Monday, November 9, 2009

Andrei Gromyko As Berlin Wall Butterfly

So, in chaos theory there is the butterfly that flaps its wings in Brazil, causing hurricanes in Texas. It is my view that the butterfly whose flapping wing led to the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago was none other than longtime Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko. In February 1985 he was the swing vote in a 4-3 outcome on the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for successor to Chernenko as General Secretary of the Party for Mikhail Gorbachev over hardline Moscow mayor, Viktor Grishin. Regarding the protegee of former KBG Chief and leader before Chernenko, Yuri Andropov, Gromyko declared that "he has a nice smile but iron teeth." Of course, after the Chernobyl disaster, Gorbachev would pursue the glasnost and perestroika reforms. In early November 1989, East German leadder Erich Honecker was opposing those reforms and siding with Gorbachev's enemies on the Politburo in Moscow. Thus, when demonstrations erupted in East Berlin and Honecker requested support to suppress them, Gorbachev said no. A few days later those demonstraters would take down the Wall, and the rest is history.

5 comments:

Brenda Rosser said...

what about the 'Reagan Wall'??

"Chernobyl revealed that a large industrialized society will
suffer from being isolated from the advanced technology of the Western world. Because of the breakdown in communication with Western scientists during the Reagan administration, Soviet experts were denied easy access
to Western science and colleagues. That probably contributed to the failure to develop a sufficient culture of safety at nuclear plants. When the crisis occurred, antiradiation suits were unavailable, radiation counters were in short supply, and the country possessed no remote controlled robots to clean up nuclear debris. National pride
prevented early acceptance of foreign help....


*Chernobyl and Its Political Fallout: A Reassessment*

Daniloff, Nicholas

Jack said...

So what is the rationale for the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979?
Did Babcock and Wilcox not have access to the up to date science of Weatern technology? Maybe the Soviet technocrats were getting their science and technology from the West at that time, given that Chernobyl was a mere six years later.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Brenda,

I think the "Reagan Wall" was pretty small potatoes in this matter. The Soviets had a long track record of not caring all that much about either environmental problems in general or nuclear safety more particularly. All was traditionally supported to the goal of meeting ever-rising production quotas, and if national security was involved at all, then other concerns were especially put to the bottom of the priority list. The lousy technology of the Chernobyl plant had been put in place decades earlier, and there had been a much worse nuclear accident at the Kyshtym site, which had been covered up for decades. It was the equivalent of the very dirty Hanford site in Washington state in the US, both the original sites for producing nuclear weapons with very careless handling and disposal of nuclear wates, in the case of Kyshtym their being simply dumped into a ditch. The US spends more than a billion dollars per year at Hanford trying to clean the mess up there, but it is still bad.

Jack,

While the general view is that Three Mile Island was, as you put it, "a disaster," let me note that unlike at either Kyshtym or Chernobyl, nobody died at Three Mile Island, although there may have been a slight increase in cancer cases nearby as a result. More die every year in coal mines in the US to produce a source of electric power that produces CO2, NOX, SO2, and other pollutants than have died in the entire history of the US nuclear power industry, which of course emits zero CO2, zero NOX, and zero SO2.

gordon said...

I'm yet to finish Gorbachev's Memoirs, but I would recommend it. He is coming across as a well-intentioned bureaucrat in a situation which would have required the abilities and determination of Peter the Great.

Brenda Rosser said...

"there had been a much worse nuclear accident at the Kyshtym site, which had been covered up for decades. It was the equivalent of the very dirty Hanford site in Washington state in the US..."

That's interesting, Barkley. thanks.