Friday, March 26, 2021

Senility and the Superpowers

“Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”—an Ancient Greek saying. The Gods do something similar to the superpowers that they wish to destroy—they first drive them mad or senile. The great superpower of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union, went senile in the 1980s and was finished in 1991. 

On 12 November 1982, the Soviet Union gave a public display of the senility of its political establishment by promoting Yuri Andropov, a sick man, to the post of General Secretary. Within three months of being in office, Andropov suffered total kidney failure; he spent the rest of his life in the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow where, for long periods, he was unconscious. He died on 9 February 1984. 

Konstantin Chernenko, who succeeded Andropov as General Secretary on 13 February 1984, was also in an advanced stage of mental and physical decline. It was rumored that he used to forget that he was holding the highest political office in the Soviet Union. Before his public appearances, his aides used to remind him of who he was. Within weeks of taking office, he was rushed to the Central Clinical Hospital where he spent much of the remainder of his life. He died on 10 March 1985. 

A day later, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was young, healthy, and charismatic, was made the General Secretary. But Gorbachev could not be the savior of the Soviet Union—he was an ignorant and naive leader. In his hurry to catch up with America, he took a series of disastrous decisions, including the policy of Glasnost and Perestroika, which was antithetical to the character of the Soviet Union. 

When simultaneous rebellions erupted in several towns and cities in Russia and Eastern Europe, Gorbachev was taken by surprise and he could not act decisively to crush the rebels. His weakness emboldened the rebels, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Two years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, leaving the USA as the world’s only superpower.

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