Russian Collapse

Robert S. Thau (
Fri, 28 Aug 1998 17:53:16 -0400 (EDT)

Gregory Alan Bolcer writes:

> So, where does this leave mother Russia? It's a doomed country.
> Welcome the end of the great nation-state. I can only predict further
> fragmentation and the complete collapse of whatever shadow of a centralized
> government they tried to keep in power.

This isn't the only possible nasty outcome. Weimar Germany certainly
looked like a failing state at times, but somebody did manage to get a
central government back on its feet. It didn't do the rest of the
world much good at all.

> If this wasn't bad enough,
> think of the following scenario. It's widely believed that one of the
> former Soviet Union's last lines of defense was a nuclear doomsday
> machine straight out of Dr. Strangelove because they couldn't keep up
> with the military buildup of the 1980's.

Hmmm... hadn't heard this. Do you have a quotable source?

> The Soviet union collapsed
> before this could be announced.

Now *that's* Strangelovian. Paraphrasing the dialog from memory:

Dr. Strangelove:
But the doomsday machine only does its job if people know

Ambaassador De Sadesky:
Our premier wanted to make an occasion of it at the next
party congress. You know how he likes his surprises.

But if the collapse of the Soviet central government prevented the
doomsday device from being announced, then who's supposed to be
maintaining the thing now --- and why haven't *they* announced it?

If all it amounts to now is a pile of disused and poorly maintained
nuclear materiel, guarded by half-starved people who could probably be
bought for six cartons of cigarettes, a bottle of slivovitz and a pair
of pantyhose, then that's bad... but we already knew about dozens of
those, and the security hawks in the republican congress haven't
exactly been falling over themselves to pay that price and get the
stuff in safer hands.

(For that matter, we already pretty much know that they have a few
hundred tons of smallpox virus stockpiled, probably under similar
conditions --- unbelievably nasty stuff that you need almost no
technology to exploit. There was an article about this in the New
Yorker several months ago, featuring interviews with a former chief of
the Soviet biological program. Very scary stuff).