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THE FINAL CURTAIN : Reflections : 'This Monolith Cost Us Trillions of Dollars'

December 31, 1991| Arthur Hartman, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow during the early Gorbachev years: and

"The Soviet Union was our major competitor in the world and it was very powerful, militarily. We overestimated its ability to exercise that power, almost until it fell apart. We overestimated their gross national product and, therefore, their ability to carry this tremendous burden. We should have--with our own good estimates--made a better appraisal of how soon that (burden) would break them. . . .

"Gorbachev thought you could reform and improve the Communist system, and that was his great failure. He had successes in the international arena, where his realism led to long-sought arms agreements.

"This monolith cost us trillions of dollars and may have led us to the bad (economic) situation we are in now. That $5 trillion--or whatever the figure is--could have been better used at home than for hemming them in.

"(But) the whole Cold War--insofar as it was designed to stop the aggression of that system--was successful, except in Vietnam, where we got in without realizing we could not solve the problems there that gave communism a strong foothold. . . .

"(In the new commonwealth) a change to a democratic, free-market economy is not going to happen, at least in this generation. . . . I think it's going to be a long-term process. There are going to be ups and downs, and it's going to be very untidy. Hopefully, the West will ship enough food and medicine to keep them from going into the streets over that issue.

"The chances of conflict outside their borders is reduced, but along the borders, you could have trouble. Mistreatment of ethnic Russians (in other republics) could lead to conflict too."

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