Britain, US, Russia – we’re all post-Soviet now
With apologies, I return to Fiona Hill’s valuable book ‘There’s Nothing for You Here – Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century’.
She has a breadth of understanding which I suspect can only have been developed by someone who had experienced, in order: crushing poverty in the Northeast of England growing up in the 1970s and 80s; living and working in Moscow at the exact moment the Soviet Union was beginning to crumble; subsequently living and working in Harvard and Washington.
One key observation is that in all these places there was the same fundamental dynamic at work which was/is wrecking entire regions and economies.
‘Over the course of my studies and based on my personal experiences, it soon dawned on me that the Cold War, the proverbial Iron Curtain, and the ideological veil of the bitter struggle between capitalism and communism had concealed the fact that the United Kingdom, the USSR and the United States had much in common. Once you lifted the veil, you could see the touch points beneath especially when you knew what you were looking for.’
‘In the 1980s, in the same timeframe as factories closed and demand for labour declined in the United Kingdom and the United States, the USSR faltered. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan precipitated and end of the Soviet Union as well as the Cold War through the pressures their interactions with Mikhail Gorbachev imposed on him, at a time when he was attempting the reform of the entire Communist system.
‘But in fact, domestically, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev were all engaged in the same reform project – out with the old, in with the news. Each adopted a top-down approach notable for its absence of broader social consultation and its politically polarizing effects. Reforms were inflicted or imposed and rarely explained to the population that was most affected by them. But it was only Gorbachev who lost a country.
‘In the euphoria at the end of the Cold War, the confluence of timing, events and intent went unnoticed on the western side of the Iron Curtain. The UK and US could surely not have anything at all in common with the Soviet Union, given the total failure of its system . . . could we?’