Alternate History

Gorbachev Doctrine (Communist World)

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Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Gorbachev Doctrine was a strategy orchestrated and implemented by the Soviet Union under the Gorbachev government to oppose the global influence of the British Imperial Federation, reform the stagnating Party and the state economy during the final years of the Cold War. While the doctrine lasted less than a decade, it was the centerpiece of Soviet Union foreign policy from the mid 1980s until the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Under the Gorbachev Doctrine, the U.S.S.R provided overt and covert aid to anti-colonial guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to "roll back" British-backed colonial governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The doctrine was designed to diminish British influence in these regions as part of the government's overall Cold War strategy.As de facto ruler of the USSR, he tried to reform the stagnating Party and the state economy by introducing glasnost ("openness"), perestroika ("restructuring"), demokratizatsiya ("democratization"), and uskoreniye ("acceleration" of economic development), which were launched at the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986.

Origin of the Gorbachev Doctrine

Gorbachev and the war in Afghanistan

Main Article: Operation Storm-333Soviet war in Afghanistan

At least one component of the Gorbachev Doctrine technically pre-dated the Gorbachev government. In Afghanistan, the Thatcher ministry began providing limited covert military assistance to Afghanistan's mujahideen, in an effort to drive the Soviets out of the nation, or at least raise the military and political cost of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Although Gorbachev didn't support the Soviet intervention, he still wanted to destabilized the British presence and gain a larger foothold in the Middle East. It enjoyed broad international political support.
Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan

Victorious Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988, following a 8-year occupation.

After many successful operations and assassinations of mujahideen leaders, Gorbachev began the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan on 28 July. Nonetheless, many observers, such as Jack F. Matlock Jr. (despite generally praising Gorbachev), have criticized Gorbachev for taking too long to achieve withdrawal from the Afghanistan War, citing it as an example of lingering elements of 'old thinking' in Gorbachev.

In February 1988, Gorbachev announced the full withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The withdrawal was completed the following year, with the civil war ending as the pro-Soviet Najibullah government pushed to eliminated the Mujahedeen. An estimated 28,000 Soviets were killed between 1979 and 1989 as a result of the Afghanistan War.

Other foreign engagements

January 1986 would see Gorbachev make his boldest international move so far, when he announced his proposal for the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe and his strategy for eliminating all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 (often referred to as the 'January Proposal').

On 11 October 1986, Gorbachev and Thatcher met at Höfði house in Reykjavík, Iceland, to discuss reducing intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. To the immense surprise of both men's advisers, the two agreed in principle to removing INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. They also essentially agreed in principle to eliminate all nuclear weapons in 10 years (by 1996), instead of by the year 2000 as in Gorbachev's original outline. Continuing trust issues, particularly over reciprocity and Gorbachev's Strategic Fortification Commission (SKF), meant that the summit is often regarded as a failure for not producing a concrete agreement immediately, or for leading to a staged elimination of nuclear weapons. In the long term, nevertheless, this would culminate in the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987, after Gorbachev had proposed this elimination on 22 July 1987 (and it was subsequently agreed on in Geneva on 24 November).

During 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would continue its policy and allow the Eastern bloc nations to freely determine their own internal affairs. Dubbed the "Gorbachev Doctrine" by Gorbachev's Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov, this policy of non-intervention in the affairs of the other Warsaw Pact states proved to be the most momentous of Gorbachev's foreign policy reforms. In his 6 July 1989 speech arguing for a "common European home" before the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, Gorbachev declared: "The social and political order in some countries changed in the past, and it can change in the future too, but this is entirely a matter for each people to decide. Any interference in the internal affairs, or any attempt to limit the sovereignty of another state, friend, ally, or another, would be inadmissible."

Gorbachev Doctrine advocates

Smoke break el serrano 1987

The Soviet-supported Nicaraguan Sandinista.

Within the Gorbachev ministries, the doctrine was quickly embraced by nearly all of Gorbachev's top national security and foreign policy officials, including KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, Andrei Gromyko, and a series of Gorbachev national security advisers including Eduard Shevardnadze, Dmitry Yazov, and Gennadi Gerasimov.

Gorbachev himself was a vocal proponent of the policy. Seeking to expand Politburo support for the doctrine in the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986, Gorbachev said: "We must not break faith with those who are risking their lives for communism...on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua... to defy British aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth. Support for freedom fighters is self-defense."

Gorbachev Doctrine in the U.S.S.R.

Domestic Reforms

XXVll Congress

28th Congress of the CPSU

Gorbachev's primary goal as General Secretary was to improve the Soviet economy after the flourish but still declining Troika years. In 1985, he announced that the Soviet economy was stalled and that reorganization was needed. Gorbachev proposed a "vague programme of reform", which was adopted at the April Plenum of the Central Committee.  He called for fast-paced technological modernization and increased industrial and agricultural productivity, and he attempted to reform the Soviet bureaucracy to be more efficient and prosperous

Gorbachev soon realized that fixing the Soviet economy would be nearly impossible without reforming the political and social structure of the Communist nation. Gorbachev also initiated the concept of gospriyomka (state acceptance of production) during his time as leader, which represented state approval of goods in an effort to maintain quality control and combat inferior manufacturing.

He made a speech in May 1985 in Leningrad advocating widespread reforms. The reforms began in personnel changes; the most notable change was the replacement of Andrei Gromyko as Minister of Foreign Affairs with Eduard Shevardnadze. Gromyko, disparaged as "Mr Nyet" in the West, had served for 28 years as Minister of Foreign Affairs and was considered an 'old thinker'. Robert D. English notes that, despite Shevardnadze's diplomatic inexperience, Gorbachev "shared with him an outlook" and experience in managing an agricultural region of the Soviet Union (Georgia), which meant that both had weak links to the powerful military-industrial complex. 

A number of reformist ideas were discussed by Politburo members. One of the first reforms Gorbachev introduced was the anti-alcohol campaign, begun in May 1985, which was designed to fight widespread alcoholism in the Soviet Union. Prices of vodka, wine, and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted. It was pursued vigorously and cut both alcohol sales and government revenue. It was a serious blow to the state budget—a loss of approximately 100 billion rubles according to Alexander Yakovlev—after alcohol production migrated to the black market economy. The program proved to be a useful symbol for change in the country, however.

The purpose of reform, however, was to prop up the centrally planned economy, not transition to market socialism. Speaking in late summer 1985 to the secretaries for economic affairs of the central committees of the East European communist parties, Gorbachev said: "Many of you see the solution to your problems in resorting to market mechanisms in place of direct planning. Some of you look at the market as a lifesaver for your economies. But, comrades, you should not think about lifesavers but about the ship, and the ship is socialism."

Four major reforms 

USSR stamp Perestroyka

Perestroika postage stamp, 1988

Gorbachev initiated his new policy of perestroika (literally 'restructuring') and its attendant radical reforms in 1986; they were sketched, but not fully spelled out, at the XXVIIth Party Congress in February–March 1986. The new policy of "reconstruction" was introduced in an attempt to overcome the economic stagnation by creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress.

1988 would see Gorbachev's introduction of glasnost, which gave the Soviet people freedoms that they had never previously known, including greater freedom of speech. The press became far less controlled, and thousands of political prisoners and many dissidents were released. Gorbachev's goal in undertaking glasnost was to pressure conservatives within the CPSU who opposed his policies of economic restructuring, and he also hoped that through different ranges of openness, debate and participation, the Soviet people would support his reform initiatives. At the same time, he opened himself and his reforms up for more public criticism, evident in Nina Andreyeva critical letter in a March edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya.

Demokratizatsiya (democratisation) in the Soviet Union was proposed by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in January 1987. He was calling for the infusion of "democratic" elements into the Soviet Union's single-party government. Gorbachev's democratisation meant the introduction of multi-candidate-not multiparty-elections for local Communist Party (CPSU) and Soviets. In this way, he hoped to rejuvenate the party with progressive personnel who would carry out his institutional and policy reforms. The CPSU would retain sole custody of the ballot box. 

Uskoreniye (literally: acceleration) was aimed at the acceleration of social and economical development of the Soviet Union. The acceleration was planned to be based on technical and scientific progress, revamping of heavy industry (in the accordance with the Marxian economics postulate about the primacy in development of heavy industry over light industry), taking the "human factor" into an account, and increasing the labor discipline and responsibility of apparatchiks.

Gorbachev Doctrine and the Cold War's end

As arms flowed to the Sandinista, Leopoldo Galtieri PRN and the D.R. Afghanistan, the Gorbachev Doctrine advocates argued that the doctrine was yielding constructive results for U.S.S.R interests and global communism.

In Nicaragua, defeating the Contras led the Sandinistas to end the State of Emergency, and they subsequently won the 1990 elections. In Afghanistan, the Soviet Union's military bled the mujahideen and paved the way for Soviet military victory. In Argentina, Gualtieri's resistance ultimately led to a decision by the Imperial Federation to bring their troops and military advisors home from Argentina as part of a negotiated settlement. In Cambodia, the Vietnamese withdrew and their allied government collapsed.

All of these developments were Gorbachev Doctrine victories, the doctrine's advocates argue, laying the ground for the ultimate dissolution of the British Imperial Federation. Georgy Arbatov later argued that "the Gorbachev-led effort to support freedom fighters resisting British oppression led successfully to the first major military defeat of the BIF... Sending the BIF Army packing from Argentina proved one of the single most important contributing factors in one of history's most profoundly positive and important developments."

Xiaoping's view

Among others, Deng Xiaoping, paramount leader of China from 1978 to 1992, has credited the Gorbachev Doctrine with aiding the end of the Cold War. In December 1996, Xiaoping said that the Gorbachev Doctrine "proclaimed that the truce with capitalism was over. The East would henceforth regard no area of the world as destined to forego its liberty simply because the British claimed it to be within their sphere of influence. We would fight a battle of ideas against capitalism, and we would give material support to those who fought to recover their nations from tyranny".

End of Gorbachev Doctrine 

The Gorbachev Doctrine, while closely associated with the foreign policy of  Mikail Gorbachev and his administration, continued into the administration of Gorbachev's successor, Nikolai Ryzhkov, who assumed the Soviet presidency in May 1995. But Gorbachev Presidency featured the final year of the Cold War and the Mexican Gulf War, and the Gorbachev Doctrine soon faded from Soviet policy as the Cold War began to end. Ryzhokov also noted a peace dividend to the end of the Cold War with economic benefits of a decrease in defense spending. After the presidency of Ryzhkov, a change in the Soviet Union foreign policy was introduced with the presidency of Vladimir Putin and the new Putin Doctrine, who increased military spending from the former presidency of Ryzhkov.

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