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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dangerous Death Throes Of Soviet Beast

August has become a truly Russian month: tragic and incomprehensible. Of course, it is merely a coincidence that the dramatic events surrounding the Kursk sub — that symbol of former Soviet might — were unfolding on exactly the same dates as the 1991 attempted coup (Aug. 19-21). Nevertheless, an ATV independent television documentary that commemorated those three fateful days in 1991 was aired the same day the Kursk crew was pronounced dead, and the film assumed a special, somewhat unexpected meaning: We won then; we lost now.

Click here to read our Special Report on the Kursk Tragedy.

Of course, it is also a coincidence that the Kursk tragedy was unfolding on the same date as the Russian financial system was pronounced dead two years ago (Aug. 17, 1998). But whether you believe in the spell of dates or not — I do not — you cannot help seeing that these three dramatic events are closely linked. All three events are signs of the same process: the death throes of the former Soviet empire, the military-industrial complex of which was the backbone of the system, providing both ideological and economic grounds for the empire’s existence.

A monster dies hard. And that death is taking its toll. The failure of the August 1991 coup, which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union later that year, was seen by many as the final victory of democratic forces over the totalitarian state. That was an erroneous perception. Minds worldwide were ensnared by the dreadful illusion that the 70-plus years of communism were simply an accident in our history, and that all it takes is to replace the bad, old guys — communists — with the new, young guys — democrats — introduce private property and the free market, and the nation would emerge as a democratic state. It did not. And it will not soon do so, as the events surrounding the Kursk tragedy have clearly shown.

The August 1998 financial crisis was seen by many as an unfortunate setback in the development of the new Russian state, caused by the corruption of its bureaucracy and misdoings of the oligarchs. That, too, was an erroneous perception. That crisis, in fact, signified the collapse of the Soviet style of management, which was no longer capable of running the country in the changing conditions of its exposure to the outside world. Yes, a new economy has emerged over the last nine years, but it accounts for only a small segment of the former Soviet state.

But the spine of the Soviet system, its military industrial complex, which consumed 40 per cent of the Soviet GDP and 70 percent of its labor force — that big, fat monster is still alive. The inertia of its large body has slowed down the inevitability of events like that of the Kursk before. The 1998 financial collapse accelerated the agony and has made the outcomes of that process even more dangerous. But our authorities and their international counterparts chose to close their eyes, hoping that time would do the job. It will, yes, but at great cost.

Today, it is clear that what was predicted by some analysts long ago has come to pass: The state has become a ticking bomb — or a conglomeration of many ticking bombs — comprised of its nuclear subs, nuclear power stations, plants, chemical factories and many other thousands of components of the Soviet military-industrial complex. Stripped of finances to keep those bombs secure and under control, the dying body has started to decompose. Yes, it is true that the final collapse of the Soviet military-industrial complex will mean the end of the Soviet superpower as well.

The problem is that this agony is extremely dangerous, not just for Russia, but for the entire world. Therefore, the international community should be prepared to invest money to make the death of the Soviet military-industrial complex as peaceful as possible — if that is still possible.

Yevgenia Albats is an independent journalist based in Moscow. Soviet-Style Secrecy Endures in Sub Crisis, The Washington Post, Aug. 19. The Bellona Foundation Russian Naval Forces, The Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University Oscar II: Jane's Naval Forces Oscar: Federation of American Scientists Perry Slingsby Systems: the LR5 submarine Kursk Tragedy: A Message Board Save Their Souls: A Message Board on the Kursk Tragedy (in Russian) The Russian Ministry of Defense (in Russian)