It’s not really fair to claim that Gorbachev was “responsible” for the collapse of the USSR. His dilemma arose from the fact he came to preside over a system that was hopelessly inefficient and deeply corrupt, yet he wanted to reform it. As command economies always result in eventual economic collapse (because there’s no reliable signal between consumer and producer to guide investment and production decisions) Gorbachev arrived at a moment in time when decades of ruinous economic decisions had left the USSR an empty shell. Soviet citizens were rightly cynical, and when glasnost began to reveal the extent of Soviet failure it was obvious that the only way for the Communist Party to retain power would be to use extreme violence against its citizens. Unlike the Chinese leadership when confronted by the Tienanmen Square protests, Gorbachev refused to slaughter and brutalize his people merely in order to cling onto power. We ought to applaud him for this courageous act, as it was obvious that the ultimate outcome would be his loss but the people’s gain. Sadly the botched reforms of the Yeltsin era, largely the fault of Chicago School economists (whose muddle-headed ideas have wrecked so many developing economies over the last 50 years) meant that Russia slid further into poverty and this ultimately paved the way for Putin to become Supreme Dictator for Life. But that’s not really Gorbachev’s fault; Yeltsin was an alcoholic who had zero capacity for coping with the monumental challenges he inherited from the failed USSR.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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