Romanov Ascendant: What if the Soviet Union survived?

Justinian's Romanov Ascendant TL: Introduction

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Romanov's Acescent
Our departure from the original timeline posits a slightly healthier Andropov manages to hand off control of the Soviet Union to a competent hardliner, skipping Chernenko entirely. It had become clear by the mid 1980's that the Politburo's leadership was woefully incapable of keeping up with Reagan's dynamic and aggressive behavior. The Star Wars project was setting off alarms and many believed that the Soviet Union was stagnating. General Secretary Andropov was effective during his tenure, showing that strong leadership from the center could in fact deal with corruption at least to some extent. But his tenure was a short one, his kidney failed and worsened several of his other health conditions, and he died at the age of 69. Before this, it had become clear that a successor would be needed soon. This had set off a leadership struggle within the Politburo, with Gorbachev backed by reformists and senior figures like Andrei Gromyko. Grigory Romanov was the 2nd youngest member of the Politburo, and realized that if he wanted to step up he would need more support. He became very close to Andropov and who became something of a mentor to him. (Our depature from OTL, is the extent of their relationship) Whether or not this was a genuine friendship or cynical political maneuvering is a matter of debate. With Andropov's support Romanov courted Viktor Grishin and the conservatives. At the March 1985 meeting of the Central Committee, Grishin nominated Romanov. However Gromyko nominated Gorbachev, creating an extremely tense situation. Chernenko voted for Andropov, despite his own aspirations, he understood that his own health was at risk and decided to pass the torch. Gromyko withdrew his bid and Romanov was elected unanimously. Gromyko subsequently "retired" and Gorbachev was later removed.

Now the 6th General Secretary of the Communist Party, Romanov had embarked an ambitious campaign of reform. His (relative) youth gave him the dynamism and energy to see it through, despite the difficulty of dealing with the immense byzantine soviet bureaucracy. One of his first serious actions was cutting the party oversight of the KGB, making it accountable only to the General Secretary. This move was seen as bizarrely Stalinist and created tension, as previously, the KGB was accountable to the party leadership in the spirit of 'collective leadership', a move made by Khruschev and held by Brezhnev, this however had the effect of allowing the lower party ranks to become more corrupt. Andropov, a KGB man, had imparted in Romanov his hatred of corruption and his fervent belief in the importance of the KGB in safeguarding Lenin's revolution and more importantly the state. But the rank and file of the Committee of State Security (KGB) had no problem transferring their loyalty for Andropov to Romanov, especially with their increased authority. He used them to eliminate those enemies wherever they stood, cleaning house on the basis of an "anti corruption effort". Outside of the Soviet Union it was reported as a new Stalinist purge but ultimately didn't really change it's international image in the west, which had already been damaged by Brezhnev. Several UN resolutions on 'Soviet Union's violations of the UN charter's human rights protections' backed by the US and UK were vetoed in the UNSC, but a non binding resolution was passed in the general assembly. While he did clear out many his own opponents in the party or general society, he did step up efforts against corrupt officials with some noticeable benefits. He also continued the (admittedly humorous) Andropov policy of 'labour discipline', eager communist students were recruited (and promised easier party membership) to force workers to actually go back to their jobs, rather than being absent from work and getting drunk, which had become common during the Brezhnev years.
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In the following years:
  • Romanov's policy was that the premise 'developed socialism' had not yet been established, and had stated in full terms that the country had languished under the lethargy of Breznevisim. Using his hold on the KGB, he could remove those he saw as Breznevists at will. Romanov made the caveat that Brezhnev did his best for the fraternal brotherhood of peoples in the Soviet Union, but had allowed stagnation to take hold which was something he vowed to correct. This had led to dissent in some of the conservative factions, but they ultimately choose to get behind the leader who appeared to be dealing with the problems in the country. The overall program was called Uprochneniye (Consolidation). It proscribed economic reforms including stricter administration, consolidation of state industries and some elements of self management and was added to the twelfth 5 year plan . More importantly it ordered the development and use of an electronic system to allow for more effective economic planning, the system would later be called EGSVT comparable to the Chilian Cybersyn project. He supported the emerging Soviet computer and electronics industry, something he had taken a personal interest in, he also elevated several younger technology experts in the party on a track to Politburo membership. This system once implemented could help deal with some of the inherent problems of a planned economy. Uprochneniye would be forced onto the various Warsaw pact member states with varying degrees of success. By 1988, the foundational infrastructure for EGSVT had been finished, and two new manufacturing complexes for electronics and computers were finished, one near Leningrad and the other near Minsk. Three more were slated to be finished by '89, one near Moscow, another near Vilnius and the other at Vladivostok. The increasing use of computers in administration and economic management as well the increased authoritarian methods had resulted in economic growth. Previously, it was normal for entire trains of produce to be left to rot before it would even begin to be distributed to stores, but the improvements had led to better distribution. Now it was possible to actually procure meat or coffee from a store. For example Instead of waiting for 7-10 years to be given a low quality lada, you'd only have to wait 3 to 4 years for a somewhat better lada or skoda. Televisions were beginning to no longer had a tendency to catch on fire or bust from simple normal use (from higher production standards). Quality control was increasingly forced and factory heads held accountable. People no longer used prada as toilet paper because they could actually get it from a government store. Because consumer good quality was improving, the Soviets could now export some of it's goods, instead of relying exclusively on oil and natural resource sales. Slight reductions to the military budget, and mainly to bloat that Romanov had seen while being head of the military industrial complex (in 1983) also helped. In summary, it made life "tolerable" for the vast majority.
  • The conflict in Afghanistan continued, the Americans increased their support but the Soviets also increased their troops numbers and began using even more unsavory tactics and techniques, including mass deportations to more easily controlled camps and cities and rumored use of biological weapons. This culminated in airstrikes in Pakistan on training camps in 1987, that was considered one of the closest cold war flashpoints since Able Archer. However both the leaders of the US and USSR did not want World War three, and over a period of time agreed to a respective drawdown. The Soviets withdrew the majority of their forces from Afghanistan and agreed to some reforms with the moderate opposition, while maintaining a supply line to the Afghan communists and advisors to help fight the continuing but less escalated insurgency.
  • General Secretary Romanov became increasingly paranoid as well as openly ruthless. He also appeared to becoming more narcissistic. Soviet Propaganda began depicting him by the end of 1986 as one of the great socialists and personal defender of the revolution in propaganda. He had also massively curtailed the autonomy of many of the constituent republics of the USSR. Which provoked unrest, but the increased power of the KGB had managed to control it, at least at that point. Despite maintaining the Khrushchev line on Stalin, Romanov gradually reintroduced the cult of personality.
  • The benefits of the economic development and increased use of electronics had led to the Soviets managing to actually produce surpluses in goods and food that were transferred to the other member states of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). This actively reduced unrest in the general population in the Warsaw Pact states, yet there were still strong liberal movements operating in East Germany, Poland and to a lesser extent Czechoslovakia. Bulgaria had a stronger and more entrenched population of loyalists, but Romania was increasingly destabilized by the erratic leadership style of Ceausescu. The Soviets gradually assisted in paying the debts incurred by each state with its profits, especially with Poland in near crisis. The Soviets and East Germans, energized by the recent success increasingly pushed for increased economic integration, gladly accepted by all except Romania. However increasing instability would later force Ceausescu to accept it, but it worked for the best in conjunction with his completion of his austerity policy.
Now it's 1989, the cold war and the Eastern Bloc appears to be stable. The space race is still on, Romanov promising a MIR-2 and lunar landing. Technologically, the two sides remained at par, each with slight advantages in certain sectors. The Soviets are still trying to catch up with stealth, but they had increasingly closed the gap in cruise missiles and other precision weapons or avionics. I would like to develop this as a collaborative timeline, so please let me know what you think and how this world would develop. This isn't a soviet wank, but instead of a Gorbachev I gave them a Putin or a Xi, rather simply seeing the result of decisive leadership rather than that of somewhat arguably incompetent. I would also appreciate criticisms if you disagree with my interpretation of events.
 
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I guess one major question is also, could Chernobyl have been avoided? Assuming that curtailing the autonomy and consolidation would improve the adminstrative control of the nuclear industry, it may suggest that such an incident may have been avoided. On the other hand, it was the result of bizarre personal behavior, that may not have been affected by mass institutional changes.
 
I read the first two attempts, and I'm grateful you did it again. Keep up the good work :)

As for Chernobyl, the accident could easily be butterflied in this scenario.
 
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How has China reacted to these events?

China progresses as it did OTL, leading to Tiananmen Square in 1989. However, without the year of revolutions to highlight it's contradiction, it would definitely make it easier for the west to "ignore it". The Soviets congratulate the Chinese government on foiling counter revolutionary forces, and urge a return to friendly relations. The West would have to make strong overtures, including even overlooking a potential Taiwan annexation in order to court China, and even that is unlikely to be politically tenable. So I would say at least for the early to mid 90's, the Soviets and the West both attempt to win over China with varying degrees of success.
 
My next update will be the overall western response and how the Gulf War develops. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions please let me know, especially on how US domestic politics would develop in relation to these events. My assumption would be that Bush Senior would continue a hard anti communist stance, promoting defence spending but having to tenuously balance that with the politics surrounding the deficit, yet the continued existence of the Soviet Union might give him the steam to beat Clinton.
 
Chapter One: History Continues
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Fukayama Disappointed
Like Andropov, General Secretary Romanov was eyed with suspicion from day one. As the years progressed and Europe/USA became aware of his domestic programs, he increasingly became an object of fixation. He's restitution of the cult of personality, combined with his direct personal control of the KGB immediately brought up comparisons to Stalin. Romanov's purges of bureaucracy of who he called corrupt, of which many were, however others were reformers or simply his political enemies. These purges were used to further the Stalin comparisons in the Western media. He was painted as an ambitious despot, the kind of man who only justified the rhetoric of cold war hawks. His mystery resulted in many rumors and conspiracy theories, but overall he was just seen as a yet another Soviet dictator.

His realist and pragmatic approach to foreign policies however created some hope. Despite what hawks in America thought, his actions in bombing Pakistan did not create enough public outrage to support further escalations. His willingness to negotiate and his public statements that he was open to détente and arms control helped. He still managed to sign the INF treaty, a year later than OTL however. All of this contributed to him being made Time magazines man of the year in 1988, the year when he demonstrated the EGSVT system to western journalists. His public image became one of contradiction, but ultimately in the mind of America he took the role of the respectable, affable yet still evil villain.(Kind of comparable to how many see Putin today) This was reinforced by movies, TV shows, that used his likeness or persona. Many commentators and pundits often argued the EGSVT system was simply the beginnings of an an Orwellian surveillance state, only reinforcing the need to oppose the totalitarianism of Romanov.

His relaxation of the Brezhnev doctrine, allowing for more flexibility in the Warsaw pact states, was taken well by European leftists. But his unrestrained oppression of any democratic or religious opposition absolutely incensed the centrists, liberals and right wing parties. In the United States, US President Bush Senior, maintained the line of his predecessor, that communism had to be opposed and human rights defended. More funds were dedicated towards the Strategic Defence Initiative, as well as new projects including a stealth attack helicopter. The SDI would become an issue of contention, and President Bush stated that America's innovation and spirit would ensure that it would win the cold war. However the US was quickly developing slight financial strain from the increased defence expenditures and developing downturn in markets by 1990.

The Arab World
In the middle east, most events continued as they did OTL. However, during the later stages of the Iran-Iraq War, Romanov managed to bring Saddam closer to the East than to the west, offering on spec (in addition to the ones sold OTL) advanced weapons including several Mi-28s, BM-27 Uragans and some Tor SAM systems. Saddam was already running out of credit and funds, and Andropov's only condition was to normalize relations with Syria, and closer relations with the Soviet Union. The BM-27s would prove to be extremely helpful during the last years of the war, and a Tor was credited for shooting down a few Cobras and an F-4E, but the Iraqi personnel didn't finish their training in time to participate with the Mi-28. Saddam would secretly approach the Soviet ambassador, rather than the American for permission to invade Kuwait. The closer relationship Iraq was developing with the Soviets wasn't immediately obvious, as they had previously exported weapons to Kuwait as well. The Soviets vetoed the UNSC resolution filed, as Iraq annexed Kuwait. The CIA quickly determined what was occurring, and the world press had a field day. The invasion was laid at Romanov's feet, yet the Soviet government denied any involvement. Citing the Carter doctrine, the US began landing forces in Saudi Arabia almost immediately, but western leaders were left confused as to how to deal with the Iraqi invasion.

At the Pentagon, a different strategy was envisioned. Many senior staff, including generals, colonels and etc who had played an integral role in reforming the US military post Vietnam, the vaunted authors of air-land battle doctrine, believed that the US needed a testing ground. They argued that not only would the military gain valuable experience and battle testing for it's weapon systems, but a political blow could be delivered by demonstrating the Soviet supported Iraqi military was a paper tiger. This plan found support with the CIA, who believed it would be possible to stir anti Saddam opposition within the Kurdish and Shia population. The US couldn't invade, the UN stalemate, post Vietnam malaise and the risk of nuclear Armageddon ensured that. Instead, they should arm, train and prepare the Saudi Arabians and their allies to force Iraq out of Kuwait, and perhaps Saddam out of Iraq all together.
 
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I don't really see the US just letting Iraq conquer one of their most important allies. Even if the Soviet Union vetoed the resolution, the US would most likely just kick Saddam's shit in anyways. There's also the fact that if US allows Iraq to annex Kuwait, then it means that wars of expansion are permissible for minor powers which would disrupt the balance of power in the Middle East. In OTL, US allies were beginning to question the American commitment to collective as well so the US wouldn't really have any other choice but to kick Iraq out of Kuwait.
 
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I don't really see the US just letting Iraq conquer one of their most important allies. Even if the Soviet Union vetoed the resolution, the US would most likely just kick Saddam's shit in anyways. There's also the fact that if US allows Iraq to annex Kuwait, then it means that wars of expansion are permissible for minor powers which would disrupt the balance of power in the Middle East. In OTL, US allies were beginning to question the American commitment to collective as well so the US wouldn't really have any other choice but to kick Iraq out of Kuwait.
This was something I definitely considered, however the middle east at this point has definitely seen expansionist conflicts already. Syria is still mostly in control of Lebanon, Israel has already established a precedent. Without the UNSC resolution, they may have trouble finding allies too, the gulf war was kind of the first post cold war consensus conflict. My consideration was perhaps Saddam may even just set up a puppet government in Kuwait, rather than annex it wholeheartedly right away to reduce some of the infamy created by invading it. I was also thinking that the Americans, may believe from the record that by destroying the Iraqis with an Arab ally, they may be able to create a new "Israel" while damaging Soviet prestige. Maybe when they get there, the realities of actually trying to get the Saudis to be able to do that will force them to intervene themselves...
 
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Chapter One: Old Friends, New Enemies
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This is CNN, Live from Baghdad
Interventionism once had an unpopular taste in the mouths of Americans after Vietnam, but the patriotism fostered by Reagan in the 80's, the terrorism and successful strikes on Libya had created a politically workable atmosphere. Now the State Department and CIA had something to work with, Saddam was easily displayed as a despotic tyrant (Not that he wasn't) and his invasion of Kuwait easily drew comparisons to Czechoslovakia. Sec of State Jason Baker stated "What we have here is the classic Soviet modus operandi, they secretly support aggression across the globe, and when these illegal actions are brought to the attention of the United Nations Security Council, all discussion of them is nullified by their unrepentant and unjustified veto. What Saddam Hussein has done, has violated the UN charter plainly, and without any room for disagreement. The United States of America will not stand by as Iraq commits atrocities and crimes against peace and threatens our friends and allies." The US managed to get a resolution passed in the general assembly (still typically pro Soviet) condemning Iraq's invasion and occupation as illegal, giving them further legitimacy to act. World opinion was starting to turn against Saddam. The CIA and other branches of the American government leaked out stories and hosted Kuwaiti refugees to speak in congress. Wild stories of babies being thrown from incubators, women being bayoneted for their jewelry and etc, some embellishments, some true. There was no one in congress who would support further Soviet domination in the Persian Gulf, and therefore the Authorization for Use of Military Force to Defend Saudi Arabia and Kuwait resolution was passed, giving the US government free reign, or in the words of the act "defend it's allies, and defend and liberate Kuwait.". The US found allies in Margret Thatcher's United Kingdom, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Canada, but couldn't mobilize France. The intervention became a major political controversy in Canada, but Brian Mulroney had recently won an election and hoped to gain political capital by deploying the large force Canada had sitting around in Germany to Saudi Arabia. Thatcher was betting on a successful intervention to shore her support in the conservative party.

By October, the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian militaries took the front line, while the western powers took a supporting and training role. The US authorized a sale and donation of hardware previously sold/donated only to Israel. AH-64 Apaches, Super Cobras and nearly , 75 F-16 Variants (To Egypt), 85 F-15Cs, and 30 F-15Es were brought in, the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian M-60 tanks were upgraded with applique armour, ERA, more advanced munitions. M270s were also "loaned" to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Americans financed a sale of additional Mirage-2000s to Egypt. A contingent of 30 M1A1s were "loaned" to Saudi Arabia , and 130 M1IPs were sold to outfit the cream of the Saudi and Egyptian Armour divisions. The western members Coalition meticulously planned, trained and prepared their Arab counter parts, although it would take at least six months to be ready, and most of the new pilots wouldn't be considered qualified either, but their training was accelerated and given by the best of the USAF and RAF. The Western forces would not directly invade Iraq, but rather 'defend Saudi Arabia', the Arab forces were expected to liberate Kuwait from Iraq themselves. The Americans deployed Patriot batteries, which they stated would only be used to defend the airspace of Saudi Arabia. The Offensive was slated for October 26th 1991.

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These developments weren't unnoticed by the Soviets either. They ramped up the deployment of their own advisors, training officers and equipment deliveries. General Secretary Romanov believed this would be an excellent opportunity to test Soviet military technology, and perhaps deliver a humiliating blow to the west. If the worst case scenario occurred, he could always maintain plausible deniability, impossible with direct relationships like they had with Syria. Romanov had the KGB's dossier on Saddam and understood that he was at best aggressive and at worst an unstable element. This is why a contingency plan was put in place, and special care to fostering relationships between the KGB's GRU, Soviet Army and Iraqi military command. The Soviets exported BMP-2s, additional Tors, Osas, a few batteries of Buk SAMs. They made a large delivery of T-55AMVs, T-72Ms and some T-72Bs. They also furnished the Iraqis with modern munitions, better infantry ATGMs like the Konkurs. And a cadre of Iraqi Republican Guard were brought to Moscow to be trained on electronic warfare and communication systems. They also exported 50 additional MiG-29s, 45 MiG-25PDs and 55 MiG-23Ps. The Iraqis were now trained on their Mi-28s, given to their best Hind pilots from the Iran-Iraq war. They (like the Arab coalition) had the benefit of up to date satellite intelligence and KGB infiltration. Soviet personnel monitored on a near 24/7 basis from listening post, ships and stations in Iraq for when the offensive would begin. They had a difficulty in extracting the exact date, but knew it was slated for late October.
 
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I question whether a focus economically on electronics, a very small part of the Soviet economy with negligible impact on the main sources of economic growth (in resource extraction, commodity sales, military exports, and capital equipment sold on unequal terms to its satellite empire in Eastern Europe), would really be enough to fix the big Soviet economic problems in the 1980s. Those were a massive productivity gap between planned economy measures and what ended up happening, partially due to corruption and partially from endemic alcoholism in the workforce, as well as a collapse in the distribution of consumer goods (including basic consumer goods and food staples) linked to the administrative chaos occurring in most regional branches of the CPSU and of quality assurance and control measures falling short.

Anti-corruption campaigns and anti-alcoholism campaigns were tried in OTL and often backfired, as cold turkey attempts at forcing productivity increases from shutoff of alcohol supply were complete disasters and led to riots, while anti-corruption campaigns were entrusted to corrupt officials to be carried out, leading to a situation where regional party bosses became massively powerful in terms of personal control over their fiefdoms by purging corrupt local officials below them and setting up personalized systems of power (a lot of these people would later become either oligarchs, or in the case of those in the smaller SSRs, dictators).

Computers would have helped with the planning system, but mostly as a productivity increasing tool for central planners and not as anything that would have fixed the core shortfall of planning, which was inaccurate information for inputs. Perhaps the in-year adjustment process would have been made a lot more effective, however. The core incentives in production timetables that incentivized endemic lying would not have been solved, nor would the issue of black market formation or consumer preference shifts have been solved by increased adoption of computerization of economic records.
 
Chapter One: Operation Kuwaiti Freedom
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Operation Kuwaiti Freedom

On the 26th of 1991, roughly at 2AM, a vast military operation began. The trepidation in the trenches and behind the sand berms was indescribable. The Coalition had managed to leak disinformation to the KGB and Iraqis, that the operation would be delayed to October 29th. Saudi F-15Es, along with Tornados delivered airstrikes using the newest American bunker busters, including GBU-24 Paveway IIIs and BLU-109s. The forward airbases in southern Iraq, along with radar stations and SAM sites were extensively targeted. The Soviets immediately sounded the alarm and ordered the Iraqis into action. Despite the public policy, a squadron of American F-117s ran repeated sorties attempting to target the most advanced Iraqi SAM systems and planes. They managed to avoid detection among the frenzy of activity. In many of the southern airfields, it was simply too late as Iraqi pilots attempted to scramble, being easily shot down or bombed mid runway. Within the first three hours, 23 radar sites, 13 SAM sites (2 entire batteries of Buks) and three air bases were totally leveled. The Iraqis lost 31 MiG-23 variants, along with 18 Mirages and 5 MiG-29s. Three Saudi F-15s were shot down, two by Buks and one by an MiG-25 operating from a northern airbase. By 430AM The Iraqis began running CAPs from their central and northern airbases with their MiG-29s, Mirages, MiG-21(Bis)s, and MiG-25s and faced the Saudi F-15Cs, F-5s and Tornados along with Jordanian Mirage F-1s. The latter had the benefit of AWACS while the former had to rely on ground based radar, albeit filtered by Soviet personnel. In what became one of the largest dogfights since WW2, hundreds of planes faced other in what started as a skirmish and had degenerated into a squall. MiG-21s (unknowingly) served as bait while MiG-29s, flown by Iraq's best aces lied in wait. These tactics worked somewhat, but F-15Cs using AMRAAMs brought many of Iraqis finest aircraft to the ground with straight BVR kills. As the sun began to rise, it became clear that the coalition had the edge and that the Iraqis needed to regroup. MiG-25s provided a rear guard for a retreat, for rest and refit. In the air battle, the Saudis lost 10 F-15Cs, and 9 Tornados to air to air combat and air defence systems. The Egyptians lost 11 F-16s. The Iraqis lost 42 MiG-21 variants, 11 MiG-25s, 5 Mirages and 8 MiG-29s. Iraqi Air Force Pilots Capt. Jameel Sayhood became ace after downing 5 aircraft. Many Saudis and Egyptians became aces, but Maj. Abdullah Hajkallah shined in particular, shooting down 3 MiG-25s and 2 MiG-29s in his F-15C.

As the battles raged in the sky, the coalition forces hit Iraqi army forces with an array of cluster, precision and HE explosives. M270s fired too many times, were just exchanged with ones from the american fleet. The armoured thrust into central Kuwait was highly successful, AH-64 gunships knocked out several T-72s and ZSU-23s, but they mainly encountered T-55s and T-62s plus some Centurions. They took no losses as they preceded into Kuwaiti territory. The mechanized prongs on the right of the main central push dealt with dug in Iraqi forces with air strikes and sapper tactics, but took infantry casualties while storming the fieldworks. The attack on the eastern flank also preceded successfully, managing to isolate two Iraqi divisions while managing to precede to Ali Sabah. The resistance on the east was much fiercer, costing several tanks and casualties, but the coalition's advantages in night fighting were guaranteed by the donated NVG equipment.

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The Soviets (and Iraqis) had planned for every contingency, they kept their strongest forces fortified on the outskirts of Kuwaiti city, or in reserve in the northern desert region of Kuwait, under much strong SAM protection. Despite the SEAD raids, these forces still had protection and were also concealed to the best of their ability. The coalition still realized what their intentions were, but decided to face them head on believing they had the advantage in a meeting engagement.

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I question whether a focus economically on electronics, a very small part of the Soviet economy with negligible impact on the main sources of economic growth (in resource extraction, commodity sales, military exports, and capital equipment sold on unequal terms to its satellite empire in Eastern Europe), would really be enough to fix the big Soviet economic problems in the 1980s. Those were a massive productivity gap between planned economy measures and what ended up happening, partially due to corruption and partially from endemic alcoholism in the workforce, as well as a collapse in the distribution of consumer goods (including basic consumer goods and food staples) linked to the administrative chaos occurring in most regional branches of the CPSU and of quality assurance and control measures falling short.

Anti-corruption campaigns and anti-alcoholism campaigns were tried in OTL and often backfired, as cold turkey attempts at forcing productivity increases from shutoff of alcohol supply were complete disasters and led to riots, while anti-corruption campaigns were entrusted to corrupt officials to be carried out, leading to a situation where regional party bosses became massively powerful in terms of personal control over their fiefdoms by purging corrupt local officials below them and setting up personalized systems of power (a lot of these people would later become either oligarchs, or in the case of those in the smaller SSRs, dictators).

Computers would have helped with the planning system, but mostly as a productivity increasing tool for central planners and not as anything that would have fixed the core shortfall of planning, which was inaccurate information for inputs. Perhaps the in-year adjustment process would have been made a lot more effective, however. The core incentives in production timetables that incentivized endemic lying would not have been solved, nor would the issue of black market formation or consumer preference shifts have been solved by increased adoption of computerization of economic records.
I'd argue that a focus on electronics, a future growth industry, and being demonstrated as highly important to both the military industrial complex and industry would have been an obvious area of development. The Soviets would have knowledge of the increasing role electronics were taking in both western military technology and their economies, and could have easily stolen computer technology and brought it back to be reversed engineered. In fact I'm going to slightly 'retcon' that stolen technology was foundational to establishing EGSVT.

Romanov's dual prong approach is really what ended up improving the situation. The first prong was introducing the technology, which created a verification mechanism for inputs, it would have made it much easy to force quotas and see where the actual problems were occurring in the supply chain. A new, younger elite, given privileges while also special attention by the KGB would have been responsible for the management of the intranet at the various factories or etc. The second prong, stronger enforcement and the expanding of KGB powers dealt a serious blow to the corrupt officials. The KGB understood that corruption of some extent was inevitable, but it soon became clear that there was a line for graft and if crossed had consequences, even for senior members. This was unthinkable in the 60's and 70's, but there was a feeling by the 1980s that serious change was needed to prevent stagnation. As much as there were reformers like Gorbachev, there were others who believed the opposite direction was the only way. The KGB had no problem taking extra authority, wages and power to back Romanov. This inevitably led to a loss of autonomy in the SSRs, which as we will see in the future will cause unrest, as will Islamism and continuing repression. I don't think Romanov would have touched the anti alcohol campaign, it was politically toxic at that point. That antidote about Andropov was actually true, Romanov continued that policy and expanded it, giving students credits in school or rewards for assisting in it.

Overall, these moves make the economy 'workable', the black market continues of course, but the need for it decreases because at least staple goods are available. More clothes, more civilian vehicles, more TVs, maybe the by mid 90's, game consoles and PCs. I'm also considering whether or not the proposed Kosygin reform should have been a part of it, or simply just a move towards more self management.
 
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