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Posted on 07/16/2011 2:34:05 PM PDT by neverdem
Predicting the Soviet Collapse
Herb Meyer deduced from solid research what Ronald Reagan had deduced by intuition.
It was 20 years ago this summer that the final disintegration of the Soviet Union rapidly unfolded. In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin was freely elected president of the Russian Republic, with Mikhail Gorbachev clinging to power atop the precarious USSR. In August, Communist hardliners attempted a dramatic coup against Gorbachev, prompting a stunning succession of declarations of independence by Soviet republics, with seven of them breaking away in August alone, and four more following through mid-December.
The writing was on the wall — not the Berlin Wall, which had collapsed two years earlier, but the graveyard of history, which would soon register the USSR as deceased. It was December 25, 1991, the day the West celebrates Christmas — a celebration the Communists had tried to ban — that Gorbachev announced his resignation, turning out the lights on an Evil Empire that had produced countless tens of millions of corpses.
Historians debate the credit that goes to various players for that collapse, from Gorbachev to Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Havel, to name a few. These are the people who get books written about them. But there were many behind-the-scenes players who performed critical roles that have never seen the light of a historian’s word processor. Here I’d like to note one such player: Herb Meyer. Specifically, I’d like to highlight a fascinating memo Meyer wrote eight years before the Soviet collapse.
From 1981 to 1985, Meyer was special assistant to the director of central intelligence, Bill Casey, and vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. In the fall of 1983, he crafted a classified memo titled, “Why Is the World So Dangerous?” Addressed to Casey and the deputy director, John McMahon, it had a larger (though limited) audience within the intelligence community and the Reagan administration, including President Reagan himself. Later, it would earn Meyer the prestigious National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. Even so, the memo has eluded historians, which is a shame. It ought to rank among the most remarkable documents of the Cold War.
Meyer began his eight-page memo of November 30, 1983, by describing a “new stage” that had opened in the struggle between the free world and the Soviet Union. It was a “direction favorable” to the United States. He listed positive changes in America that suddenly had the USSR “downbeat.” Not only was the U.S. economy “recovering,” but Meyer foresaw a “boom” ahead, “with the only argument” having to do with its “breadth and duration.”
Meyer listed seven signs of America’s surge before providing even more symptoms of Soviet decline — a decline that was unrecognized by most pundits and academic Sovietologists. His insights into what he saw as an imminent Soviet collapse were prescient. After 66 years of Communist rule, the USSR had “failed utterly to become a country,” with “not one major nationality group that is content with the present, Russian-controlled arrangement.” It was “hard to imagine how the world’s last empire can survive into the twenty-first century except under highly favorable conditions of economics and demographics — conditions that do not, and will not, exist.”
“The Soviet economy,” Meyer insisted, “is heading toward calamity.”
Meyer nailed not only the Soviet Union’s economy but also its “demographic nightmare.” Here, he was way ahead of the curve, reporting compelling information on Russian birthrates, which were in free-fall. He recorded an astounding figure: Russian women, “according to recent, highly credible research,” “average six abortions.”
As for the Soviet Bloc, Meyer didn’t miss that either. “The East European satellites are becoming more and more difficult to control,” he wrote, emphasizing that it wasn’t merely Poland that was in revolt. “[O]ther satellites may be closer to their own political boiling points than we realize.”
“In sum,” concluded Meyer, “time is not on the Soviet Union’s side.”
He summed up with two predictions, nearly identically worded, as if to let the reader know he knew the magnitude of what he was saying: (1) “if present trends continue, we’re going to win the Cold War;” and (2) “if present trends continue we will win.” He quoted President Reagan’s May 1981 Notre Dame speech, where Reagan proclaimed that history would dismiss Soviet Communism as “some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.” Meyer felt that Reagan was “absolutely correct,” adding that the USSR was “entering its final pages.” His memo projected a window no longer than 20 years.
Herb Meyer was dead on. I know of no other Cold War document as accurate as this one.
I recently talked to Meyer about his memo. He had no idea it had been declassified until someone sent it to him last month. “I was astonished,” Meyer wrote me in an e-mail, “and it’s a weird feeling to read something you’d written decades ago and hadn’t seen since.”
Meyer remembered well certain elements of the memo, particularly the Cold War predictions. He also had not forgotten the memo’s reception. Within the intelligence community, there was a general feeling that Meyer had lost his mind. That was just the start of the backlash.
The memo was leaked to syndicated columnists Evans & Novak, who devoted a column to it. There was subsequent uproar throughout Washington, which made Meyer very nervous. He was summoned to his boss’s office.
“Herb, right now you’ve got the smallest fan club in Washington,” Bill Casey told him grimly. As Meyer turned pale, Casey laughed: “Relax. It’s me and the president.”
Today, Meyer says with a chuckle: “If you’re going to have a small fan club — that’s it.”
CIA director Casey, like President Reagan, was committed to placing a dagger in the chest of Soviet Communism. He was pleased, and he encouraged Meyer. Meyer recalls: “My orders were, in effect, to keep going.”
Meyer particularly remembers Reagan’s being shaken by the statement about Russian women averaging six abortions. To Meyer’s knowledge, Reagan “never went public with that astounding statistic. . . . Come to think of it, no one — except some Russians — ever talked about it.”
Of all the items in the memo, that one remains the most far-reaching. Demographers today foresee Russia plummeting in population from 150 million to possibly 100 million by 2050. Meyer’s memo is a prophetic warning that isn’t finished. For Russians, the internal implosion isn’t over.
When we look back at the Cold War, we remember big names and big statements and documents. There’s nary a college course on the Cold War that excludes George Kennan’s seminal “Long Telegram,” sent from the U.S. embassy in Moscow in February 1946. Kennan’s memo prophetically captured what the free world faced from the USSR at the start of the Cold War, forecasting a long struggle ahead. Herb Meyer’s November 1983 memo likewise prophetically captured what the free world faced from the USSR, but this time nearing the end of the Cold War, uniquely forecasting a long struggle about to close — with victory.
George Kennan’s memo is remembered in our textbooks and our college lectures. Herb Meyer’s memo merits similar treatment.
— Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and the newly released Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
God Bless Ronald Reagan and the United States of America, the Shining City on the Hill.
The Soviet Union may have collapsed temporarily, but Communism definitely hasn’t.
China is the world's last empire and what happened to the Soviet Union will happen to it.
in the early 80s moscow had barges of potatoes sitting waiting to used, but the russians could not make a cheap paper box for instant potatoes. that was when the cia and everyone else should have known that like the rotting potatoes the USSR ahd no chance of beating the west
And don’t forget to include our own country.
Meyer’s memo was right but was and is not Correct. It will not see the pages of any history books in this era.
Everything gets down to the economy. What is it thats imploding in the United States? The economy.
I have a Latin American friend who works at a mushroom farm. The farm has a market for 25 thousand pounds of mushrooms a day. But they can only produce 16 thousand. The problem is labor. Jose says, The department that makes the mulch used to have 10 people. Theyre trying to run it with just two. Every department in the farm is the same way; too few people.
Think about that. The farm has firm commitments to buy 25 thousand pounds of product but theyre only producing 16. Its not that there isnt plenty of labor in this small farm community. Its that the farm owners dont know what will happen if they hire the extra workers. They havent hired anybody since Obamacare became law. They havent replaced anybody who left, either. Theyre afraid.
A friend in from socialist France described his situation. His family owned 5 businesses. The companies werent making money; essentially Pascale was working for free and to provide benefits. French labor law said that to close his businesses hed have to pay salary and benefits for five years. So, one day he just locked the doors and moved to America. The mushroom farm is probably afraid of something similar. Look at what Obama did to GMs secured bond holders. Look what the NLRB is doing to Boeing.
Now, multiply that insecurity and unease by every business in America. Our economy collapses; just like that of the Soviet Union. But, unlike the Soviet situation where the American enemies did not take advantage; Americas enemies most certainly will take advantage.
“Meyers memo was right but was and is not Correct. It will not see the pages of any history books in this era.”
Some of us are conservatives and *will* include it. For no other reason than he was 100 percent right.
Here is George Kennan’s “Long Telegram”, which I must admit I hadn’t heard of until now:
It’s a fascinating read.
Thanks for the link.
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Thanks for the link.
I have had several conversations with Herb. Brilliant guy. GREAT writer. Has a book on writing well that everyone should have and re read. I think it is at stormkingpress.com
Right after the Soviet Union fell our state ag college brought Russian farmers here to learn modern farming. One of the guys told me stories that would have been hilarious if they hadn’t been so sad.
One that sticks with me is that the government didn’t allow crops to be put into barns because they were worried about hoarding. So the crops were harvested and left along the roadside for trucks to pick up. But since roads were bad and trucks were few (and busy at harvest time) the crops largely rotted where they were placed.
I would think that after a few years of watching a year’s work turn to compost even the most die hard communist would start to lose faith.
History repeats itself and we fail to recognize that we are being driven in the same direction.
America's greatness was achieved during a period of a Euro-centric super majority and one indisputable dominant language.
During the last several decades, forces unseen, have created conditions to flood our nation with masses of people with different cultures, languages and no desire to assimilate but to fracture our political structure, geographic delineations and destroy our unifying heritage and culture.
Unchallenged disregard for constitutional qualifications to hold our highest office, Evil governs and the agents of destruction have been appointed or have infiltrated all levels of our judiciary, law enforcement, academia and our news outlets. The noose is being tightened with impudence, yet the major concern seems to be if there will be an NFL season.
My Dad knows a great many emigres from the former Soviet Union. For twenty years he has been uniformly disparaging of the women of the last generation of the old USSR (now about age 40 and over) as cold-blooded, manipulative and lacking empathy. Even when outwardly charming. Especially the single, childless ones. I always knew abortion was all too common there but an average of six(!) per woman?!?
That has to have a totally dehumanizing effect.
(Comment “archived for usefulness”). Thanks.
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