Economy in Crisis?

  • Paul Dibb
Part of the Studies in International Security book series


It has long been fashionable in the West, since at least the early 1930s, to predict the imminent collapse of the Soviet economy, yet Soviet economic achievements have been striking. In less than seventy years, what was ‘little more than a ramshackle and backward agrarian country’ has been transformed into a powerful industrial state and a nuclear superpower, second only to the US.2 According to Soviet statistics, the USSR’s national income has increased over fourteen times since 1940 and it more than doubled between 1965 and 1980.3 The Soviet Union claims that its share of global industrial output rose from 4 per cent in 1913 to 20 per cent in 1980,4 and it boasts that it now leads the world in the production of steel, pig-iron, coke, oil, machine tools, diesel and electric trains, cement, mineral fertilisers, tractors, textiles, shoes, and prefabricated concrete structures.5 Even by American calculations, which are designed to remove the inbuilt exaggerations of Soviet data, the Soviet record has been remarkable. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the USSR’s GNP is now over four times what it was thirty years ago.6 During the period 1951–79, the Soviet economy grew at an annual average rate of 4.8 per cent, compared with 3.4 per cent for the US.7 As a result of these different growth rates, the Soviet economy has gained substantially on the American economy in relative terms. In 1955, with postwar recovery completed, the USSR’s GNP was 40 per cent of US GNP. By the late 1970s the gap had been closed so that Soviet GNP had reached 60 per cent of the US level.8


Total Factor Productivity Capita Consumption Economic Trend Military Spending Central Intelligence Agency 
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Copyright information

© International Institute for Strategic Studies 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Dibb
    • 1
  1. 1.Strategic and Defence Studies CentreAustralian National UniversityAustralia

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