When War II, the focus of the United States

When
Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, first declared to the
world the doctrine by which the Soviet Union would invade and uproot
any country struggling against the communist yoke in Eastern Europe,
neither Brezhnev nor the world had any idea of the repercussions that
would result from this. Not only would Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan
be invaded by the doctrine’s implementations, but several other
countries not directly influenced including a rivaled communism in
East Asia would take a defensive stance against Russia that led to
political complications and, ultimately, the sequential collapse of
communism in Eastern Europe.

The first
term in need of scrutiny is the Brezhnev Doctrine itself. Introduced
after the Prague Spring in 1968, the doctrine stated the USSR would
not permit any country in Eastern Europe to reject communism. This
bold backing of the countries involved in the Warsaw Pact, (and later
even in countries not in the Warsaw Pact) led to the Soviet Union
assuming responsibility over the internal affairs of these countries
and severely limited the independence of these countries.
Implementation of this policy was a major cause for strained
relations with the US and was seen as direct retaliation against the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) organized just 6 years
prior. Shortly after the Brezhnev Doctrine was fabricated, 500,000
troops invaded Czechoslovakia and deposed of the leadership that was
responsible for the social reforms that competed with the Soviet
Union’s agenda. This
would be one of the many fatal decision that laid the groundwork for
political upheaval in the Soviet Union, and a continental shift away
from communism as a whole.
After
the events of World War II, the focus of the United States shifted to
the state of a European nation ravished by war, and the looming
threat of communist expansion across the weakened nations. The Soviet
Union wasted no time in asserting its influence in the surrounding
nations. The communist party made huge leaps of progress in nations
such as Italy, and a Soviet Union sponsored coup in Czechoslovakia
brought another communist nation onto the European scene. Testing the
western nations even further, Stalin blockaded West Berlin, jointly
held by the US, France, and Britain, and isolated the city within a
Soviet land-lock. The famous Berlin Airlift narrowly prevented a
confrontation over the event, but the US became even more anxious to
deal with the security concerns in Europe. The Western countries
gathered seeking to implement a solution that would ensure physical
and political security against the USSR. This was conceived in the
form of the Brussels Treaty, signed by Great Britain, France,
Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg in March of 1948. This pact
gave the assurance of collective security among the participating
nations; that if any single nation was attacked the others were
obligated to assist in protecting it. Shortly afterward, the Truman
administration proposed that the United states seek a security treaty
between Western Europe that would be created outside the realm of
Soviet influence, and thus the North Atlantic treaty was drawn into
existence. When West Germany was added to this alliance, the Soviet
Union retaliated by organizing the Warsaw Pact, establishing their
own regional coalition between their satellite nations in Eastern
Europe. Now the creation of this alliance cannot be solely blamed for
the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. It was rather the foreign
policy that Russia created in an attempt to maintain order among the
pact members that truly laid the stepping stones for the collapse of
the Soviet Union and virtually all of communism in Eastern Europe.
It
stands to reason that one of the first problems arising from the
communist fist in Europe arose from Czechoslovakia, which was
historically more liberal than perhaps the Soviets would have hoped.
The country’s previous government had been rather abruptly overthrown
by a coup endorsed by the Soviet Union., and it would seem that the
citizens were not all in unanimous agreement with the communist
agenda. There was an increasing amount of collective dissatisfaction
with the social injustice imposed by communism, and there was a
liberal movement within the country that led to a change in
leadership and subsequent social reforms. After fourth months of a
reformed country, Brezhnev declared that the Soviet Union would not
allow for any country of the Warsaw Pact to denounce communism, and
that Czechoslovakia was in violation of these conditions. With this
mindset, the USSR decided to mobilize troops from Hungary, Poland,
East Germany and Bulgaria into Prague and other major cities to
quickly seize control over the situation, and to restore conservative
communist rule within Czech borders. Although the invasion was
condemned by the US, their resources and focus were wholly on the
conflict in Vietnam, and so they ordered no intervention to take
place. The Soviet Union arrested Dubcek as well as other leaders and
replaced them with more conservative leadership. Although Eastern
European unity was preserved, the Soviet invasion was the start of a
decade’s long period of Soviet intervention that eventually led to
its demise.
Possibly
the most devastating action taken by the Soviet Union in this era
under the Soviet Union was the decision to invade Afghanistan. In
order to understand why the Soviet Union’s failed invasion of
Afghanistan was so detrimental to the Soviet Union and the communist
bloc of Europe as a whole, one needs to understand not only the
reason that the intercession did not fix the situation, but the
reasoning behind the decision for military intervention in the first
place.
Before
1978, it is almost certain that Afghanistan had little support from
the Soviet Union. The USSR rarely took action, especially military
action, concerning nations other than those outside of the Warsaw
Pact. However, in the spring of 1978, the government of Afghanistan
was overthrown by communist militants, who wrested the authority from
President Mohammed Daud Khan. Daud Khan had fought to overthrow the
country’s monarchy in 1973 and established Afghanistan as a Republic.
He had worked to lessen Afghanistan’s dependency during his reign
and this worked until the military coup deposed him in 1978. The
newly communist nation garnered precious little support from among
the generally anti-communist people. Religion had much deeper roots
and a firmer grasp on the populous than did politics. The regime
quickly created close ties with the Soviet Union, implemented
unpopular social reforms, and snuffed out internal opposition,
leading to domestic insurgencies within the country. When the facts
are examined, it seems clear why such democratic reforms garnered
such intense opposition from within the people. Religion had much
deeper roots and a firmer grasp on a great majority of the populous
than did newfangled politics, especially those of a communist nature.
These Islamic insurgency groups became altogether known as the
mujahideen, (“those who engage in jihad”) waged a fierce holy war
against the government. The leader in place proved to be very radical
in his approach to policy and it became clear that the situation was
getting out of control very quickly. When ambassadors failed to
negotiate any change in the government, the Soviet Union decided that
it was necessary, in order to preserve Afghanistan from Western
influence, to depose the current leader of the party in favor of a
much more trusted head to help guide the lost state to a
Soviet-backed communistic state. Desperate to save their faltering
new communist allies, in 1979, the Soviet Union sent thousands of
troops into the borders of Afghanistan to invade the capital of Kabul
in order to wrest power back from the current head.. The USSR plunged
itself into a struggle to maintain Afghanistan as a
communist-friendly power for over ten years. This event was a
critical point in the development of the cold war, and was one of the
most apparent consequences of the Brezhnev Doctrine which led to the
downfall of the Soviet Union. There were a multitude of reasons that
the invasion of Afghanistan failed to secure it as another Soviet
satellite nation. One major impedance to the Soviet agenda in
Afghanistan pertains the deeply-imbedded religious background of the
region. The Soviets could never have realized how the cultural roots
of the area would turn the quarreling warlords against the Soviet
Union as a common enemy of their state. While
the Soviets had many more resources and better technology at their
hands, it was impossible to gain an advantage over the masses of the
rebellious populous.
The
invasion of Afghanistan damaged the USSR in more ways than one. The
Soviet Union had already earned a bad reputation across the world for
its foreign policy during the time period. Once again the USSR had
attempted to ensure the development of a friendly communist state and
it had turned against them. The
world already had a low opinion of the Soviet Union’s foreign
invasions, particularly in Afghanistan as it was not a member of the
Warsaw Pact. This failed attempt brought many economic problems with
it as well. According
to a disclosed intelligence assessment made by the CIA in 2000, the
initial invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union is estimated to
have cost 15 billion rubles, or about 50 billion USD. The Soviet
Union soon began to experience economic roadblocks, and by the time
the next Soviet leader would come into power, these problems would
escalate into a point of riot in the USSR, and would eventually
contribute to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The
USSR’s implementation of their foreign policy did not solely extend
to those countries within their sphere of influence on their
continent. After the events taking place in Cuba led to a political
upheaval led by Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union took a strategic
interest in the Latin American nation. Not only could Cuba be a
nation that would increase the communist global presence and
prestige, but there were great economic opportunities associated with
an ally in Latin America. A CIA intelligence review in 1960 showed
just how expansive the economic relationship between the USSR and
Cuba would become:
“In
the economic field, the agreements announced in the 12 February
Soviet-Cuban communique also reflect the USSR’s reappraisal of its
attitude toward the Castro government. As these agreements, which
deal with major Cuban exports and imports, are fulfilled, the USSR
will be able to achieve considerable economic influence in Cuba. The
Soviet purchase of nearly 5,000,000 tons of Cuban sugar in the next
five years, if carried out, will absorb up to 20 percent of Cuba’s
sugar exports in that period. Previous Soviet purchases, ranging from
200,000 to 450,000 tons annually, have accounted for only 3 to 8
percent of such exports in any one year.”

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Soviet
involvement with Cuba skyrocketed over this short period of time, and
the Soviet Union became Cuba’s main source of manufactured goods and
appliances after trade with the United States was complicated by
US-imposed embargoes. The economic system of Soviet communism,
however, is also a main reason why the effectiveness was minimal in
Cuba. Journalist and author Andres Oppenheimer had the opportunity to
make several month long trips to Cuba from 1989 to 1991, and discuss
with top officials and common citizens alike the state of Cuba in
light of the Soviet bloc. He recorded his findings and conversations
in his book, “Castro’s
Final Hour”. In his
book he describes the result of Soviet communism in Cuba, and how it
has slowly been driven down. Communism as it was implemented by the
USSR did not prove to be very sustainable financially for satellite
nations such as Cuba. Cuba’s
economy was very limited after this revolutionary period.. Most of
the internal funding in the Interior Ministry of Cuba was a direct
result of drug trafficking within the country. Jobs handed out by the
government usually went unfulfilled or only partially completed. The
fundamental flaw with Soviet Communism, especially evident in Cuba,
is that the system offers no reward for work. Oppenheimer, in
addition to his interviews, collected pictures showing Cuba’s streets
of people lazing about or just killing time. The country itself was
very poor, and would most likely be in a much worse position if it
weren’t for the government involvement in drug smuggling. Even
so, their economy was anything but flourishing. The standard of
living was extremely low, and resources were very difficult to come
by. Cuba, was slowly failing, and communism was reciprocating that
decline.The communist state that had hoped to prove promising to the
Soviet cause was just another sign of the weakness of their political
system.
In
light of the failing nations under the Soviet Union’s umbrella, the
USSR was having beginning to experience troubles within its own
borders. The people were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the
government’s action both inside and outside their country. When
Mikhail Gorbachev took over in 1985, he sought after a foreign policy
much more conservative than that of Brezhnev. Almost immediately
after Soviet intervention decreased, democratic reform began
spreading around much of Eastern Europe. No longer threatened by
action from the Soviet Union, the countries were free to think and
vote as they thought, which resulted in democratic tendencies. When
Gorbachev introduced his famous policy of glasnost(“openness” or
free speech), Europe erupted. It seemed that all of the frustration
felt towards the Soviet government for decades had been pent up and
was now released over the already weak nation. Immediate criticism
over the government and political leaders led to chaos in the
country, and it soon spelled the end for the USSR, and eventually,
the entirety of communism in Eastern Europe.