In the first part, we saw how the Soviets got themselves into the mess of their Afghanistan intervention. Today, let’s look at their withdrawal from the long conflict, the domestic repercussions of the war in the Soviet Union and, finally, on Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal – as always, with board games. Let’s get straight to it!Continue reading
Tag Archives: Communism
Into the Trap: The Soviets in Afghanistan, #1
Sometimes, political leaders want wars. And sometimes they start them even though they fear that the results will not measure up to the financial, the political, the human cost – but think that they have exhausted any other means at their disposal to no avail. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was a case of the latter. It is an instructive case on how policy is made – not only regarding Afghanistan. We’ll have a look at Afghanistan as a hotspot of great power competition from the 19th century on before we examine the events that led to the Soviet intervention in 1979, and finally, the brutal war of attrition that followed – as always, accompanied by board games.Continue reading
Harry S. Truman (Presidential Ratings, #2)
Last year, I have inaugurated a new irregular series on my blog assessing the merits of UK prime ministers (illustrated through the lens of a single board game each). The rating system seemed robust enough to apply it to other countries/leaders (at least if they are more or less democratic). Thus, we branched out to an American president and a German chancellor. Today’s subject is another US president – Harry S. Truman, the first Cold Warrior in the White House. And which game could be more appropriate for him than Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games)?Continue reading
Specific and Universal Responses to Crises: The Truman Doctrine
These days, we experience one of the most violent foreign policy developments of the last decades: Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the culmination of a crisis that has been in the making for years – at least since the Euromaidan protests of 2013/2014 ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian government and Russia subsequently annexed Crimea. During the entire crisis, the posture of western governments (most notably that of the United States) has been of great interest: Ukraine has sought a closer alignment with the West to gain economic and military assistance. At the same time, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been committed to rolling back western influence and to prevent further countries bordering Russia from joining the western alliances.
US posture has been not uniform over these eight years: The annexation of Crimea presented the Obama administration America with a fait accompli, and Obama reacted with lukewarm sanctions. Obama’s successor Donald Trump was proud of his alleged good personal relationship with Putin, watered down the sanctions, and even attempted to extort Ukrainian president Volodymyr Selenskyy by tying an aid package for Ukraine to Selenskyy’s announcement of investigating Hunter Biden’s business activities in Ukraine. Current president Joe Biden has taken a tougher line on Russia again, but the exact response to the ongoing crisis is still in flux.
That brings us to today’s article: How does the United States react to local crises in faraway countries? After all, most Americans (including many elected officials and bureaucrats) know little of the place in question. Still, America’s global role resting on its political, military, and economic leadership demands that these crises are addressed. This challenge was by no means smaller when America was just about to transition into the role of a global power in the 1940s. One event stood out among the developments back then: Rooted in two specific local crises, president Harry S. Truman’s speech on March 12, 1947, asking Congress to approve of a support package for Greece and Turkey would have far-reaching implications for US foreign policy – until very recently.Continue reading
Letter by Valdis Bumbulis to his mother Inese Bumbulis (#USEAAR, #5)
This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.
Letter written in a POW camp in Daugavpils, delivered by a fellow soldier from the same regiment as Valdis Bumbulis who was discharged from the camp
Daugavpils, April 17, 1940
In all brevity: I am alive, I am as well as is to be expected under these circumstances. Everything is a bit makeshift, but we are fed regularly. Even more regularly, the politruks educate us, as we citizens of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic have much to catch up on – after all, the LSSR is only two weeks old, whereas the comrades from Russia who are my age have lived all their lives in the Soviet Union and therefore know everything about socialism and the great vozhd Stalin. Once we have learned enough, we are discharged from this educational institution to go back to our homes or join the Red Army in its mighty struggle to liberate the workers in Romania and Finland as they have liberated the Latvians. As I have been much miseducated by my bourgeois uncle, the process might take longer for me. Still, I hope to be home soon. Until then, I remain your loving son
1989 (Games about the Cold War, #6)
How time flies – it is already the sixth installment of my series on board games about the Cold War (here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Today, we go to the very end of the Cold War – the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989: Dawn of Freedom (Ted Torgerson/Jason Matthews, GMT Games). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms.
LEADERS (Games about the Cold War, #4)
Welcome back to the fourth installment in my new series on board games about the Cold War! Today, our game will be LEADERS: The Combined Strategy Game (Reinhard Kern/Gertrude Kurzmann/Manfred Lamplmair, rudy games). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms. Continue reading
The End of the Socialist Empire (1989, #3)
There had been uprisings against socialist rule in Eastern Europe before 1989. However, when things threatened to get out of hand, the Soviet Union would send tanks to quell the revolts (most famously in Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968). 1989 was different. The Soviet forces remained in their barracks as the wave of revolution washed all Communist governments in Eastern Europe away. How did that happen? Why did the Soviet Union just watch while their Eastern European empire slipped away? After having previously examined the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Western governments in 1989, this article will deal with the role of the Eastern European leaders (especially in the Soviet Union) in 1989. First, we’ll look at the remarkable changes Mikhail Gorbachev brought to the Soviet Union, and then at the erosion of Communism under the economic circumstances of the late 1980s.
The Many Explanations for the Collapse of Communism (1989, #1)
The ancient history professor Alexander Demandt has enumerated 210 theories why the Western Roman Empire had fallen that had been proposed in the 1500 years since the Empire’s collapse. They ranged from the abolition of the gods to vulgarization and everything in between – fighting multi-front wars, excesses, lead poisoning, decline of the “Nordic character” of the Romans, female empowerment, you name it. While the Roman Empire is gone for a bit longer than the Soviet Empire, the number of explanations for the sudden end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe are almost as manifold as those for the fall of Rome. That speaks of the surprise that the collapse of Communism was, and never was this process faster or more dramatic than in the year 1989. This article will look at the first group of explanations for the collapse of Communism and how they are represented in the board game 1989 (GMT Games, Ted Torgerson/Jason Matthews), kicking off a series on how history, politics and culture intertwine in 1989.