Sunday, September 18, 2016

AltHistory Scenario #23: What if the Berlin Wall Never Fell?

I'm baaaaaaack!

Sorry for the long delay. On the bright side: the rough draft of the Fallout story is done! Forty chapters, close to 200,000 words... should be pretty big and epic, especially when I get around to editing it. However, I'm also starting to get ready for my NaNoWriMo project in November, so things may be a bit slow then again.

But anyway, on to the Alternate History!

Today I got this from a group chat I was on that asked: What if the Berlin Wall never came down? And since it's just on the border of my 25-30 rule, what the hell, I'll do it.

Also, no pictures today, mostly because of laziness.

Point of Divergence

This is a tricky one, because the Berlin Wall came down because Communism in Europe was crumbling, and opened in November 1989. So, the way to prevent the wall from falling is to not have Communism fall, because unless East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, remains, then there is no rational for the wall.

So, if anything, the Alternate History should be "What if Communism never falls in Europe?" But we started with the Wall, so we'll just stick with that.

So, for this POD, I'm going to say that in this timeline, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, instead of pursuing Glasnost and Perestroika, only went for Perestroika, and only for the economy. Few political or social reforms were allowed (voted down by the Poltiburo, and Gorbachev was unable to overcome their opposition). Instead the economy was overhauled. Limited free enterprise in the model of Lenin's New Economic Policy of the 1920s, is introduced, and central planning was reduced, along the lines of future reforms that the People's Republic of China would undertake. A hybrid centralized and capitalist economy is created, and living conditions in the USSR, though still behind the West, begins to increase. Other states in the Warsaw Pact, like East Germany, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia, under pressure from Gorbachev to reform and not become such a huge drain on the economy, also sees economic growth.

Outcomes

The modified Perestroika reforms give a new lease on life for Communism, which had been increasingly stagnating since the mid 1970s. State owned businesses, with the aid of workers brought in to help make production goals, begins to retool for more consumer goods. Agriculture, which theoretically would be a huge sector of the economy of the USSR, had been struggling for years, and grain from America had to be imported to feed the people. But with new incentives and new equipment, soon Ukraine and southern Russia becomes the new breadbasket of Europe. By 1990, imports of American grain has been reduced to zero, and the USSR and Warsaw Pact was not only self sufficient, but importing food to Europe and Asia. The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1987 helped the economy as well, as new equipment for the military was required. But instead of leaving the nation in a vacuum, Gorbachev promised foreign aid to help rebuild Afghanistan, as an "apology" for a misguided effort to maintain communism. However, this fact wasn't reported at home, with press censorship still in force.

With the Soviet economy booming, the USSR is able to begin flexing it's muscles on the world stage. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, the USSR launched a second front from the north as the US and it's western and Arabian allies invaded from Saudi Arabia. Since no formal plan of what to do with Saddam had been agreed upon in the UN, Soviet troops were ordered to go straight for Baghdad, capturing Hussein,  and raising the hammer and sickle over the city. With the aid of the flatfooted US, both superpowers monitored elections to determine a neutral, non-alligned leader for Iraq, and the Soviet troops left. The USSR was back, and stronger than ever.

In the US, President Ronald Reagan, instead of bankrupting the Soviet Union with massive arms increases and scientific projects like the Space Defence Initiative, is now suffering from huge budget deficits himself. Who knew that expensive military programs, along with massive tax cuts and increases to Social Security and other programs would never balance out? By the mid 1990s, with President George H. W. Bush's second term winding down, the US is facing a budget shortfall at a trillion dollars, as Republican dominated Congresses continued to cut taxes to try to spur the economy, which was already running at a good level. With Democratic Al Gore winning in 1996, on the promise to restore "fiscal sanity" to the government, spending on the military was reduced and taxes raised to 1980 levels. While unpopular, and a huge shock that saw the New York Stock Exchange crash in 1997, it was considered necessary. Gore didn't win a second term though, instead Republican George W. Bush, the son of the former Bush, won the presidency in a landslide, who then began to cut taxes once again. But the struggling economy soon leads, in 2004, to proclaimed Socialist Bernie Sanders to run for President, and start pulling the US to a more leftward socialism, with universal healthcare and new investment in infrastructure and schools, as well as nationalizing failing businesses in railroads, banking, telecommunications and others, in what has been called the Second New Deal. But conservative and Republican backlash means that many of Sander's policies were fiercely resented, and it wouldn't be until his re-election in 2008 that many of them would finally go through.

With the Middle East somewhat stable (if still tense), Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al Qaeda doesn't have as secure a base as insecure Afghanistan, is unable to launch the large attacks on the US or the USSR as they hoped, and soon the many smaller groups splinter away. Likewise in Europe, divided by the Iron Curtain, tensions between communists and capitalists continue. When the US began to withdraw troops due to budget cuts, other NATO nations were forced to pony up, making most of Europe a heavily armed tinderbox. China, with their economic reforms, also begins to modernize and expand it's military, presenting the world with three superpowers

But where Islamic fundamentalism is gone, the Cold War is still here, as the USSR and US settle into a stalemate. Weekly tests of the Emergency Broadcast System, nuclear drills, and close calls are still the order of the day, but armed confrontation seems increasingly unlikely, as the major nations of the world begin to shift into similar, if not identical, economic and political models. But by the 2010s, the USSR, with it's reformed economy, is clearly the leading superpower.

As for the Berlin Wall? The machine guns are still there, but no longer pointed inwards. They are pointing out, to prevent an attack by the West German garrison in West Berlin from breaking out.

Conclusion

It's tough to talk of events that happened less than 30 years ago, as I've mentioned before, like in my 9/11 didn't happen article. But, like I said earlier, the only way that the Berlin Wall stays up is if Communism isn't crumbling and falling apart, and the way I see it is with more capitalistic reforms a la China OTL.

And I'm sure that if I get some comments, it's going to be about how I treat America in this ATL. But, let's face it: America is, perhaps, the luckiest nation on this planet: they basically control an entire continent (Canada and Mexico aren't exactly in any position to challenge the US), and unlike Australia, have a large population, lots of resources, and borders on the world's two largest oceans. They haven't been invaded since 1812, and have only faced one, although brutal, civil war. No violent revolutions, no threats from across the oceans, but the ability to step in anywhere and influence matters to their own design, all the while claiming American Exceptionalism. Only in the Cold War did America finally face a major threat, with atomic annihilation, but once again America lucked out, and the USSR collapsed before the world ended. But if the USSR began to reform, I don't see how America, with a political establishment that is so different from the rest of the world in ideology and beliefs, could withstand the pressure.

And really, does "trickle-down" economics really work?

But what do you think? Could the Berlin Wall have stayed standing if Communism reformed? Or if you have a topic or idea you would like me to talk about, please leave comments below, email me at tbguy1992@gmail.com, or tell me on Twitter @tbguy1992.

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