In October 1985, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visited France where he met with French President François Mitterrand. In candid conversations, Gorbachev told Mitterrand that the USSR was a Third World country with nuclear weapons, a conclusion that startled Mitterrand and other Western leaders when Gorbachev’s description was privately circulated.
How could it be that the all-powerful USSR saw itself as a Third World country, but a nuclear power?
Around the same time, I was speaking to a Jewish group in Washington. In the 1980s, I was a senior official in the Defense Department responsible for technology security. In my presentation, I showed 35 mm slides depicting the best Soviet weapons, and how many of them were copies of American systems. My message: The USSR was a powerful country investing heavily in weapons.
A lady in the back of the room raised her hand. Recognizing her, she said the following: “My husband and I visited Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev [then part of the USSR]. We were surprised at how backward the country was, so much so even the elevators in buildings broke down. How could the USSR be such a powerful country if they aren’t able to make a reliable elevator?”
The Soviet Union, and its successor Russia, showed off its modern weapons in various ways, through military shows, exercises, and the famous parades of equipment and soldiers marching across Red Square. Western analysts watch these demonstrations with great interest, and specialists evaluate the level of technology and capability of the systems put on display.
So how is it, echoing the lady in the back of the room, that Russian conscript soldiers are showing up in Ukraine carrying obsolete early 20th century bolt action rifles, without adequate (or any) food and water, and with cursory training at best?
Read the rest at The Epoch Times.