February 6, 2014

Why didn't the CIA bribe the Soviets into giving up?

Several decades ago I read an amusing first person account by (as far as I can recall) composer Igor Stravinsky about what it's like to visit your Swiss bank to check up on your private stash. (I can't find the story online to confirm this memory, other than a biographer noting that Stravinsky visited two Swiss banks in October 1968.)

Anyway, Stravinsky (assuming that was the narrator) emphasized that a visit to a high-end Swiss bank involved much careful shuttling from one private waiting room to another, like in the opening scene of an expertly constructed bedroom farce before everything goes awry in the last act. Discreet staffers orchestrate your movement down cleared hallways so that you don't accidentally bump into other clients visiting their own loot. I mean it would be embarrassing for all concerned for Maestro Stravinsky to bump into Prime Minister Wilson or General Secretary Brezhnev coming out of the vault.

I recall that when I read this (around 1982?) that I laughed at Stravinsky's example of the Labour PM, but I was surprised by his very notion that the Soviet supremo might be on the take, might be salting a little away against the day of destruction, then somewhat intrigued: it was an idea that just didn't come up much in the culture of the time. Two things were taken for granted back then: Muscovite women were homely and Muscovite men were honest.

So, that raises the question: Did the CIA ever attempt to bribe the Soviets into just giving up? And if not, why not?
   

47 comments:

Anthony said...

Back in the mid-80s, news leaked out that the East Germans were letting the West Germans buy the freedom of various dissidents, divided families, etc., and as I recall, it was something equivalent to about a hundred thousand dollars per head. I wondered why the U.S. and West Germany didn't just try to buy the whole country - it would take less than two trillion dollars.

The BRD has probably spent at least that much trying to integrate East Germany back into civilization.

candid_observer said...

Why not?

Um, patriotism in Soviet leaders?

I don't think love of country has much to do with quality of country.

It's quite another thing to be on the take amongst fellow patriots, because, you see, you are all honorable people who really, really love your country, who'd do anything for money, but you won't do that.

Anonymous said...

Gorbachev ended up in Sweden with a huge pile of cash. Or so I read.

If the US had given him 10 billion dollars for the breakup of the Soviet Union it would have been a net money saver.

Steve Johnson said...

Why would they want the Soviets to surrender?

el supremo said...

When the regime is healthy and cohesive, bribing a few leaders at the start is useless if the rest shoot them for treason (as under Stalin)- you can't just bribe the entire regime in one go

When the regime and its social system are weak, elites are better off staying in place and looting it from within than giving up. (as under Yeltsin)

You see this in China today - whatever doubts communist party officials may have about their regime (and scholars have documented that many of them are skeptical about its long time viability, especially at the middle levels) there's so much more money to be made in looting and corruption than the CIA would ever pay.

Harry Baldwin said...

How much would it have cost to make Saddam Hussein our very best friend in February 2003? A lost less than it cost us in blood and treasure to destabilize the Middle East I'll wager.

Anonymous said...

What if they take the money and run?

US has been trying to bribe North Korea for a long time, but Norks always took the money and ran.

But in the end, to the extent that doing business with the West meant some Soviet insiders could make tons of money, a kind of bribe did take place. End communism, do business with us, and you can easily make billions. Not a bad deal for insiders in the Soviet government looking to wheel and deal. Gorbachev didn't see this but there were people behind the scenes who were leading USSR toward such an eventuality, and they made some serious money overnight in the 90s.

Oclarki said...

Speaking of Cold war questions that are rarely asked. When I was growing up in the 1980s the Soviet Army was massed on the border of West Germany poised to send massed armor formation pouring through the Fulda Gap. Did the Soviets ever really want to invade the West? What possible reason would they have for initiating an invasion of West Germany? If the was no V Corps in Germany would the Soviets driven to the Rhine?

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

Outright bribery would have been foolish as US had no direct control over the Soviets.

Look at the Iran-Contra deal. It was a form of bribery to bring Iran to the table, but Iranians exposed the US and made US out to be a big hypocrite.

So, it would have been too risky for the US to denounce communism before the world while bribing the USSR behind the scenes--with no guarantee that it would work. What if Soviets take the cash and give the middle finger? What if the USSR goes public with the bribery attempt and make US look stupid?

I mean Chamberlain tried to 'bribe' Hitler with some territory, but Hitler took it and then gave the middle finger.

If you want to use bribery, you have to have some clout to ensure that your bribery will be taken in good faith and promises will be delivered.

This is why bribing the Wasp collaborators in the US works for the Jewish-homo elites. As Jews and homos control the government, Wall Street, media, academia, law firms, and etc. they can make or break just about anyone. So, when they go to white gentiles and say, "Look, we'll do you such and such favors and shower you with prizes and privilege, but you will have to collaborate with us and support 'gay marriage', pro-Zionist policies, and amnesty", white gentiles take the money and obey like good little dogs.
Because if they take the money and stiff the Jews/homos with the middle finger, you can be destroyed by Jewish and homo clout in finance, media, government, courts, etc.
Of course, it's all done 'legally', but the likes of Clinton, Bush II, and Obama were all bribery-taking whores of the Jewish-homo elite. Look at Clinton pardoning Marc Rich. Look at Bush II filling his administration with neocons. Look at Obama bailing out Wall Street and pandering to the Jewish-homo lobby.

But Americans had no such clout with the Soviets in the 80s. US could offer the 'bribe' but then find itself stiffed and humiliated.

US was much more effective in buying Russian influence in the 90s under Yeltsin, but too much corruption led to revival of Russian nationalism.

Whiskey said...

Wrong assumption Steve. Swiss banjs exist for oligarchs to stash stolen funds away from other oligarchs. CIA? More like looted rubles.

countenance said...

Why didn't the CIA bribe the Soviets into giving up?

Probably for much the same reason why it's virtually impossible to bribe professional athletes to throw and fix games these days. They're too well paid above board.

The Soviets' choice in that situation would have been a big and relatively prosperous empire which they ruled and whatever pocket change the CIA would give them.

Anonymous said...

"Two things were taken for granted back then: Muscovite women were homely and Muscovite men were honest."

And now you take it for granted that Russians, even the top elite, are easily bribed. Did you consider that your current "knowledge" about Russia could be wrong as well? Perhaps a result of propaganda?

BTW, Stravinsky, who left Russia for good in 1910, had no more insight into Brezhnev's USSR than any random Westerner at that time.

Anonymous said...

Did the Soviets ever really want to invade the West?

No.

Foment mischief, sure. Support various internal Commies and fellow travelers, certainly. Outright military invasion? No.

Anonymous said...

I think Jews did a good job of bribing Wasp elites to give up.

"If you give up and let us take over the golf turf, we will respect your privileges and let you guys thrive among us."

But for the white masses? Same fate as the white masses in South Africa in the long run.
White elites took the bribe in SA too.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about attempts. However, I don't think that Gorbachov took any money for what he did. He seemed sincere to me.

His actions ultimately led to the destruction of a perfectly good country. Tens of millions of lives were screwed up. But I really don't think that he meant harm. He most likely didn't even think he was giving up. He's a vane man who wanted to be admired as a reformer. He was most likely surprised when his reforms opened the door to defeat, wars, mass impoverishment, the looting of the country, the sale of millions of its women into prostitution, the debasement of its culture, etc. He's rotten enough to deny his share of responsibility for most of that, but he's not rotten enough to have meant any of it.

As a comparison, I'm guessing that Bush II was surprised by how the second Iraq War went too. Gorbachov is much smarter than Bush II, but I don't think he's much more cynical.

OK, Steve, you seem to be implying in your post that your Cold War-era impression that Russian women were homely was mistaken. Perhaps created by Western propaganda? Well, as an eye witness, I can tell you that the Western impression that Soviet consumer goods were substandard was also mostly created by Western propaganda. Soviet citizens had a much more realistic picture of life in the West than Westerners of life in the East. I'm not saying that the post-war USSR didn't produce propaganda, just that it put fewer resources into that endeavor than the West.

andres said...

Until Gorbachev came to power in 1985, the Soviet leadership were the older generation that has fought in World War II. It wasn't so easy to bribe them as it was to bribe Gorby and Yeltsin in the nineties. And sometimes ideology trumps money, not everyone has a price, if you can't bribe north korea now, much less the Soviet Union at its prime.

Anonymous said...

More on Gorby:

Think about the word "reforms" as it's used by an outfit like the Economist magazine. The Economist always either laments the lack of "reforms" in whatever country it's writing about or cheering as these "reforms" are being put forward there.

What's "reform"? I understand it as loss of sovereignty, of independence, getting into lots of debt, homo sex, a permissive attitude to drugs, sexual licence, etc. Of course they phrase it a little differently.

Anyway, some people in these countries sincerely buy the need for these "reforms" at home. Sure, self interest is sometimes involved. The looters and bankers might share some of their profits with local "reformers". But there's also some sincere belief in the stuff that Western media is pushing. Even in the Muslim world.

I'm guessing that a certain percentage of modern Chinese youth, for example, has bought the need to "reform" China's independence, solvency, unity, traditional culture and prosperity away.

What if someone at the top ever buys that? The whole thing might crash down.

This stuff is slickly packaged. Lots of smart people are pushing it. Think how many people choose their beliefs based on how knowledgeable, smart and cultured the messengers seem.

Anonymous said...

If you recruit your leadership from soldier-ants i.e. KGB types, then they'll be very hard to bribe.

.

Also power. People who are into power aren't going to trade that for cash but no power.

.

"Did the Soviets ever really want to invade the West?...If the was no V Corps in Germany would the Soviets driven to the Rhine?"

No and Yes. No they didn't want to but if it was made obvious there would be no resistance then they would have been tempted .

pat said...

Talleyrand visited Hamilton and was astonished that Hamilton - the financial king pin of America - worried about his private finances. Hamilton wasn't on the take.

What would the Founding Fathers think of the millions raked in by ex-President Clinton? Gore had positioned himself to be a billionaire but only failed when the 'Global Warming/Carbon Credits' balloon collapsed.

Nowadays someone like Harry Truman seems like an extinct species. We tolerate crooks and schemers as never before.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"Did the Soviets ever really want to invade the West?

No. "


Pre-WWII USSR and post-WWII USSR were opposites in most things. 1917-vintage Communists believed in worldwide revolution. There were failed revolutions in Germany and Hungary after the end of WWI. The Soviet army that was repulsed by the Poles in 1920 was meant to continue on to Germany and if possible, further.

Post-WWII USSR competed with the US for third-world clients, but a physical attack on Western Europe or America, or China for that matter (yes, I know about the trivial border skirmishes) was as probable as an attack on Mars.

Anonymous said...

"Did the CIA ever attempt to bribe the Soviets into just giving up? And if not, why not?"

Big business was making a lot of money off of the cold war. Look at all the defense contractors.It was the perfect way to get public subsidy to corporations. It wasn't corporate welfare. It was defense.

Politics is the shadow cast by big business over society according to Dewey.

Anonymous said...

"Pre-WWII USSR and post-WWII USSR were opposites in most things."

Yes, that is a very important distinction.

Fran Macadam said...

Why not, when it has worked so well giving millions in bags of cash each month to Afghanistan's President Karzai?

Or maybe they were, or are, bribing them into *continuing* the conflicts, since ending the Cold War was so traumatic for war industry profits. Consider the Karzai bribes a form of national industrial policy support.

After all, the Cold War ended - but not because America won it, but because the people in those countries no longer gave their governments even minimal support. Recall our politicians and generals were flummoxed - they just couldn't believe it could be true. Mind you, our movie actor President of the time caught on pretty quick - he was used to happy Hollywood endings.

economicsophisms.com said...

The CIA did its best to portray the USSR as a mighty and threatening empire. Remember that scene in The Good Shepherd where Matt Damon gives the Soviet defector LSD and gets out of him that the USSR is "painted rust"? Apparently things like that happened all the time. The bigger the perceived threat, the bigger the CIA budget and the longer its leash.

Anonymous said...

"Remember that scene in The Good Shepherd where Matt Damon gives the Soviet defector LSD and gets out of him that the USSR is "painted rust"? "

Well, that in itself is Western propaganda. I mean the movie with Matt Damon. The people who grew up in the USRR (including me) don't think it was "painted rust". The whole "drab" image was created in the West. Of course a Hollywood movie would support it.

Anonymous said...

You ask if we bribed the Soviets. Maybe we did. But have other nations bribed our leaders? Do powerful people in Mexico bribe our guys to take in their social castoffs? Do other countries bribe or blackmail our leaders into pushing policies to their benefit?

Given the trajectory of the USA over the past 50 years, I'd say our guys are being bribed. That or they really, hate, hate, hate their fellow countrymen.

Heck, Smedley Butler even intimated that our leaders where bribed or otherwise coerced into getting into WW1.

Svigor said...

Speaking of Cold war questions that are rarely asked. When I was growing up in the 1980s the Soviet Army was massed on the border of West Germany poised to send massed armor formation pouring through the Fulda Gap. Did the Soviets ever really want to invade the West? What possible reason would they have for initiating an invasion of West Germany? If the was no V Corps in Germany would the Soviets driven to the Rhine?

I suppose it was meant as a massive deterrent. We had more bombers, fighters, ships, and missiles, while they had more men, trucks, and tanks.

Soviet citizens had a much more realistic picture of life in the West than Westerners of life in the East.

Well, duh. Open society vs. closed.

Think how many people choose their beliefs based on how knowledgeable, smart and cultured the messengers seem.

Do I have to?

Also power. People who are into power aren't going to trade that for cash but no power.

That was my first thought, as well. Translate the power of a high-level bureaucrat in a strong, oppressive central regime into dollars and you're talking serious money. Though I guess Steve was asking why we didn't bribe the entire regime, like we do with smaller countries.

Anonymous said...

Harold Wilson was mentioned by Stravinsky probably because of rumors he was a soviet agent. These rumors were publicized by Peter wright in Spycatcher.

Auntie Analogue said...


"Did the CIA ever attempt to bribe the Soviets into just giving up? And if not, why not?"

What? And kill the goose that laid the CIA's - and all of the CIA's black program contractors' - biggest golden eggs?!

Anonymous said...

Mind you, our movie actor President of the time caught on pretty quick - he was used to happy Hollywood endings.

Thats interesting, I hadnt realized George Bush had been a movie actor.

jody said...

"Did the CIA ever attempt to bribe the Soviets into just giving up?"

how do you bribe a nation that produces 10 million barrels of oil per day? not to mention all the natural gas, coal, timber, fresh water, and uranium it had.

isn't it the other way around? americans can be bribed and bought off for shockingly low amounts of money.

Mr Drab said...

"Back in the mid-80s, news leaked out that the East Germans were letting the West Germans buy the freedom of various dissidents, divided families, etc., and as I recall, it was something equivalent to about a hundred thousand dollars per head. I wondered why the U.S. and West Germany didn't just try to buy the whole country - it would take less than two trillion dollars."

According to historian W.R. Smyser, West Germany paid a total of DM 3.5 billion in such "ransom payments" between 1963 and 1989, from the time West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer initiated the payments to the collapse of the GDR. In exchange, the GDR released some 33,755 prisoners during this period.

Smyser notes that "[East Germany] had used the ransom funds for international political and intelligence operations and to purchase luxury goods, such as Western limousines, for the private use of senior SED functionaries. It had not used the funds to help pay off the debt that worried the Soviets." (From Yalta to Berlin, 1999)

So much for all Germans being fiscally responsible.

It's interesting to note that as late as early 1989 GDR leader Erich Honecker was defiantly warning that the Berlin Wall could stand for another 100 years. Yet, despite the bellicose anti-Western rhetoric, the GDR was heavily indebted to West Germany by the late 1980s and unable to export its way out of the growing debt trap. In the end, Gorbachev was probably happy to cut his losses and offload the GDR on the West.

J said...

The CIA in those times was a highly moral institution, peopled by straight WASPs. It would have never ocurred them to bribe anyone. Should Soviet leaders ask directly for a bribe, they would have been rejected - Americans dont bribe foreigners. Even today American corportions abroad are very afraid of bribing anyone - they would be prosecuted and jailed at home.

jody said...

let's ask the question again, but for 2014: why doesn't the CIA bribe china into giving up?

the average chinese guy has less money in 2014 than the average russian guy had in 1989. if bribing worked and you could buy out an entire superpower sized enemy, there wouldn't be a better time than right now for the US to try to avoid the direct conflict with china which is clearly developing.

especially now that almost the entire US federal money system is under, ahem, 'new management', and shows no reluctance whatsoever to create trillions of dollars out of thin air at the drop of a hat. print out 20 trillion US dollars tomorrow and offer it to china in exchange for all their ICBMs and naval units.

Mr Drab said...

"So, that raises the question: Did the CIA ever attempt to bribe the Soviets into just giving up? And if not, why not?"

One could argue that Gorbachev was bribed by the West. In return for giving up Eastern Europe and opening up the USSR's economy, Gorbachev was promised access to generous Western loans, normalised relations and the opportunity to hobnob with Western elites.

History shows us that Moscow got a bad deal. The USSR disintegrated, the economy crashed, the country's assets were looted and post-Soviet Russia became a corrupt mafia state. And the West applauded and encouraged this pillaging.

Is it any wonder why Russia today is hostile toward America and the West?

Mr Drab said...

"The CIA in those times was a highly moral institution, peopled by straight WASPs."

As a non-American, I find the use of the term 'WASP' quite amusing.

I live in a mainly WASP country (Australia) but we tend to use the term 'Anglo' or 'Anglo-Celtic' to describe those of British Isles descent.

Do the famed 'Scots-Irish' (another curious Americanism) fall under the WASP umbrella in modern America? Or are they separate?

Anyway, as for the old WASP CIA being a "highly moral institution", it seems that those lofty WASP virtues were thrown out the window when it came to Latin America.

Mr Drab said...

"The BRD has probably spent at least that much trying to integrate East Germany back into civilization."

An estimated 1.3 trillion euros ($1.7 trillion) have flowed from the former West Germany to the former East Germany over the last 20 years. And the tab is still running. To this day, the East is gobbling up subsidies estimated between 70 and 80 billion euros a year. That lifeline will continue for at least another nine years when funds from the Solidarity Pact are slated to end. Even then, structurally poor states, such as Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, can expect to receive further cash infusions through the Federal State Financial Equalization program, which aids poorer states in the western half, including Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland.

The East isn't fully to blame for being a burden on taxpayers from the West. It was, after all, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl who – against the advice of financial experts – offered a monetary union for the two Germanys. Overnight, wages, pensions and savings of up to 6,000 East German marks were exchanged one-to-one.


Full article

Can you imagine if North Korea collapsed? The cost of reunification to the South would be simply astronomical. No wonder nobody is keen on the idea of the two Koreas reuniting. East Germany was a wealthy paradise compared to the DPRK.

Dave Pinsen said...

Did anyone in the CIA or elsewhere in the US government ever think that Soviet intervention in some countries was actually good? Judging by our response to their invasion of Afghanistan, I guess not, but, in hindsight, you could argue that Soviet intervention in fourth world countries was maybe not such a bad thing.

Communism immiserated formerly first world East Germany, but in the most backward parts of the world it could have been a step up. Plus, infrastructure the Soviets built there was infrastructure we didn't have to build.

5371 said...

You can't - or rather, you would not be well advised to - bribe someone for something that he can't deliver himself.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you should mention Harold Wilson. The old boy was quite a lefty at Oxford in the '30s, like a very great proportion of the 1960s Labour establishment, and persistant rumors held sway in certain British circles that Wilson was, for some time period at least, a paid-up Soviet double-agent.
In fact, the story goes that Wilson's 'shock' resignation way back in 1976 - for no apparent reason - was done after Wilson was confronted with some rather damning evidence.
Certain Soviet double agents claimed that Michael Foot, (Labour leader in the disatrous early eighties), was a double agent code-named 'Boot' who supplied information and took cash for decades. Certainly wild rumors flew around about a great number of Labour people, but we must remember that, believe it or not, the pre 1980s Labour Party *was* a hard left party run by hard men from the 1980s. These days, of course, it's just a milquetoast Democrat Party manque obsessed with 'equaliies' (not 'equality' mind you)which more or less runs a Thatcherite, 'Economist' magazine economic and social policy with mass immigration thrown in. Fuck-all for the cloth-capped workers and their toil.


As for Gorbachev and Yeltsin taking bribes..... you've got to realise that by running such a beast as the USSR, enormous resources were at their back and call at all times, think of all that gold, oil and timber etc, so anything the CIA could throw at them was chicken feed at best.
As another poster said, he pevious generation of Soviet leaders were real hard men, ideological men who grew up in war, desperation and poverty and the obscenity of the czar's personal riches. They knew what the game was all about. They actually believed in the cause, despite all the other faults you could throw at them. Gorbachev and Yeltsin weren't of that cast. Firstly Gobachev was a fool who believed in his own propaganda and conceits and couldn't control a situation that ran away with itself. Yeltsin was abrute, a bully and thug who was nasty, deluded and blinkered and horrible with it - in fact the full gamut of archetypal negative Russian characteristics, of he type Germans have an instinctive and morbid fear. The thug brain of Yeltsin was convinced that the bullshit propaganda and blandishments of Harvard bullshitters would somehow shit gold and make Russia 'richer' just like demented fairies. He bought into that shit, allowed the wreckers to run wild in pursuit of that ignorance - and you see the results. Plus he creamed off quite a tidy sum of his own.

Anonymous said...

"So, that raises the question: Did the CIA ever attempt to bribe the Soviets into just giving up? And if not, why not?"

How much money does it take to bribe someone in giving up control over a country? Or do you mean just bribe them in giving up communism? How many people would you have to bribe then?

Hunsdon said...

Harry Baldwin said: How much would it have cost to make Saddam Hussein our very best friend in February 2003?

Hunsdon said: Hear him, hear him! This would have made vastly greater sense, cost enormously less in terms of blood and treasure (both American and Iraqi), and the only downside would have been the frustration experienced by the neocons. (Arguably, a feature not a bug.)

Anonymous said...

"Remember that scene in The Good Shepherd where Matt Damon gives the Soviet defector LSD and gets out of him that the USSR is "painted rust"? "

Anonymous:"Well, that in itself is Western propaganda. I mean the movie with Matt Damon. The people who grew up in the USRR (including me) don't think it was "painted rust"."

Surely not all the people, dear boy. I know a fair number of children of the Soviet era, and they are unanimous in talking about the shoddiness of the Soviet epoch. I know that that is a bitter pill to swallow for a Soviet apologist like yourself, but rose tinted nostalgia and patriotic defensiveness are no substitute for reality.


Anonymous:" The whole "drab" image was created in the West."

More like reported on by the West; they simply looked at the drab horror of Soviet Man, and their sensibilities recoiled in shock. Of course, you must recall that their perceptions were influenced by the memory of Nazis, a truly glamorous foe. Hence, the dreariness of the USSR was all the more shocking.

Anonymous:" Of course a Hollywood movie would support it."

More like report on it, dear boy. Hollywood does get some things right. Law of averages and all that.

Observer said...

Anonymous:"The whole "drab" image was created in the West."

I visited the USSR several times in the 80s. It was drab. The only parts that weren't drab were the leftover palaces and public buildings from the Tsarist era.

Silver said...

Well, as an eye witness, I can tell you that the Western impression that Soviet consumer goods were substandard was also mostly created by Western propaganda.

Rofl. Sadly, I'm dead certain a few people here would believe this rubbish.

One thing I absolutely detest about the "dissident right" is the willingness to cozy up to these arrogant, incurably contemptuous Russians. The dissident right correctly accuses western leadership of lacking pride in self but the willingness to give credence to laughable, butthurt Ruskie bs is disgusting.

Peter the Shark said...

"Well, as an eye witness, I can tell you that the Western impression that Soviet consumer goods were substandard was also mostly created by Western propaganda"

No, it is the truth. I visited East Berlin in 1983 and lived in the Soviet Union in 1990, including visits to Kiev, the Baltics, Lvov and Novosibirsk. "Substandard" is generous. There were a few things that were very good, mostly food - bread, dairy products and sausage - provided you could get them. Cakes, caviar and champagne were very good, and surprisingly affordable (at least in Moscow). The vegetables in the farmers' markets were excellent. The clothes were badly made and unfashionable. The shoes were crap. The electronic goods worked, mostly, but were bulky and kind of comical. The automobiles were crap and usually delivered to the customer already missing parts or broken. Bicyles - heavy and crappy. Polish cosmetics were considered a desirable luxury item in Russia. Enough said on that. The beer, even in East Germany, was lousy, usually stale. Most kitchen appliances were either unavailable or crappy, except for some Yugoslav stuff. And even if you argue that most Soviet stuff at least worked, true, there was very little variety - that's the biggest difference. Most Soviet consumers had no idea what a cornucopia the West was. I knew a girl from Kazakhstan from a connected Communist Party family who got to be in a student group in 1991. She told me when she walked into her first American grocery store she broke down and started sobbing - she realized right there that everything she had been told by her teachers was a lie.

Anonymous said...

Harold Wilson was the last person who would have had a Swiss bank account. He often complained about the baleful influence of the "Gnomes of Zurich". If he had some connection to Russia then he didn't make much money from it. When he left office he lived very modestly. He was a saint compared to later Prime Ministers who became very well off after leaving office.