Why was the USSR a superpower? Watch

toth8
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The USA is a superpower because of its population size, area size, economic size, military might and global cultural influence.

But the USSR wasn't that large economically. It was only large in terms of land area and military might. Are these the reasons it was a superpower?
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Sidhe
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Yes, it also played a very clever propaganda game and managed successfully to convince the US it was keeping step with it every inch of the way.

I saw a documentary on superbombers built back in the 50's by Russians that had been picked up by US spy plains in bases. By clever means the Russians managed to convince the US that they could fly over the North pole and bomb any area of the US with any payload and return. Sadly these prototypes of which they had about ten were never very flight worthy.

The US was succesfully convinced they had hundreds. Also they stole a decent amount of technology from the US with clever espionage. It's surprising just how much more the KGB achieved in both intelligence and counter intelligence than the US. It really was always a bit of a lie that Russia was a super power, but the US bought it, and thankfully when it became clear they had been obfuscating the truth the cold war was over.

Russia was a serious threat, but never anywhere near the threat they were made out to be, partly this suited US ambitions to weigh the enemy mightier than they were, but partly this was an exercise in duping them too. I think it sort of worked for both sides, America saw what it wanted and Russia was keen to play along.

Not really an expert but it is widely accepted the Russians out-espionaged the US, it had to it didn't have a great deal of money to work with like the US. My favourite story is NASA spent 1 million dollars developing a pen that could work in space during the space race, the Russians used a pencil 5 cents.

Let's hope we never repeat that part of history it was fool of foolishness on both sides.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by Sidhe)
Not really an expert but it is widely accepted the Russians out-espionaged the US, it had to it didn't have a great deal of money to work with like the US. My favourite story is NASA spent 1 million dollars developing a pen that could work in space during the space race, the Russians used a pencil 5 cents.
That's a joke and it has nothing to do with espionage. And I doubt there's some objective authority that can compare the effectiveness of the Russian and American security services, especially since they worked in vastly different ways.
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cottonmouth
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Is there going to be a problem getting into Russia if you are British? Cus i'm going on a month-long Eurotrip, and we were planning on stopping off here...but with all the crap going on, not sure whether its a good idea?

It was a superpower? I wouldn't really say so. Only in size, really. How powerful in terms of the globe was it?
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Bismarck
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(Original post by cottonmouth)
Is there going to be a problem getting into Russia if you are British? Cus i'm going on a month-long Eurotrip, and we were planning on stopping off here...but with all the crap going on, not sure whether its a good idea?

It was a superpower? I wouldn't really say so. Only in size, really. How powerful in terms of the globe was it?
You probably will have trouble, but it should be doable.

It had I believe the world's second largest economy (far behind the US though). It had one of the top two nuclear arsenals in the world. It had the largest (decently equipped) army in the world. Its landmass was about twice the size of America. It had total control over nearly 100 million people in Eastern Europe. It supplied a large amount of arms to several dozen countries in Africa and the Middle East. So yes, it wasn't as strong as the US, and its economy was far worse, but it was far stronger than any other country.
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cottonmouth
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(Original post by Bismarck)
You probably will have trouble, but it should be doable.

It had it believe the world's second largest economy (far behind the US though). It had one of the top two nuclear arsenals in the world. It had the largest (decently equipped) army in the world. Its landmass was about twice the size of America. It had total control over nearly 100 million people in Eastern Europe. It supplied a large amount of arms to several dozen countries in Africa and the Middle East. So yes, it wasn't as strong as the US, and its economy was far worse, but it was far stronger than any other country.

Oh. My Russia is rusty.
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ali567149
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The geographer Sir Halford Mckinder set out his heartland theory over 100 years ago about the northward movement of the centre of civilisation comming to the conclusion that because of the climate of northern europe that it would only go so far and then because of competition spread longitudinally. At a time when russia was loosing a war with Japan and collapsing internally he predicted that it would become the first real world power. He also predicted the rise of germany.
So whay was the USSR a super power? simple its a matter of Geography
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Bismarck
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Geography-based IR theories have been discredited decades ago...
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Agent Smith
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Shedloads of nukes and a sphere of influence big enough to counteract the problems of having a State-controlled economy, at least for a time.
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Sidhe
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(Original post by Bismarck)
That's a joke and it has nothing to do with espionage. And I doubt there's some objective authority that can compare the effectiveness of the Russian and American security services, especially since they worked in vastly different ways.
I just said most people believe the KGB out performed the CIA, I made no statement of absolute fact.

It may be a joke but it's also true, the US did invest money in a pen that would work in zero G.
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samba
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(Original post by Bismarck)
Geography-based IR theories have been discredited decades ago...
You'd discount geopolitical dynamics from the equation? (geniune question...i've no idea if its under the 'discredited umbrella')
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samba
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(Original post by Agent Smith)
Shedloads of nukes and a sphere of influence big enough to counteract the problems of having a State-controlled economy, at least for a time.
What you actually mean is: shedloads of nukes, and the ability to deliver them to the american heartlands with ease. The delivery systems were the vital factor imo.
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Agent Smith
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(Original post by samba)
What you actually mean is: shedloads of nukes, and the ability to deliver them to the american heartlands with ease. The delivery systems were the vital factor imo.
Well, yes. I think the adjective "effective" was fairly strongly implied, because there'd be no point in having a nuclear arsenal the size of that of the USSR at its peak (which was, incidentally, truly vast - far bigger than that of the USA) just sitting around in warehouses in Siberia.
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SuperhansFavouriteAlsatian
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(Original post by Bismarck)
Geography-based IR theories have been discredited decades ago...
Out of interest, (not rhetorical) what is your view of "Guns, Germs and Steel"?
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Ferrus
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(Original post by Bismarck)
It had I believe the world's second largest economy.
Would you say that the total GDP of a country is more important for determining its political prowess than its GDP per capita? I suppose intuitively this is the case, but if one observes Switzerland, there is a country with a relatively small economy but a very rich population, whose banking system has given them a degree of power internationally beyond their size.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by samba)
You'd discount geopolitical dynamics from the equation? (geniune question...i've no idea if its under the 'discredited umbrella')
Depends how you define the term. Geopolitics is one of those vague terms like democracy. If you're asking if the geographical position of a country affects its foreign policy, then yes it is. If you're saying geography determines foreign policy, then no it doesn't. It's one factor among many, and it has been losing its importance since the Industrial Revolution.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by Ferrus)
Would you say that the total GDP of a country is more important for determining its political prowess than its GDP per capita? I suppose intuitively this is the case, but if one observes Switzerland, there is a country with a relatively small economy but a very rich population, whose banking system has given them a degree of power internationally beyond their size.
Think about what international power means in terms of economics. It means being able to afford a large, well-equipped army. Does GDP per capita matter or does the total budget of the country matter? Is Switzerland more powerful than China? Then there's trade. A country with a large GDP (not adjusted for purchasing power) is going to have more exports and more imports than a country with a smaller GDP. Each individual might buy/sell less, but the country as a whole will buy/sell more, which would give it leverage in most negotiations. Then there's foreign aid. Once again, a country gives aid as a percentage of its budget, not as a percentage of its per capita income. China can easily outspend Switzerland when it comes to aid. Why do you suppose a country like Nigeria is roughly as powerful as South Africa, despite being dirty poor?
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Ferrus
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(Original post by Bismarck)
Is Switzerland more powerful than China?
Yes, but money does not just buy you an army - it also buys you disincentives to attack such as billateral trade distruption - which only applies when two countries are heavily trading with each other, it can lead to mutal defence pacts too, why was Kuwait so important to the US? - financing the debt of other countries and also the possiblity to offer bribes in order to stop a country from attacking you (the Danegeld option). I suppose the administrative effectiveness of a country is also important in determing its power - why for example Wessex was able to dominate the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the aftermath of the Viking invasion.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by DanGrover)
Out of interest, (not rhetorical) what is your view of "Guns, Germs and Steel"?
It commits the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. It's also teleological. What Diamond is saying is that because the West ended up on top, the West must have ended up on top, and this type of path dependency simply doesn't stand up to historical or theoretical scrutiny. Diamond might be correct that the West had certain conditions and the rest of the world had other conditions, but he can't prove those conditions were specifically responsible for the West's development and other places' lack of development. And as I recall, several ancient history specialists also don't think very highly of the accuracy of the material in his book.

For some examples, if the West was destined to success, why was China the most powerful country (loosely defined) in the world for the first 3 millennia of Western civilization? Can we really attribute the West's rise and China's decline to geography or agriculture? Why did Iberia go from the poor brother of other Western countries from the inception of Western civilization until 15th century or so, then dominate most of the world several centuries, go back to being dirt poor (by Western standards) for centuries after that, and finally almost catch up to the other Western countries in recent years? What about Japan, which has always lacked resources and probably has the worst geographical position from any major country in the world? Did this cause it to be poor until the 19th century, become fairly well off in the early 20th century, become poor again until the 1970s, become wealthy in the early 1990s, and slide back to mediocrity today?

Ultimately, foreign policy is determined (in the long term anyway) by its power relationship to other countries, which is in turn determined by its economic growth. To the extent that geography can influence long-term economic growth, it does have an influence on foreign policy. But it's one domestic factor out of many, including things like domestic stability, culture, etc. And even then, those factors must be compared to those of its neighbors. By the way, Diamond's theory isn't quite as bad as those of the geography school (to which the Nazis subscribed by the way, which is not to say it's some evil theory but it's interesting nevertheless), since it looks not only on countries' geography, but also things like agriculture and population density.

I'd recommend everyone to read Gilpin's War and Change in World Politics. Most IR people have some disagreements with parts of the books, but there's widespread agreement its main idea.
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Bismarck
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(Original post by Ferrus)
Yes, but money does not just buy you an army - it also buys you disincentives to attack such as billateral trade distruption - which only applies when two countries are heavily trading with each other, it can lead to mutal defence pacts too, why was Kuwait so important to the US? - financing the debt of other countries and also the possiblity to offer bribes in order to stop a country from attacking you (the Danegeld option). I suppose the administrative effectiveness of a country is also important in determing its power - why for example Wessex was able to dominate the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the aftermath of the Viking invasion.
But the US trades more with China than with Switzerland. I would believe the same is true for most EU members. Surely they'd worry more about disrupting trade with one of their biggest trade partners than with Switzerland? And money does indeed buy you an army. Sure, there are plenty of factors that influence military efficacy, but ultimately it's the ability of a country to pay the salaries of soldiers, the cost of producing weapons, and the cost of researching new weapon systems that are responsible for a country's military strength. And why would a country with a lower budget be able to finance other countries' debts better than a country with a higher budget? If China's budget is 10 times larger than Switzerland's, who do you think is better able to aid/bribe other countries?

I agree with the administrative effectiveness being an aspect of power, since it makes it easier to get money from the population (if you're unable to collect taxes, who cares how much money your people are making?), but that only applies when all other things are equal, not when one country has an economy 50 times bigger than the other country.

The US is more important to Kuwait than vice versa by the way. Kuwait was a Soviet ally until Iraq invaded it, at which point it realized that only the US can ensure its security. The US can simply move its forces to other countries in the region if it was forced to do so (Qatar comes to mind).
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