The Costs of the Soviet Empire

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Science  29 Nov 1985:
Vol. 230, Issue 4729, pp. 997-1002
DOI: 10.1126/science.230.4729.997


A comprehensive framework is developed and applied to estimate the economic costs incurred by the Soviet Union in acquiring, maintaining, and expanding its empire. The terms "empire" and "costs" are explicitly defined. Between 1971 and 1980, the average ratio between empire costs and Soviet gross national product was about 3.5 percent; as a ratio to Soviet military spending, empire costs averaged about 28 percent. The burden imposed on Soviet economic growth by empire costs is also considered, as well as rates of change in these costs, and the important political, military, and strategic benefits associated by the Soviet leadership with maintenance and expansion of the empire. Prospective empire costs and changes in Soviet economic constraints resulting from the declining performance of the domestic economy are also considered.

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