- Libya. The US and its NATO client states engineered the destruction of Libya by bombing it and by supporting jihadist rebel groups. The country is in ruins and many of its people are refugees.
- Syria. The US and its clients armed and supported a jihadist invasion that has destroyed large parts of the country. Whole cities have been reduced to rubble. Hundreds of thousands have died and millions are refugees.
In addition to these wars, the US has long fostered militant Islamist movements that are a continuing threat not just in the Middle East but around the world. Starting with the creation of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the US has alternately encouraged and attacked these groups, depending of what best served US interests at the moment. The constant turmoil created by US wars in the Middle East has served for recruitment, while material support in places like Libya and Syria has created powerful forces with a long reach.
If the Soviet Union had survived, much of this might never have happened. Remember, the Soviet Union was a genuine superpower. The US, for all its arrogance, was always extremely cautious in confronting the Soviet Union directly: Afghanistan was on the Soviet Union’s border, Iraq and Libya had long had friendly relations with the Soviet Union, Syria was an important ally and the site of a Soviet naval station, and Yugoslavia was culturally and historically connected to Russia.
The demise of the Soviet Union not only unleashed capitalism on the Soviet people but American imperialism on the rest of the world.