Economic Collapse of Soviet Union
Breakdown of Science Page 5


Theoretical unpreparedness
Page 2

Dumas analysis
Page 3

Breakdown of technology
Page 4

Breakdown of science
Page 5

Resource diversion
Page 6

Unproductive activity
Page 7

Militarization and bureaucracy
Page 8

Why did the USSR fall first?
Page 9

Did the USSR have any choice?
Page 10

Page 11

Civilian science and technology in the USSR has a problem of quality as well as quantity. I could see this in my own work over the years as an exchange scientist in programs with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Academy of Medical Sciences, and Ministry of Higher Education. The only colleagues who could obtain quality equipment and materials were the ones who had connections to scientists in defense industry. I found a normal range in intellectual talent among the civilian scientists with whom I worked, and a larger number of technical support personnel than in the U.S., but at the same time their scientific output was inferior. Soviet-made materials and instruments were generally inferior, and there was limited access to foreign-made equivalents. Libraries and technical education were inadequate. Under such adverse conditions, there was a tendency for the leadership of scientific institutes to exaggerate and distort their claims of scientific productivity.

In discussing technology, it is important to keep in mind that discoveries by basic scientific researchers are only the first link in the research and development chain. Applied research and development are then needed to devise materials and production processes so that the product can be produced at competitive prices. Further development is needed to explore applications and markets, including both domestic applications and export possibilities. Therefore, it turns out that the diversion of applied research and development is even more devastating than the diversion of basic research. In fact, it is applied research and development that has been diverted primarily in the U.S., and probably in the USSR as well. In the 1991 U.S. military budget, there are $36.8 billion allocated for applied research and only one billion for basic research. The Soviets have not published such a breakdown, but there is no reason to expect it to be any different.

The relatively low proportion of basic research in military spending refutes the argument of those who claim that technological "spin-off" from military research can make up for the drain on the civilian economy. Such spin-offs come primarily from basic rather than applied research and development, and that is only 3 percent of the total. Military secrecy is another factor which reduces still further the possibility of such spin-offs. The elaborate security measures that each country takes to hide its military secrets also hide the results of its basic military research from its own civilian economy. One could argue that in the long run these secrets leak out and make their contribution, but in the meantime there is a lag in their application. It is precisely this lag that puts a country at a competitive disadvantage in today's global market.

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