Soviet Union's fate without Afghanistan

Do you think the Soviet Union could've survived if they never invaded Afghanistan, or at least, how much longer would've they have lasted otherwise? The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is said to have been the mistake that led to the end of the USSR, but others would say that Afghanistan alone wasn't the core issue, it just exacerbated existing ones.

Throughout the 1980s, Afghanistan played a major role with Soviet politics internally. Notably, many citizens who were blissfully ignorant about the problems knew something was wrong at the 1980 Olympics, the big event held in the Soviet's own capital (and thus a major event for them), when the western world didn't show up to Moscow out of protest. It was a major unraveling the revealed the flaws of the Soviet's system, and outside the USSR, the Soviet's failure to quell the Mujahideen revealed just how much of a paper tiger the seemingly unstoppable Soviet Red Army truly was.

Suddenly, a lot less people around the world were afraid of them, and fear played a major role in their power. It's a major reason the Soviet Union's official dissolution in December 1991 actually wasn't that big of an event, instead it was second fiddle to Operation Desert Storm (kind of anticlimactic when you think about it). The sentiment was that by that point, it was basically over. Hell, thematically, the Berlin Wall coming down is often used more as the image showing that the Cold War was over than the Soviet flag coming down at Moscow two years later.

A change in timing can mean everything. The invasion was ordered by Leonid Brezhnev, a final failure by an infamously corrupt, incompetent and dying man, who himself passed just three years after the war began, and was ultimately replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev. He tried to save the Soviet Union through reforms, allowing more free speech, adopting neo-capitalist elements and thawing out the Cold War by making the USSR much more friendly. But funnily enough, those same well-meaning efforts ended up destroying the USSR completely because only sheer force held it together by 1985.

However, without Afghanistan to expose and multiply the Soviet's problems internally and externally, while also ratcheting up tensions with the world, could the USSR have been saved? Brezhnev would've died in 1982 regardless, as he was old and it was a natural death, and Gorbachev would've likely taken the same spot in 1985. Could he have his vision realized without this war?

The POD here is simply that Afghanistan doesn't have a communist revolution. That's basically it. Once it does, it's a rabbit hole of which there's no escape, so here it just remains a friendly nation on the USSR border that isn't communist but also not Western-aligned and thus isn't a focus at large.

Just curious about what you think.
 
There are multiple ways to save the Soviet Union.

In context, I think the most realistic one is that rather than using its oil revenue to spend on the military, it becomes a Decadent Empire that Knows Its Limits. Avoid Afghanistan, end the bankrolling of Third World Liberation movements, ease back on the military-industrial complex, and ease tensions with Beijing. De-escalate the Cold War wherever possible. Continue Andropov's anti-corruption drive, while avoiding Gorbachev at all cost. Seriously, glasnost was political suicide.

In short, Avoiding Afghanistan is a Start. But really, Avoiding Gorbachev is the key here - he turned an economic crisis into a political one.
 
There are multiple ways to save the Soviet Union.

In context, I think the most realistic one is that rather than using its oil revenue to spend on the military, it becomes a Decadent Empire that Knows Its Limits. Avoid Afghanistan, end the bankrolling of Third World Liberation movements, ease back on the military-industrial complex, and ease tensions with Beijing. De-escalate the Cold War wherever possible. Continue Andropov's anti-corruption drive, while avoiding Gorbachev at all cost. Seriously, glasnost was political suicide.

In short, Avoiding Afghanistan is a Start. But really, Avoiding Gorbachev is the key here - he turned an economic crisis into a political one.
That's interesting with the avoiding Gorbachev thing. I always thought the timing was off, in that the USSR needed reforms sooner at that stage and thus he only sped the collapse despite trying to do the opposite.
 
There are multiple ways to save the Soviet Union.

In context, I think the most realistic one is that rather than using its oil revenue to spend on the military, it becomes a Decadent Empire that Knows Its Limits. Avoid Afghanistan, end the bankrolling of Third World Liberation movements, ease back on the military-industrial complex, and ease tensions with Beijing. De-escalate the Cold War wherever possible. Continue Andropov's anti-corruption drive, while avoiding Gorbachev at all cost. Seriously, glasnost was political suicide.

In short, Avoiding Afghanistan is a Start. But really, Avoiding Gorbachev is the key here - he turned an economic crisis into a political one.
The Soviets needed to massively decrease their military spending and focus more on consumer goods (among other things), but ceasing support for their allies in all other countries would be a bad move IMO. Afghanistan was bad because the Soviet-backed government had almost no popular support, but in places like Guatemala where there was already a large and fairly popular communist insurgency, backing them wouldn't require too much money/supplies and almost no troops to help out, and having regimes friendly to the Soviet government would be useful to them.
 
Last time I had to look for survey articles the one I found did not list Afghanistan as a cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was my summary:
Antony Kalashnikov (2012) "Differing Interpretations: Causes of the Collapse of the Soviet Union" Constellations:

"there is a correlation between mediums of writing and the "factor of collapse" they tend to espouse."

"that the historiography is best classified by "factors for collapse", and that these are: economic, nationalities, political, and systemic. It is interesting to note that while most studies (textbooks being the notable exception) tend to opt for one factor as being most important in bringing about collapse, they don't argue it vis-à-vis others. On the contrary, they do not engage other standpoints,"

Afghanistan is mentioned once in this review article, and only as part of the "briefing" of the context of the time.

Therefore—no substantive historiography of the collapse of the Soviet Union ascribes Afghanistan as a cause.

Therefore—Afghanistan was not one of the major reasons that led to the fall of Soviet Union.
 
Afghanistan definitely made the Soviet economic crisis worse, and probably precipitated it collapsing when it did. But the Soviet system was already not working by the beginning of the 1980s (before Afghanistan really made a bite), and the collapse in oil prices that broke the USSR's oil-for-food-and-technology trade with the West is still going to happen. The actual sequence of events that led to the collapse of the USSR was quite contingent, and so whatever happens in the late 1980s/early 1990s won't look like OTL, but it will not be pretty.
 
Afghanistan definitely made the Soviet economic crisis worse, and probably precipitated it collapsing when it did. But the Soviet system was already not working by the beginning of the 1980s (before Afghanistan really made a bite), and the collapse in oil prices that broke the USSR's oil-for-food-and-technology trade with the West is still going to happen. The actual sequence of events that led to the collapse of the USSR was quite contingent, and so whatever happens in the late 1980s/early 1990s won't look like OTL, but it will not be pretty.
What might save the USSR for at least a few years is something like the Grand Mosque siege triggering a full on Saudi revolution. Then you have both Iran and Saudi off the market for a few years and Saddam probably acting up. Oil over $30 a barrel for the eighties would both prop up the USSR and kick the legs out from under Reagan.
 
If we go with the idea that Afghanistan only sped up an inevitable collapse, then how long do you think the Soviet Union would’ve lasted without it?

Some have suggested that it sped it up by as much as over a decade, while others are more conservative and say it was only a few years. What do you think?
 
If we go with the idea that Afghanistan only sped up an inevitable collapse, then how long do you think the Soviet Union would’ve lasted without it?

Some have suggested that it sped it up by as much as over a decade, while others are more conservative and say it was only a few years. What do you think?
if the money not spent in Afghanistan, is instead put into matching Reagan's build up, there isn't much change at all.
Too much into Guns, not enough Butter.
Even without Afghanistan and Gorby, I have real doubts on a late conversion into massively increasing the Consumer Goods in the USSR.

2nd, The Warsaw Pact was slipping away.

Invading Poland would be a whole different thing than Hungary.
 
If we go with the idea that Afghanistan only sped up an inevitable collapse, then how long do you think the Soviet Union would’ve lasted without it?

Some have suggested that it sped it up by as much as over a decade, while others are more conservative and say it was only a few years. What do you think?
Nothing is inevitable until it happens.
 
It’s not that the Afghanistan intervention caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is that any Soviet Union that won’t collapse won’t intervene in Afghanistan.
 
Why? What's the relationship?
Since the POD is 1979 in which the Soviets would not intervene in Afghanistan. With that said, that would reset the timeline and introduce butterflies. So one of the possible butterflies is that the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl does not suffer a meltdown.
 

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Since the POD is 1979 in which the Soviets would not intervene in Afghanistan. With that said, that would reset the timeline and introduce butterflies. So one of the possible butterflies is that the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl does not suffer a meltdown.
That's understandable unless Dyatlov had a son who was in Afghanistan or Dyatlov himself served there I don't think butterflies would be that many. But you may have a point, the reactor which blew was new and there were plans to build more reactors, if the soviets build more reactors there by ease off the strain on reactor number 4 and there by maintenance test could be conducted in the morning with the full staff Rather than skeleton staff in the evening when demand for power would be low, this predicates that soviets build reactor number 5,6,7 and not on guns
 
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That's understandable unless Dyatlov had a son who was in Afghanistan or Dyatlov himself served there I don't think butterflies would be that many. But you may have a point, the reactor which blew was new and there were plans to build more reactors, if the soviets build more reactors there by ease off the strain on reactor number 4 and there by maintenance test could be conducted in the morning with the full staff Rather than skeleton staff in the evening when demand for power would be low, this predicates that soviets build reactor number 5,6,7 and not on guns
Correct. Without Afghanistan, the Soviets may focus to build more reactors since no resources will be pooled on fighting the mujahideen.
 
Since the POD is 1979 in which the Soviets would not intervene in Afghanistan. With that said, that would reset the timeline and introduce butterflies. So one of the possible butterflies is that the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl does not suffer a meltdown.
You have around 7 years, that's enough to significantly change things. One guy gets the flu in 1985 that didn't get it OTL, that leads to some of the people responsible for the Chernobyl incident not being at work that day, ect.
 
You have around 7 years, that's enough to significantly change things. One guy gets the flu in 1985 that didn't get it OTL, that leads to some of the people responsible for the Chernobyl incident not being at work that day, ect.
One guy killed in the war, doesn't get killed and becomes a nuclear engineer and is able to stand up to Dylatov on the day... The buterflies are endless
 
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