The Soviet Upheaval
SUBJECT AREA History
TITLE: The Soviet Upheaval.
AUTHOR: Major JEAN -PAUL VALLIN
THESIS: The threats posed by the new republics
of the former Soviet Union, instead of diminishing with the fading
away of World War III, have considerably increased and could act
like a trap for the western democracies.
BACKGROUND: As long as the Soviet Union was the
potential enemy, the western countries knew what the most
appropriate attitude was. The dismantling of the red super power
has transfigured the overall menace into a series of threats
which are diversified in their nature and exportable to many
other countries around the world.
The republics born from the Soviet upheaval look very
fragile economically, politically and militarily. Democracies
could get trappedin an undiscriminated cooperation with them.
Despite the glasnost, the attitude of the new leaders is far from
being transparent in many areas. A thorough analysis of the
current problems faced by the new states should incite us to be
more careful in our commitments with them. Thus, the U.S.A and the
European democracies should keep their hands free to deal with
the boisterous Third World countries that may seize the
opportunity to destabilize regions of the globe thanks to the
newly acquired Soviet war materiels.
RECOMMANDATIONS: The reorganization of the new
republics should be regarded as an internal problem. The role
played by the western countries in their straightening them
should borrow more to realism than to vague philantropic
feelings. Until they reach economical health, political stability
and military balance, all these republics bear the seeds of civil
war. We must not get involved.
The Soviet Upheaval.
Thesis: The threats posed by the new republics of the former
Soviet Union, instead of diminishing with the fading away of WW
III, have considerably increased and could trap the soft
1. The economical bankruptcy.
A. The debt.
B. Agriculture and industry.
C. The management.
II. The political fragility.
A. The new democrats.
B. The hasty decisions.
C. The politicians support.
D. The everlasting Slavic quarrels.
E. The use of force.
III. The armed forces.
A. The growing wrath.
THE SOVIET UPHEAVAL
The U.S.S.R was 69 years and one day old when it died.
LENIN created. it on December 30th,1922. GORBACHEV could not hold
it any more when, on December 31st ,1991,the country split into
twelve states, not including the three Baltic states. Except for
a very limited number of people, among them SOLJENITSYN, HELENE
CARRERE D'ENCAUSSE and the violinist ROSTROPOVITCH, nobody
had predicted this implosion, especially not the Western
intelligence agencies who had 45 years to anticipate on this
occurence. Consequently, unprepared by the media, the anouncement
of the crumbling of Marxism-Leninism took the free world
unaware and denied their governments any deliberate reaction.
It is only now that some countries realize how comfortable the
situation was before in the military bi-polar world. People also
now realize how much they had been deceived by the highly
secret and impervious world of the SOVIET UNION. Among our main
advantages was the singular nature of the potential enemy, which
legitimated each and every reaction of the western countries
throughout the "cold war" or the "detente". The "domino"
theory is no longer relevant. The expansion of communism reached
its high water mark. Now with marxism gone the old
legitimacy of anti-communist interventions goes with it. The people
of the free world will probably demand new explanations of their
governments whenever they set out for war in foreign countries. At
the moment, the preoccupation of democracies focus on the ex-
U.S.S.R., where chaos has succeded the communist regime. Nobody
bothers much to know if and how the western democracies could have
hastened the pace of change in the Soviet Union. Rather, democracies
now rush to provide help to the new states. They compete in
providing shelter, advice and aid to countries that offer no
guarantee of political stability, that are economically non self-
sufficient, and where a powerful military cannot be disassociated
from political power. Let me back these assumptions.
Starting with a look at the economic, political and military
situations, we shall concentrate on RUSSIA, BIELARUS and UKRAINE
which are the most representative of the new states. The Soviet
bank is bankrupt, the agriculture will, according to E.E.C
experts "need ten yen years to catch up with modern
democracies", and most of the former Soviet industries still
produce war devices.
"We are in a deep fog" a French banker said after the separation
of the states was made public. The current debt of the former
Soviet Union amounts to an incredible 60 billion dollars. How this
debt will be shared by the new states is still to be
determined. The three Slavic republics comprising 73 percent of the
population and 78 percent of the total economy pledged that they
would "endorse all international agreements that derive from
treaties signed by the former U.S.S.R". However, at the moment, none
of these states went so far as to forward a minimum payment to
be adjusted later. The VNECHEKONOMBANK has been put under scrutiny
by no less than 300 western banks after its announcement on
December 4th, 1991, that the refunding of the debt scheduled
for 1992 would be postponed. Since the bank has been closed,
no one knows who the real managers are. The U.S.A willingly tried
to cooperate with the new republics. They are now reluctant
to grant more funds until a reliable bank manager is
designated. On December 3rd, 1991, the GOSBANK kicked off
unprecedented inflation when new bills of 200,500,and 1000
rubles were printed and put into circulation. Egor GAIDAR,the
Russian finance minister declared that this overload of money
"was certainly a factor of inflation, but that it would be useless
and dangerous to try to fight it back". Last February, according
to financial experts from Germany and France, the inflation rate
topped 50 %. Moreover, the VNESHEKONOMBANK, before closing, ran out
of reserves in U.S currency. Thereafter, the occidentals froze
the flow of cash that helped the bank survive. This picture should
bring back to our memories the spectre of the German republic of
WEIMAR, in the years 1931-1932.
In the area of food distribution, the situation is even more
dramatic. Basic products such as milk, butter, meat and vegetables
are scarce. A quarter pound of butter requires a two hours wait in
the line. In some state stores in MOSKOW, the shelves are
empty. Photos have been taken of increasing number of housewives
sorting out the public garbage to bring back something home. Where
have the food supplies gone, that the U.S.A and the E.E.C
generously granted to Russia? No one has a clue, but no one is
asking officially either. In Russia again, Boris YELTSIN based his
campaign on the free market, but he actually never signed the
decree to enact his proposal. Meanwhile, stocks are growing, some
Many citizens pretend that there would be food in the shops, were
the keepers allowed to increase their prices. Ukrainians stopped
their delivery of cereals, vegetables and fruits, thus aggravating
the dearth and provoking miscontent among Russians at the same
time. Another theory says that Ukrainians keep their products for
export, but who is interested in the delicious potatoes from
CHERNOBYL? As always in troubled time, the black market is
flourishing (i.e. prohibition in U.S.A, clandestine farm products
during the occupation of France). How widely spread is that
market, and do the authorities intend to eradicate it, we do not
know. Most of the people earn between 450 and 500 rubles per
capita per month. Arasthes GAMBARIAN, commercial manager of a
Russian-American firm in MOSKOW says "8000 rubles is a
minimum to live decently in the capital". Top managers and
scientists' salaries seldom reach 1500 rubles. Fights for food are
less and less uncommon. Hope of improvement is not on
the agenda of the masses.
As for the development of agriculture, experts are formal:
"the system of sovkhozes and kholkozes acts like a brake to any
rationnal development". The technological gap or shortage of
machines is not the main reason, but rather the inappropriate
apportionment of land that hampers efficiency.
Another explanation for the scarcity of products in some cities
is linked to the current shortage of petrol and gasoline that deny
the producer the capability to reach the market places in due
time. This is amazing in countries which, together, possess 38
per cent of the world oil reserves. Last year, 570 million tons
of crude oil were extracted. The ex-U.S.S.R consumed 403 million
tons for internal use, 20 per cent of which were wasted
because of ageing means of extraction and pipelines. The cars,
trucks and lorries formerly maintained at state cost are not cared
for. Spare parts are rare and distribution ill organised.
Considering all these factors, one wonders how long the
people in the new states will be able to endure
misery, starvation, inflation, injustice and lack of information
This precarious situation, if aggravated with ethnic, religious or
geographical problems might well degenerate into violent riots
against the politicians. Now, are the presidents and their
governments in a position where they can handle the leashes of
power and concentrate on the development of their new born states?
Barely so ,one would think. There are in our opinion five main
reasons why politicians in Ukraine, Bielarus, Russia do not have a
firm grasp on the future of their republics:
-they don't know much about democracy
-they act under pressure,
-they are not fully representative,
-they still quarrel on trifles,
-they are still influenced by the military.
It took some centuries for the western countries to elaborate
their conception of democracy. Still,they are the object of many
inner criticisms. The difference is tremendous with the
inhabitants of any of the new states who awakened overnight under
a new "democratic" regime. Let's focus on the difficulties that the
new leaders are facing.
When Boris YELTSIN declared, on September 3rd, 1991, that:
"the state of Russia has chosen democracy and liberty, (that) it
will never be an empire or an elder brother , (that) it will be no
more than a state among equals", few people believed him. Such a
disproportion exists in the size and population of the states that
this comment sounded outrageous statement. As a matter of fact, the
liberties he mentions cannot apply at the moment. How can the open
market apply when food is scarce? How can religion be free after
eighty years of oppression? How can the people enjoy their new
freedom of movement when no transportation means are available?
How can they speak freely when the media is tightly controlled
and K.G.B still hanging around? As we can see, the process to
reach democracy may be long.
-The hasty decisions already taken might not suit the short
term future. Thus, the "slavian troika" cosigned by Leonid
KRAVTCHOUK, Boris YELTSIN and Stanislas CHOUCHKEVITCH last
December 1st looks incomplete in many ways. In this same
treaty, the co-signers declared that the common military strategic
space will be preserved, that a unique control on nuclear armaments
will be implemented. (Article 6) Structures and responsibilities
are not defined. The treaty guarantees mutual respect of the
territorial integrity of the states (Article 5) It is a secret for
no one that the boundaries between the current states were
created by STALIN in such a way that they would generate
sufficient problems to the local soviet to keep him occupied.
In article 7, the three states emphasize cooperation in different
areas: foreign policy, economy, transport and
communications, environment, migration and law enforcement against
criminality. There again, pressed by public opinion and time, the
authors forgot to mention how the institutions of coordination
would work and what they would be composed of.
-Although little mention has been made of this fact in the
western press, the leaders of the new republics are hardly
representative of their own people. Not being prepared for
democracy, under 40 per cent of the whole electorate expressed
their political will during the presidential elections. Another
explanation to such lack of interest lays in the distrust towards
politicians. Most of them are ex-apparatchiks. Curiously enough,
no new leaders dared challenge the old ones. Together, the above
facts will not contribute in reinforcing confidence among the
Historically, we know how tough were the struggles for
power in the former Soviet Union. We cannot reasonably expect
things to change very quickly. Seventy five years of dictatorship,
defiance, untruthfulness and plot cannot be wiped off after four
months of democracy. Besides, as SOLJENYTSINE points out in his
Archipelago of the GOULAG, it would be abnormal not to be
suspicious after so many deceptions. Consequently, the new governers
argue over museums, national treasures , armed forces, intelligence
gathering, and mineral riches. It is in their nature, we must
understand. Confidence, it seems, will be long to restore.
-The reigns of GENGIS KHAN.TAMERLAN,TIMOUR , YVAN the terrible
and PETER THE GREAT were founded on the terror they all inspired
to the Mujiks. STALINE, "the little friend of the people", disposed
of 3 millions people to stifle the slightest attempts to create an
opposition. Resorting to forces has always been a normal solution
in the past history of U.S.S.R, and the fear is still present in
the population's mind to be subjected to tyranny, all the more
since the new rulers seem very cautious to preserve the grinding
tools of K.G.B and Army intact. Unless the politics acquires a
total autonomy by getting rid of these embarrassing assistants, the
man on the street will stay on his guard.
- Defiance ,as one can judge, is an old common trend of
the citizens of the former Soviet Union. In the old times, however,
survival was at stake. Although this is no more true today,the
general attitude of the citizens towards the politicians is not
likely to evolve untill new rulers achieve confidence amidst their
people. There is enough doubts in the economy and politics to make
the populations nervous about the short term future. This feeling,
inside and outside the countries is considerably reinforced by the
growing wrath among the military.
The outcomes of the perestroika and the dismantling of the
empire are deeply resented in the ex-Soviet armed forces. Anarchy
is rampant among its leaders. Not so long ago one of the two most
feared forces in the world, the Soviet military are eagerly
struggling to preserve their old priviledges. Their withdrawal from
afghanistan let them demoralized. Their new withdrawal from the
satellite countries let them in dispair. Additionally their salary
do not allow them to live. Today, 170 000 of them squatter in tent
camps, in trains, in ramshackled buildings with their families. The
surge of nationalism induced a significant draft dodging among
the privates. The officer strength has been considerably reduced
after the treaty of VIENNA. The suppression of political commissary
in their ranks now denies them any representation at the congress.
Allmighty motherland has died. It can hardly be worse moraly.
At the FRUNZE Academy, new moral values have replaced the old ones:
political education gave way to moral and psychological education.
For 500 roubles per month, it is however difficult to obtain a
profound motivation from this elite of the nation. So gloom looks
the future that many preferred to stay in the country where they
were commissionned. Some marry local girls, desert to seek fortune
westward, or simply look for a job. Thanks to the deserters,
intelligence on the forces is redundant at a time it is not as
badly needed as in the past. The logical outcome of the increasing
troubles the military undergo should be their dwindling as a
political power. On this point, yet, western countries should be
very careful. The military still is a major element of power. They
rule over the main industrial plants before their conversion.
In February 1992, U.S Secretary of state James BAKER, on the
behalf of his government inaugurated a new international centre
for science and technology accompanied by a 25 millions dollars
donation. According to him, this centre "must allow Russian
scientists to withstand the critical period of transition towards
market economy, towards arms reduction and switch from military orb
into pacific initiatives". James BAKER's analysis is in the bull's
eye. As a matter of fact, the former military industrial complex
groups some 600 different enterprises for a total of 8 millions
employees. All of those were under military control. It is
obvious, nonetheless, that the military will not be too severely
dismissed as long as they have nuclear responsibilities and
constitute the ultimate resort in case things would turn wrong.
This explains Colonel General Nikolai Ivanovitch SCHLAYA's
assumption in KRASNAYA ZVEZDA, that "the forces cannot be outside
Another question on many minds was clearly expressed by Viktor
MIKHAILOV, head of the military programs for the secretary of
industry: "what else can do somebody who always produced but
nuclear devices,when there is no more work for him in his own
This particular problem needs to be more detailed:
-no less than 5000 scientists of the ex- Soviet Union are
capable to master the production of plutonium or enriched uranium,
-the six best space scientists of the U.S.S.R left the country,
-the smuggling out of secondary armament and ammunitions is
-the new republics, in need of currency expect some 10
millions dollars from the sale of war devices, whoever the buyers
-an unprecedented ever discount market of MIG 29, T 72, SA 10
is going on,
-since 1987,300 former members of the U.S.S.R Science
Academy are employed abroad
-Professor Roald SYDEYEV, former head of the Institute for
Space Research in MOSKOW now earns ten thousand dollars a month
at the University of Maryland. Isn't it cheap for a top scientist ?
It is clear that none of the new states is in a financial position
that enables it to prevent this flight of intelligentsia.
The second remark that derives from this study is that it will be
extremely difficult for democracies to hold any accurate account
of the physicians, planes, tanks, brevets which are being sold to
third world countries. Incidentally, the estimates on the ratio of
forces in some regions of the globe might well be lopsided very
Third, it is obvious that despite their efforts to absorb the
brain flight, western countries must count with a certain number
of "evasions". Some scientists may be tempted by seducing contracts
with countries such as North Korea, Iran, Lybia, Syria or Algeria.
Under these conditions, it will be hard to predict what the
future of the new states will be. Besides, most of the informations
that reach the western countries are erroneous or incomplete.
Russia, Bielarus, Ukraine, Giogia and Kazakhstan keep their doors
wide open to investors, all right. But it is a risky bargain, because
investors have no guarantee that the money they vest in will
reach the bottom of the social pyramid, that some whimsical
leader will not reverse back to communism or that the growing
wrath of the armed forces will not end up in a new coup. Even
today, it is practically impossible to enquire on the real
health of these states simply because they don't like foreigners
to meddle with their own business. Consequently, any attempt to
anticipate on the short term would be derisoy, if not ludicrous.
History, again, plays a part in fogging the issues. A parallel
with the french history shows that the first leaders to take
advantage of the revolution in 1789 were quickly overtaken, swept
away or discredited.Will YELTSIN, KRAVTGHUK or CHOUCHKEVITCH's
fate be similar ?
Secondly, Russia has no natural border of its own on the western
and southern flank. Its tendency to compensate this vulnerability
was, in the past, to expand onto geographical borders. The first time
was in 1689, under PETER THE GREAT, the second time by the treaty of
AIHUN in 1858, and lately in 1945 by the treaty of YALTA. As far
back as history goes, the only cement that ever kept the Empire
together was blood. Experience taught us how non significant a
mutual treaty of non agression can be.
So, the dangers those states are now facing are the following:
-an economical overdependence,
-a coalition of the military and the people against the
-a disagreement on their geographical limits,
-too much hesitation between federalism and nationalism
concerning the armed forces,
-the non respect of the treaty of mutual assistance.
From an occidental point of view, these conditions are sufficient
to start off a war. Western democracies do not run a risk, as long
as they don't get too much involved in the economy of the new
republics. The reconstruction of each of these states threatens
to be long, inasmuch as the Slavic scale of time doesn't adjust
their main loaners', the U.S or the E.E.C.
So, what practical solution can the United States or EUROPE
opt for, that would not make them responsible for a failure in
the reconstruction of the ancient Soviet republics ?
Surely, first, open their countries to politicians, scientists
Also, provide them for some years with what they lack most,
food and money.
Under certain conditions, trade with them.
Doubtfully invest with any realistic hope of making profits.
Certainly not try to transplant our political or economical
structures regardless of their standards and syncretisms.
More synthetically put: "let them do it alone".
This should provide democracies some more time to deal with
the leakage of armaments and prevent any greater chaos.
-LE POINT. N 1003, 1004, 1005.
-LE FIGARO MAGAZINE. N 592, 593, 594, 595.
-PARIS MATCH.N 221, 222, 223, 224.
-LE SPECTACLE DU MONDE.N 350, 353, 355, 359, 360, 361.
-L'EXPRESS.N 2109, 2111, 2112.
-ARMEES D'AUJOURD 'HUI.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list