In response to the hype over ABC's "Amerika" miniseries, Calendar took the premise and flipped it over--and contacted a wide variety of sources on. . . .
What would happen if the United States had conquered the Soviet Union?
Would life in the Soviet Union be all peanut-butter sandwiches and Bruce Springsteen?
What about American fashions, Disneyland, Charlie Brown cartoons and Tupperware parties?
ENQUIRING RUSSKIES WANT TO KNOW, TOO
"I think a lot of our regular subjects would go over great with the Russians," explained National Enquirer reporter Michael Glynn, who'd just returned to L.A. from covering Liberace's death in Palm Springs. "J.R. Ewing, for instance, would probably become a Soviet folk hero. I think his style would play very well over there--he's a crafty, domineering leader, and great at obfuscating the truth.
"And think of what a great story angle Pia Zadora would be. She's the peasant girl who makes good by marrying a wealthy American industrialist."
FOR THE RECORD - IMPERFECTION
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 21, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Page 95 Calendar Desk 3 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, has only recently seen Calendar's Feb. 15 article on what life would be like in the Soviet Union if the U.S. took over that country. The article, he writes, "attributes to me optimistic opinions about the Soviet future. These are not my opinions, since I hold out little hope for any far-reaching, fundamental changes for the better under Mikhail Gorbachev. I want to repudiate the tone and interpretations of events in the U.S.S.R. that were ascribed to me."
Glynn predicted that the Soviets would also find many of the Enquirer's regular features--such as diet and arthritis tips--particularly fascinating. "You get the impression that, as a nation, the Russians are probably overweight from eating those potatoes all winter long," he said. "So we could do lots of secret Russkie diet plans.
"Also, one of our key formulas is appealing to people by saying, 'You think you've got troubles--just look what problems big celebrities have.' So where could you find a more receptive audience than the Russian people, who really do have it bad!"
But would what the Soviets make of the Enquirer after having been fed a steady diet of controlled information? "I think they'd really embrace it. Our kind of journalism fits their Marxist notion of the working-class hero--we do lots of wacky pieces about personal heroics, like first-person accounts of a man battling a killer shark or a dog saving his blind master. So I think we could adapt easily. We'd just find a guy who'd been saved from a runaway tractor on a collective farm."
THE HIGH COST OF CONQUEST
'The cost of running the Soviet Union would exceed our financial capabilities. The U.S.S.R. could milk us of our wealth," said Richard Pipes, a Harvard history teacher who was director of East European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council in 1981-82.
"There is probably no other country that we are less interested in or less capable of running than the Soviet Union, except China.
"A few thousand Americans couldn't possibly govern a country the size of the U.S.S.R. and we don't have cadres of Russians or minorities to rely on. Instead, we'd face violent nationalist reactions."
Many Russian emigres in the U.S. "don't understand our economic system or political system nor like it very much--and many are dissidents who asked to leave the U.S.S.R. Imagine the local population? They wouldn't understand."
The Russians love American mass culture, "but it's penetrating anyway, without an occupation." And how could they pay for designer jeans and VCRs? "They have a currency that isn't convertible. Even under the present system, they're short of currency. Economically, it doesn't make sense."
America would want to put in place a "reasonable Russian government and get out. We would never want a long-term occupation," said Pipes, "unlike the Soviets, who never leave an occupied country."
LEARNING TO ROCK 'N' ROLL . . .
" ' Coca-Cola-inization ' has already begun; we don't need to invade," said Arnold Beichman, a political scientist at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. "I went to a Moscow nightclub recently and listened to a band playing heavy-metal music. Moscow doesn't jam Radio Free Europe's Sunday rock concerts in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
"The sleeping Soviet giant would awaken under a decade of an American-style free market. Unstead of squeezing the consumer, because of its enormous huge military budget, the new Soviet society will have no more ubiquitous food lines or empty shelves," said Beichman, author of the biography "Yuri Andropov."
"The Georgian peasant will no longer have to sneak into Moscow to sell peaches on the black market." He predicted that drinking will decrease because frustrated people will have "creative outlets."
"Soviet health care is atrocious," said Beichman, "for everyone but the Communist Party elite. Cancer, heart, elderly and handicapped patients receive primitive treatment. The average Russian woman has five or six abortions because contraceptives are inadequate--pills are impure, diaphragms are poor quality and condoms are badly made."
In 10 years, Beichman predicted, the Americans will develop a "genuine Soviet people's medical care--with modern medical treatment and drugs such as Tagamet, beta blockers and decongestants."