WhenLeonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, first declared to theworld the doctrine by which the Soviet Union would invade and uprootany country struggling against the communist yoke in Eastern Europe,neither Brezhnev nor the world had any idea of the repercussions thatwould result from this. Not only would Czechoslovakia and Afghanistanbe invaded by the doctrine’s implementations, but several othercountries not directly influenced including a rivaled communism inEast Asia would take a defensive stance against Russia that led topolitical complications and, ultimately, the sequential collapse ofcommunism in Eastern Europe.The firstterm in need of scrutiny is the Brezhnev Doctrine itself.
Introducedafter the Prague Spring in 1968, the doctrine stated the USSR wouldnot permit any country in Eastern Europe to reject communism. Thisbold backing of the countries involved in the Warsaw Pact, (and latereven in countries not in the Warsaw Pact) led to the Soviet Unionassuming responsibility over the internal affairs of these countriesand severely limited the independence of these countries.Implementation of this policy was a major cause for strainedrelations with the US and was seen as direct retaliation against theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) organized just 6 yearsprior. Shortly after the Brezhnev Doctrine was fabricated, 500,000troops invaded Czechoslovakia and deposed of the leadership that wasresponsible for the social reforms that competed with the SovietUnion’s agenda.
Thiswould be one of the many fatal decision that laid the groundwork forpolitical upheaval in the Soviet Union, and a continental shift awayfrom communism as a whole.Afterthe events of World War II, the focus of the United States shifted tothe state of a European nation ravished by war, and the loomingthreat of communist expansion across the weakened nations. The SovietUnion wasted no time in asserting its influence in the surroundingnations. The communist party made huge leaps of progress in nationssuch as Italy, and a Soviet Union sponsored coup in Czechoslovakiabrought another communist nation onto the European scene. Testing thewestern nations even further, Stalin blockaded West Berlin, jointlyheld by the US, France, and Britain, and isolated the city within aSoviet land-lock. The famous Berlin Airlift narrowly prevented aconfrontation over the event, but the US became even more anxious todeal with the security concerns in Europe.
The Western countriesgathered seeking to implement a solution that would ensure physicaland political security against the USSR. This was conceived in theform of the Brussels Treaty, signed by Great Britain, France,Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg in March of 1948. This pactgave the assurance of collective security among the participatingnations; that if any single nation was attacked the others wereobligated to assist in protecting it.
Shortly afterward, the Trumanadministration proposed that the United states seek a security treatybetween Western Europe that would be created outside the realm ofSoviet influence, and thus the North Atlantic treaty was drawn intoexistence. When West Germany was added to this alliance, the SovietUnion retaliated by organizing the Warsaw Pact, establishing theirown regional coalition between their satellite nations in EasternEurope. Now the creation of this alliance cannot be solely blamed forthe eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. It was rather the foreignpolicy that Russia created in an attempt to maintain order among thepact members that truly laid the stepping stones for the collapse ofthe Soviet Union and virtually all of communism in Eastern Europe. Itstands to reason that one of the first problems arising from thecommunist fist in Europe arose from Czechoslovakia, which washistorically more liberal than perhaps the Soviets would have hoped.The country’s previous government had been rather abruptly overthrownby a coup endorsed by the Soviet Union.
, and it would seem that thecitizens were not all in unanimous agreement with the communistagenda. There was an increasing amount of collective dissatisfactionwith the social injustice imposed by communism, and there was aliberal movement within the country that led to a change inleadership and subsequent social reforms. After fourth months of areformed country, Brezhnev declared that the Soviet Union would notallow for any country of the Warsaw Pact to denounce communism, andthat Czechoslovakia was in violation of these conditions. With thismindset, the USSR decided to mobilize troops from Hungary, Poland,East Germany and Bulgaria into Prague and other major cities toquickly seize control over the situation, and to restore conservativecommunist rule within Czech borders. Although the invasion wascondemned by the US, their resources and focus were wholly on theconflict in Vietnam, and so they ordered no intervention to takeplace. The Soviet Union arrested Dubcek as well as other leaders andreplaced them with more conservative leadership. Although EasternEuropean unity was preserved, the Soviet invasion was the start of adecade’s long period of Soviet intervention that eventually led toits demise.
Possiblythe most devastating action taken by the Soviet Union in this eraunder the Soviet Union was the decision to invade Afghanistan. Inorder to understand why the Soviet Union’s failed invasion ofAfghanistan was so detrimental to the Soviet Union and the communistbloc of Europe as a whole, one needs to understand not only thereason that the intercession did not fix the situation, but thereasoning behind the decision for military intervention in the firstplace.Before1978, it is almost certain that Afghanistan had little support fromthe Soviet Union. The USSR rarely took action, especially militaryaction, concerning nations other than those outside of the WarsawPact. However, in the spring of 1978, the government of Afghanistanwas overthrown by communist militants, who wrested the authority fromPresident Mohammed Daud Khan.
Daud Khan had fought to overthrow thecountry’s monarchy in 1973 and established Afghanistan as a Republic.He had worked to lessen Afghanistan’s dependency during his reignand this worked until the military coup deposed him in 1978. Thenewly communist nation garnered precious little support from amongthe generally anti-communist people.
Religion had much deeper rootsand a firmer grasp on the populous than did politics. The regimequickly created close ties with the Soviet Union, implementedunpopular social reforms, and snuffed out internal opposition,leading to domestic insurgencies within the country. When the factsare examined, it seems clear why such democratic reforms garneredsuch intense opposition from within the people. Religion had muchdeeper roots and a firmer grasp on a great majority of the populousthan did newfangled politics, especially those of a communist nature.These Islamic insurgency groups became altogether known as themujahideen, (“those who engage in jihad”) waged a fierce holy waragainst the government. The leader in place proved to be very radicalin his approach to policy and it became clear that the situation wasgetting out of control very quickly. When ambassadors failed tonegotiate any change in the government, the Soviet Union decided thatit was necessary, in order to preserve Afghanistan from Westerninfluence, to depose the current leader of the party in favor of amuch more trusted head to help guide the lost state to aSoviet-backed communistic state.
Desperate to save their falteringnew communist allies, in 1979, the Soviet Union sent thousands oftroops into the borders of Afghanistan to invade the capital of Kabulin order to wrest power back from the current head.. The USSR plungeditself into a struggle to maintain Afghanistan as acommunist-friendly power for over ten years. This event was acritical point in the development of the cold war, and was one of themost apparent consequences of the Brezhnev Doctrine which led to thedownfall of the Soviet Union. There were a multitude of reasons thatthe invasion of Afghanistan failed to secure it as another Sovietsatellite nation.
One major impedance to the Soviet agenda inAfghanistan pertains the deeply-imbedded religious background of theregion. The Soviets could never have realized how the cultural rootsof the area would turn the quarreling warlords against the SovietUnion as a common enemy of their state. Whilethe Soviets had many more resources and better technology at theirhands, it was impossible to gain an advantage over the masses of therebellious populous.
Theinvasion of Afghanistan damaged the USSR in more ways than one. TheSoviet Union had already earned a bad reputation across the world forits foreign policy during the time period. Once again the USSR hadattempted to ensure the development of a friendly communist state andit had turned against them. Theworld already had a low opinion of the Soviet Union’s foreigninvasions, particularly in Afghanistan as it was not a member of theWarsaw Pact. This failed attempt brought many economic problems withit as well. Accordingto a disclosed intelligence assessment made by the CIA in 2000, theinitial invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union is estimated tohave cost 15 billion rubles, or about 50 billion USD.
The SovietUnion soon began to experience economic roadblocks, and by the timethe next Soviet leader would come into power, these problems wouldescalate into a point of riot in the USSR, and would eventuallycontribute to the collapse of the Soviet Union. TheUSSR’s implementation of their foreign policy did not solely extendto those countries within their sphere of influence on theircontinent. After the events taking place in Cuba led to a politicalupheaval led by Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union took a strategicinterest in the Latin American nation. Not only could Cuba be anation that would increase the communist global presence andprestige, but there were great economic opportunities associated withan ally in Latin America. A CIA intelligence review in 1960 showedjust how expansive the economic relationship between the USSR andCuba would become: “Inthe economic field, the agreements announced in the 12 FebruarySoviet-Cuban communique also reflect the USSR’s reappraisal of itsattitude toward the Castro government. As these agreements, whichdeal with major Cuban exports and imports, are fulfilled, the USSR will be able to achieve considerable economic influence in Cuba.
TheSoviet purchase of nearly 5,000,000 tons of Cuban sugar in the nextfive years, if carried out, will absorb up to 20 percent of Cuba’ssugar exports in that period. Previous Soviet purchases, ranging from200,000 to 450,000 tons annually, have accounted for only 3 to 8percent of such exports in any one year.”Sovietinvolvement with Cuba skyrocketed over this short period of time, andthe Soviet Union became Cuba’s main source of manufactured goods andappliances after trade with the United States was complicated byUS-imposed embargoes. The economic system of Soviet communism,however, is also a main reason why the effectiveness was minimal inCuba. Journalist and author Andres Oppenheimer had the opportunity tomake several month long trips to Cuba from 1989 to 1991, and discusswith top officials and common citizens alike the state of Cuba inlight of the Soviet bloc. He recorded his findings and conversationsin his book, “Castro’sFinal Hour”.
In hisbook he describes the result of Soviet communism in Cuba, and how ithas slowly been driven down. Communism as it was implemented by theUSSR did not prove to be very sustainable financially for satellitenations such as Cuba. Cuba’seconomy was very limited after this revolutionary period.
. Most ofthe internal funding in the Interior Ministry of Cuba was a directresult of drug trafficking within the country. Jobs handed out by thegovernment usually went unfulfilled or only partially completed.
Thefundamental flaw with Soviet Communism, especially evident in Cuba,is that the system offers no reward for work. Oppenheimer, inaddition to his interviews, collected pictures showing Cuba’s streetsof people lazing about or just killing time. The country itself wasvery poor, and would most likely be in a much worse position if itweren’t for the government involvement in drug smuggling. Evenso, their economy was anything but flourishing.
The standard ofliving was extremely low, and resources were very difficult to comeby. Cuba, was slowly failing, and communism was reciprocating thatdecline.The communist state that had hoped to prove promising to theSoviet cause was just another sign of the weakness of their politicalsystem. Inlight of the failing nations under the Soviet Union’s umbrella, theUSSR was having beginning to experience troubles within its ownborders.
The people were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with thegovernment’s action both inside and outside their country. WhenMikhail Gorbachev took over in 1985, he sought after a foreign policymuch more conservative than that of Brezhnev. Almost immediatelyafter Soviet intervention decreased, democratic reform beganspreading around much of Eastern Europe. No longer threatened byaction from the Soviet Union, the countries were free to think andvote as they thought, which resulted in democratic tendencies. WhenGorbachev introduced his famous policy of glasnost(“openness” orfree speech), Europe erupted. It seemed that all of the frustrationfelt towards the Soviet government for decades had been pent up andwas now released over the already weak nation.
Immediate criticismover the government and political leaders led to chaos in thecountry, and it soon spelled the end for the USSR, and eventually,the entirety of communism in Eastern Europe.