Ecological Disaster

Cleaning Up the Hidden Legacy of the Soviet Regime

Murray Feshbach
Release Date: February 1, 1995

During the course of the cold war, the United States committed immense resources to the task of penetrating the veil of secrecy surrounding its great adversary, the Soviet Union. Guesswork — sometimes educated, sometimes not — was a major component of Western estimates of the basic facts about the USSR’s economy, natural resource4s, military, government, an everyday affairs. The final proof, however, that the essence of Soviet internal affairs eluded us until the end was the overwhelming shock of the sudden reversal of past belligerency and the subsequent rapid breakup of the Communist empire.

Given the new open societies of the former Soviet Union, we can expect to and do know much more about almost every facet of life. In fact, the information that has gradually emerged since 1989 is dispelling many false presumptions. However, as the new information and information sharing increases, many remnants of Soviet officialdom and media are still producing information that fall far short of contemporary American standards. Equally, as the West faces the Former Soviet Union with open arms and eyes, will they like what they see? And will the Westerners be able to face the dark and lonely secrets they so desperately wanted to know about?

It is important for the West to recognize the serious societal, economic, environment, and health crisis currently unfolding in the Former Soviet Union. For the West to ignore the problems that are now surfacing, would be an act of considerable indifference and callousness in the face of a clear humanitarian crisis. Not to mention it could also be a significant political mistake, risking the hostility of future generations toward Europe and the United States. Not everything can be done at once. However, the West needs to act quickly to provide the most basic humanitarian assistance to the afflicted populations. A strategy must be set up to tackle the problems and questions facing the United States and the Former Soviet Union.