In the next couple of months, USSR has witnessed more change within its political, social and economic policies and organization than in the past 20 years. Since the very beginning of his tenure as the General Secretary, Grigory Romanov together with his newfound ally Dinmukhamed Kunaev began working on a comprehensive program aimed later known as "Program for Renewal of Socialism"
. The main goals of this program were to overcome the disillusionment of the Soviet population with the economic and political situation within the country. The plan was to breathe new life into the ideals of socialism, which lost popular support due to the policies of the Soviet state and the communist party in the previous decades.
(General Secretary Romanov during announcing of "Program for Renewal of Socialism")
Other main goal were to include: development of new technologies, debureacratization of the Soviet state, anti-alcohol campaign, improvement of social services provided by the state, modernization and reorganization of stagnant economy, as well as increased investments in infrastructure and production of consumer goods to meet the demands of the population. Any notion of military reforms were quickly abandoned at the start, as the position of the new General Secretary relied on the support of the Armed Forces, with Marshal Ustinov in charge. Kunaev and Romanov quickly realized that the economy couldn't be truly reorganized, as any potential for its change and reorganization was blocked by Ustinov and his emphasis on further Soviet arms buildup against the US, meaning that there will be no shift in the economy from military-industrial focus onto the production of consumer goods. Nevertheless, Romanov and Kunaev came to the conclusion that they had to work with what they had at the current time.
(For the time being Soviet economy will remain focused on heavy industy and military-industrial complex)
Before any meaningful change could be introduced, Romanov decided to lay the groundwork by restoring the party, state and labor discipline. The first order of things was to crack down on Soviet laborer's lack of discipline by decreeing the arrest of absentee employees and penalties for tardiness. Furthermore, Romanov gave select industries greater autonomy from state regulations and enabled factory managers to retain control over more of their profits. Such policies resulted in a rise in industrial output, which allowed for increased investments in development of Soviet industries. Nevertheless, this was only a first phase for Romanov and Kunaev.
At the beginning of February, Romanov and Kunaev introduced "Plan for the Renewal of Socialism", which main goal was to modernize and revitalize the State as well as the Party according to the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The first order of things was to deal with overblown Soviet bureaucracy, an endless black hole for money, resources and privileges. The main goal of Romanov and Kunaev was to rationalize, streamline and modernize the state apparatus. The most redundant and unnecessary ministries and positions were eliminated, unneeded positions as vice-viceministers and helpers of helpers were also eliminated, the enormous Soviet government was also decreased by closing and uniting of many ministries.
(KGB headquarters in Moscow)
Another step was the beginning of anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by KGB, which began to crack down on violations of party discipline, as many ministers and first secretaries were either dismissed or arrested, also many criminal cases were started aimed against other high level party and state officials. Many of those arrests ended with show trials aimed at gaining support of the population. The results were immediate and very positive as the most corrupt, inept and inflexible officials were replaced by more competent and younger officials. However, in many cases, corrupt officials were replaced with people loyal either to Romanov or Kunaev to further cement and secure their hold on the Party and the State. All of those actions were met with great deal of support at home as soon as the population realized that the words of new General Secretary were supported with real actions. On the other hand, the Western media very eagerly reported about the details of the "new great purge", with only difference that corrupt politicians lost their careers not life as during the Stalinist times. A complete reorganization of the Soviet bureaucracy will take longer period of time to finish, but the actions undertaken by Romanov and Kunaev allowed for a modernization and standardization of the government and bureaucracy, which now were ready to face any challenges of the ever-changing world.
The second task was to reorganize and to revitalize the economy, however for the moment number of available actions and solutions for Romanov and Kunaev were limited by the focus on military-industrial complex, any real changes had to wait. Nevertheless, Romanov and Kunaev didn't want to waste any more time and begin introducing their changes and ideas into the Soviet economy and planning system. Those changes and ideas were inspired by the so-called Goulash communism, which goal was to create high-quality living standards for the people of USSR. Once again the first order of things was a debureacratisation of the Soviet economy and decision-making bodies. The goal was to rationalize and streamline Soviet economy planning. Romanov-Kunaev alliance decided to start with repelling regulations, which had the most negative impact on Soviet economy and industries. Many of that regulations were introduced under the former General Secretary Brezhnev. Other changes included increase of responsibilities but also freedom in decision-making of factory managers. Factory managers were also allowed to retain more control over profits generated by their factories. The changes also brought introduction of worker self-management and increased role of regional bodies in economic and industrial planning and decision-making. As self-management was introduced in industries, the Party introduced a reward system which was based on achieved productivity. These rewards included paid vacations, alcohol, material goods, food or items imported from the West. What is more, other incentives included annulments of conscription, better healthcare and preferential choice in housing. Overall, all of those changes combined brought positive results in increased industrial efficiency, labor productivity, industrial effectiveness and increase of industrial output. However, it couldn't remedy shortages in consumer goods and agricultural products, as the USSR was still forced to import grain from the USA. Some of the more conservative and hardliner party members argued that the focus should be placed on increasing workforce's efficiency, labor discipline and recentralization, as there were quite a lot of elements of decentralization in the 1980s Soviet economic planning. All the options proposed by Romanov and Kunaev represented various degrees of further decentralization or the continuation of the status quo. What is more, the State should return to more strict and centralized economic planning (abolishing Khozraschet, curtailing enterprise autonomy regarding the number of policy targets and the ability to reinvest profits on their own, etc.).
(Gromyko during his visit to India)
Gromyko's proposal to expand trade agreements across the world resulted in an influx of much-needed capital into the Soviet economy. USSR was able to secure trade agreements with a number of African and Asian states, as well as countries in Europe, including Finland and Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, USSR was not able to expand its trade out of its traditional sphere of influence, as some countries which showed interest in establishing or expanding trade with USSR, were quickly forced to change its attitude under the political and economic pressure of the USA and President Reagan. However, the biggest diplomatic and economic victory for USSR was the USSR – India Trade Agreement
, which greatly boosted trade between the two states, much to the dismay of the West and China. The trade agreement was a masterpiece of diplomatic negotiation from foreign minister Gromyko, who thanks to this has significantly strengthened his position within the party and state. The treaty included increased export of Soviet natural resources, agricultural products as well as military equipment. As soon as the news reached Washington, USA started to export military equipment to China and Pakistan in order to maintain the fragile balance of power in Asia.
The last part of "Program for Renewal of Socialism" included the anti-alcohol campaign. However, Romanov and Kunaev decided to introduce the campaign step by step, knowing how much trouble Prohibition has caused in the US. Another reason for gradual introduction of the anti-alcohol campaign was the fact of how much money the Soviet state, which exercised monopoly on its production and distribution, has earned. Any sudden ban on alcohol sale could result in serious budgetary imbalance. The solution was to find new sources of income until they could replace the revenues generated by alcohol-industry. Alcoholism, however, was a major scourge in Soviet society, linked to high rates of child-abuse, suicide, divorce, absenteeism in work, accidents on the job, low labor productivity, and contributing to a rise in mortality rates particularly among Soviet males. In response, the Politburo and the Central Committee passed resolutions entitled “Measures to Overcome Drunkenness and Alcoholism”. The measures undertaken by the government to combat the widespread problem of alcoholism included: finding measures focused on reducing the demand for alcohol. One was heavy subsidization of substitute activities; all Soviet oblasts were required to build and modernize leisure facilities (like parks and sport clubs) and to promote cultural activities. Another was media propaganda and health education programs, together with bans on glamorous media depictions of drinking. To encourage sober lifestyles, the government also created a national temperance society (the “All-Union Voluntary Society for the Struggle for Temperance”). Finally, the government made large efforts to improve the treatment of alcoholism. Health care system responsibility for compulsory treatment of alcoholism was expanded, and physician supervision of treatment was required for up to five years.
What is more, the government introduced a campaign against alcohol abuse, backing it up with a series of measures to reduce alcohol production and sales. These included limiting the kinds of shops permitted to sell alcohol, closing many vodka distilleries and destroying vineyards in the wine-producing republics of Moldavia, Armenia and Georgia, and banning the sale of alcohol in restaurants before two o’clock in the afternoon. The campaign brought mixed results, as there was decrease in alcohol consumption and increased labor productivity, but at the same time campaign resulted in a sharp rise in the production of moonshine (samogon) and, like Prohibition in the United States, an increase in organized crime. Nevertheless, the real success of the campaign in the future will be closely tied to the future socio-economic situation in the USSR.
(Erich Honeker - leader of East Germany)
The Program for Renewal of Socialism was also introduced with higher and lower degree of success across the whole Eastern Bloc, with the exception of Romania, as the program, in the words of Nicolae Ceaușescu "did not suit the needs of the Romanian population and state". Other leader form the Eastern Bloc who questioned the need for such a program was the leader of East Germany - Erich Honecker. According to the rumors spread in the West, Honecker has directly questioned policy of the General Secretary Romanov, who allegedly quickly replied "Either you will do this comrade, or you more eager successor chosen by me"
The Program for Renewal of Socialism also included a completely different political and military approach towards the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Political reorganization was overseen by the Second General Secretary of CPSU Kunaev, while the military matters were a job for Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, who had a golden opportunity to test his ideas in practice in Afghanistan. Starting with political reorganization of matters, the USSR decided for a new political approach towards the Afghan government and Afghan population. In order to rebuild the image of Afghan and Soviet governments and trust of local population, a series of reform was introduced. Starting with reorganization of unpopular Afghan government resulted in arrests and dismissal of most corrupt, inept and unpopular officials. Other changes were also roll back of the most unpopular reforms, a complete stop on fight against Islam and religious institutions, a new approach towards the civilian population of Afghanistan as well as the end of campaign of terror implemented earlier by the Soviet Armed Forces. All of those changes combined were able to score positive propaganda points among the Afghan population, but were not able to overcome the perception of the Soviet troops by the Afghani population as foreign invaders and infidels. Mujahideen and other rebel forces were still very popular among the civilian population, but the Afghan government started to slowly gain better opinion and perception.
(Spetsnaz forces in Afghanistan during deployment)
Soviet Armed Forces in Afghanistan and their allies saw even more changes and bigger reorganization under Marshal Ogarkov than one could expect. Ogarkov started with strategic and tactical reorganization of the Soviet forces. The political and military leadership in Moscow realized that the current strategy in Afghanistan of based on controlling of major urban centers and the road network linking them is completely ineffective. The Soviet forces and Afghan army in order to win the war had to retake control of whole Afghanistan, not fraction of it. What is more, the Soviet forces would be forced to stay in Afghanistan until the Afghan Armed Forces would be able to take over the current role of the Soviet Army. The Soviet leadership concluded also that the Afghan government must be able to win the war using its own strength and available resources. The whole existence of Afghan government could not be based only on the military help of USSR, as it will only result in the inevitable Mujahideen victory. In order to do this, the Afghan Army, just like the Afghan government, has to be rebuilt and reorganized, which will require additional time. Until then, the Soviet has decided to go on offensive against the rebel forces in order to regain the strategic initiative and to weaken the rebel forces as much as possible.
The first order of things for the Soviets was to increase the number of deployed troops in Afghanistan initially to 200,000 and finally to around 300,000. The current number of Soviet troops was completely inadequate to the tasks set before the Soviet Armed Forces. The increased number of deployed troops included conscripts but most importantly a significant number of Spetsnaz and other elite Soviet formations send to wage full-scale counterinsurgency war against the Mujahideen forces. Another step for the Soviet forces was to deploy an increased number of most elite and special troops from member countries of the Warsaw Pact (for example, one on most elite division in the whole Warsaw Pact – East German 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger
was deployed in Afghanistan,
which despite its small size was able to effectively combat more numerous Mujahideen units). To justify their decision of internationalization of the conflict, Moscow claimed that the intervention of other countries in the Afghan war is completely based on the current policy of USSR known as the Brezhnev doctrine. The decision was met with outrage in the West and China, as the Soviet decision was described as "an act of Soviet imperialism and violation of the international law". The deployment of special forces in large numbers allowed for the Soviets to score a number of tactical victories against the rebel forces, as they were much better suited for war in Afghanistan than regular conscript units. As a result of those victories, the Soviets were able to finally stabilize the front in Afghanistan.
(Soviet Tuplev Tu-16 in flight over Pakistan)
In order to further weaken the rebel forces across Afghanistan, the Soviet Air force was deployed in large numbers and conducted 2 separate bombing campaigns: the first in Afghanistan with an increased use of chemical weapons, and the second against Mujahideen training camps in Pakistan bases located across the border, which resulted with temporary stop of flow of weapons, supplies and aid from Pakistan to Afghan rebel forces. On the one hand, Soviet aerial campaign proved to be military success, but almost ended in a complete political catastrophe. Soviet aircrafts, returning to the Soviet bases located in Afghanistan and Central Asia, were engaged in air-to-air skirmish with aircrafts belonging to the Pakistani Air Force (PAF). The result was a loss of several Soviet and more Pakistani aircrafts. Nevertheless, as soon as the Pakistani leader Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq learned about the Soviet violation of Pakistani airspace and bombings of rebel bases located across the northern Pakistan and at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, immidiately ordered the Pakistani Air Force to conduct retaliatory strike on the position of Soviet Forces in Afghanistan. At the end, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was forced to recall his orders under the American pressure, as Washington has feared that it would trigger a war between Pakistan and USSR, which could lead to inevitable Chinese and Indian interventions. An all-out war in Asia, including 3 nuclear powers, was the last thing that the American administration wanted to see. Nevertheless, all the recent developments involving USSR and Soviet Forces which happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India resulted in inevitable American and Chinese reactions in the following months.
(President Reagan delivering "the Evil Empire" speech)
The first blow aimed at USSR was delivered on March 8, 1983 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan delivered one of the most provocative and memorable speeches to the National Association of Evangelicals. In that speech, Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" and as "the focus of evil in the modern world". Reagan explicitly rejected the notion that the United States and the Soviet Union were equally responsible for the Cold War and the ongoing nuclear arms race between the two nations; rather, he asserted that the conflict was a battle between good and evil. In that speech, Reagan said:
Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness—pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world .... So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride—the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
In the "Evil Empire" speech, which also dealt with domestic issues, Reagan made the case for deploying NATO nuclear-armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Western Europe as a response to the Soviets installing new nuclear-armed missiles in Eastern Europe. In response to the words of Reagan, General Secretary Romanov denounced the recent speech as an attempt to destabilize international peace and cooperation between USSR and the rest of the world. Romanov also pointed out that Reagan's neoliberal economic policies will ruin American economy in the near future and giving the corporations more influence and power in the government. Romanov in his speech to the people of USSR stated that "It is once again evident to the peaceful, socialist world, that the United States and its allies, who, in the forums of International relations views themselves as defenders and protectors of freedom and democracy, are nothing but bourgeois imperialists who have not changed from the ones a century ago, with the exception that they became better at hiding it from the masses through the use of religion as a political tool". Fragments of the Romanov speech were printed all across the Socialist camp and Soviet aligned states.
(President Reagan proposes the Star Wars program)
The second blow by Reagan was made almost two weeks later on March 23, 1983, when the concept of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
, derisively nicknamed the "Star Wars program"
was revealed. The concept was a proposed missile defense system intended to protect the United States from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons (intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles).
In a nationally televised speech, Reagan stated:
I call upon the scientific community in this country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.
The latest actions made by Reagan in March were a clear indication of his aggressive attitude towards the USSR and complete denunciation of recent Soviet military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Secretary Romanov in closed meeting with the political and military leadership stated that the US and Reagan are hellbent on destroying USSR and complete eradication of socialism. The US has greatly threatened the world-peace by disrupting the balance of power between two superpowers in attempt to counter the Soviet nuclear deterrence. Marshal Ustinov stated also that the Soviet Armed Forced will be ready for any nuclear or conventional confrontation with NATO and China. What is more, a number of propositions of how to deal with the SDI were made by members of the Soviet military and political leadership.
The first proposal was to lodge diplomatic protests, loudly proclaiming that USSR is being threatened with a nuclear destruction by warmongering nation of the United States, whose leadership and president Reagan wants to eradicate peace loving workers and peasants of the Soviet Union. The second proposal was made by militarist faction under Marshal Ustinov which suggested expansion of Soviet nuclear program, which would be able to overwhelm American defenses with sufficient number of rockets. The third proposal was to announce a counter-program for propaganda purposes, as the costs of actual development of an anti-SDI program would be enormous and could badly damage already strained Soviet economy. Another proposition was to actually researching our anti-SDI program, as in the belief of some party members the Soviet economy could really handle such expense... but not very easily. The last were proposal made by scientists, who proclaimed that the best course of action would be to do nothing, as they believed that American SDI program is nothing more as a propaganda stunt, with a real purpose of forcing USSR in taking part in more and more expensive Arms Race with the USA.
Among all of these propositions, one was more extraordinary than the others. Some of the hardliners, influenced by scientific and technological developments, proposed that since USA wants to dominate the space, USSR should dominate ... the underwater. This faction proposed a very interesting concept – Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System or the Poseidon.
The Poseidon is a remote-controlled, nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear warheads. In other words, they proposed a development of a new intercontinental, nuclear armed, nuclear-powered, undersea remote-controlled torpedo equipped with a cobalt bomb. The main aim purpose of the vehicle would be to restore a balance of power between the two superpowers and increase the Soviet capability to overcome the U.S. missile defense systems. The Poseidon could be a radiological second strike weapon. If used against an aircraft carrier battle group, the battle group would have reduced chances of defending itself against it. The remote-controlled drone could detonate its very large warhead at standoff range, and anti-submarine warfare units would have very little time to react because of the speed at which it travels. The Poseidon would be equipped with a warhead 100 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The weapon is designed to ensure U.S. coastal cities remain at risk from nuclear attack should Washington decide to scale up its missile defenses. Theoretically, a weapon like Poseidon would be designed to attack enemy coastal targets from thousands of miles away and could be launched from a port or naval base, but deploying it on a submarine would make it more difficult to locate and destroy.