If one were to ask, “What events defined the 20th century?” A typical answer would be the 2 World Wars, independence of dozens of countries or probably another set of wars. The existence of the monstrosity named the Soviet Union, in my opinion, is arguably the most definitive aspect of the 20th century. From its formation in 1922 to its collapse in 1991, any political or economic decision made in almost any country would have directly or indirectly involved the USA and the Soviet Union, the 2 superpowers at that time. However, post its dissolution into 15 sovereign states, the United States has seemed to assert its dominance more, especially in the 2000’s. China, which was assumed to be the flagbearer of global communism has certainly improved its status as a global superpower albeit in a slow and quiet fashion. Russia, the largest state of the Soviet States, hasn’t nearly reached the economic or political influence its predecessor once had.
In this continuing series of “What if?”, we ask, “What if the Soviet Union still existed?”
There are many reasons as to why the Soviet Union collapsed. The enumeration and explanation of these reasons is a topic to be discussed another day. We’ll assume that the policies and decisions (in particular by Mikhail Gorbachev) that led to the collapse, never took place, and that the USSR still exists.This article will make a few reasoned predictions from a political and economic perspective.
- Vladimir Putin is secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, and therefore “President” of the Soviet Union:
Vladimir Putin was an up and coming officer rising through the ranks of the KGB, the secret service of the Soviet Union. He was a lieutenant colonel in 1991, when the coup d’etat by the KGB took place. It’s primary aim being to overthrow the “Russian” government which was formed after a legal battle between Russia and the Soviet Union(this actually happened). The attempt proved futile, as Boris Yeltsin, the first Premier of the Russian Federation, defiantly stood over a tank and proclaimed his power.
Putin resigned from the KGB on the second day of the coup to pursue a career in politics. However, if the coup never happened, Putin, being a loyal officer and an expedient person, would have become the head of the KGB, and a major player in the Soviet top brass. The Communist party has a preference for younger leaders in order to avoid the inaction period of the mid-1980’s. Putin being 47 by 2000, would certainly be a front-runner and possibly “President” of the Soviet Union. With Putin being so young then, he would continue to be president even today. His net worth, however, wouldn’t be nearly as close to being called the wealthiest man in the world. (Source: Fortune magazine)
- The concept of rich Russian businessmen or Oligarchs would cease to exist:
The concept of Oligarchy came during the introduction of Perestroika by then Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Falling oil prices meant that the Soviet economy,took a major hit, as more people fell below the poverty line. Perestroika (restructuring), aimed to reshape the economy.This policy allowed the concept of foreign investment, albeit indirectly. It essentially followed the practice of franchisee-ing a foreign business, where a Soviet local would take care of the business in Russia and report to the foreign business as a representative. This in turn monopolized businesses, and thus a select few people became more and more richer. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, the government sectors such as energy and finance became privatized. They fell into the hands of a few opportunistic businessmen, thereby making sports clubs an easy buy for these people. Since the concept of Perestroika (which was one of the reasons why the USSR collapsed) never existed in the first place, these Oligarchs would never exist and foreign investments would be a lot harder to make. Finally, Oligarchs would not own sports franchises. They are well known for their impatience and wanting of immediate results, as they themselves got their riches in an easy fashion. This has led to ruining some of the franchises such as the Brooklyn Nets. Working in these franchises can be a monumental challenge, a la Chelsea FC.
- Donald Trump would not even think of being President of the United States:
Donald Trump had long aspired to be president of the United States, one can look at the living Nostradamus named The Simpsons for proof. During his campaign for the president of the United States, Trump made many huge promises and campaign strategies. Let’s look at 2 of them. The first one being, Trump promised friendlier ties with Russia and had praised the country at the drop of a hat. That would certainly raise a red flag, with the American voters, the politicians and the media, should the Soviet Union still exist. The next one being the concept of “Draining the Swamp”, that is fix the supposedly corrupt federal system. He has cast himself as the messiah who can do this and turned countless voters into taking a stance that is anti-establishment. This is precisely why Trump, a nobody in the political world, got elected in the first place. His constant berating of establishment politicians who have had experience in dealing with the Soviet Union in the past would certainly not be appreciated by the public. Finally, he would have no dealings with Russian lobbyists and Russian businessmen due to the aforementioned point. Therefore, any “collusion” with the Russians would have never happened The alleged “collusion” that happened and it supposedly helping Trump win the election is however a matter that is sub judice.
4. Al-Qaeda would just be a terror group in Afghanistan and thus not so relevant:
Al-Qaeda was formed by Osama bin Laden in 1988 to fight the Soviets who had invaded Afghanistan in 1980. The event wasn’t really an invasion. The Communist Party of Afghanistan or the PDAP, that came to power then, asked for support from the Soviet troops due to the warring factions that had formed within the PDAP. The Soviets also wanted a stable communist government in Afghanistan which would essentially help them in establishing more such governments in the world. Obviously, not all society in Afghanistan welcomed this arrival of Soviet troops into their land. A set of fighters called the Mujahedeen wanted to fight and drive away the Soviet troops. These fighters were funded by the United States and Pakistan and were provided with the necessary ammunition and guns. These provisions would later come back to haunt the United States, as these terror groups that would soon form from the Mujahedeen would be the cause of numerous terror attacks in the United States and all over the world. The Soviet Union however, with their well-trained army, had contained these Mujahedeen fighters for nearly 8 years with no hassles. Should they have continued to stay in Afghanistan, then the infighting would continue nonetheless, but the Mujahedeen’s influence would only stay in Afghanistan as they continue to focus their energy on defeating the Soviet troops.
5. As years go by, China will take over the Soviet Union as the dominant superpower:
The primary reason as to why China is so successful as an economy these days is that they opened their country to the free market in the year 1978. They allowed 100% foreign direct investment after the then premier – Deng Xiaoping saw the success that Singapore was able to achieve with a free market, even with harsh laws. They welcomed investment and were more open to business to ensure their growth. Thus, businesses from all over the world would tap the major USP of China, which was their population. While the Soviet Union relied on just being an exporter, China could benefit from investment in assets that would develop in the future. In 1988, as mentioned earlier, Mikhail Gorbachev tried to introduce a partially free market (an experiment that failed miserably), which would allow the middlemen to end up making more money, and businesses taking a loss. Additionally the population in the Soviet Union is much less as compared to China – investing in them would not yield nearly the same amount of profits. China started the practice of a free market much earlier than the Soviet Union did, thereby giving them a head start, the results of which can be seen today. China is possibly the fastest growing economy and Russia is just hanging in there with next to no growth. So even if the Soviet Union continued to exist today, its economic growth would be far lesser and would someday have to copy the Chinese model to ensure that they have growth and stay relevant as a superpower.
Those were just 5 things that could have happened if the Soviet Union still existed today. However the predictions here are limitless, simply due to the fact that the Soviet Union hasn’t been in existence for over 27 years. This article simply aims to sketch and analyse the most likely scenarios to play out if things didn’t happen the way they did.