1980: it was a bad year for Moscow
In Moscow at this turn of the year there must be a few of the more perceptive men in the leadership who wish Soviet policy had chosen a different course for the year 1980.Skip to next paragraph
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The biggest event in world affairs during the year has been the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the consequences of that invasion. Those consequences have been entirely unfavorable to the position of the Soviet Union in the world. Never before has it been so isolated, so weak in ability to influence events outside the range of its armed forces, so short of willing clients.
Add that the Soviet economy is sluggish to the point of stagnation. And the stubborn Afghans have not yet been beaten into total submission to Moscow's will.
Only the latest consequence of that Kremlin decision, which shattered the mood of Christmas a year ago, was the coolness of the reception accorded Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev when he visited New Delhi in mid-December.
India has long been the only important power to seek and cultivate what could almost be called "friendly" relations with the men of the Kremlin. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has not broken off that relationship entirely. She needs , or thinks she needs, a relationship with the Soviets to balance off the power of China in Asia. But she cannot like or approve having Soviet troops roaring around Afghanistan. She let Mr. Brezhnev know how she felt.
Before that, the invasion of Afghanistan had revived NATO, helped persuade the West Germans to accept nuclear weapons, shocked most Communist parties around the world, horrified the other members of the Warsaw Pact, killed SALT II , driven US exports to the Soviet Union down from $3.74 billion in 1979 to $1.32 billion in 1980, reduced the availability of grain, thus causing meat shortages, stimulated an abrupt rise in US defense spending, and helped to elect Ronald Reagan, who proposed even higher Us defense spending.
The year 1980 brought other events. To Americans, the taking and holding of their diplomats in the Us Embassy in Tehran by the Iranian revolutionaries was a humiliating experience. Yet, in the long view of history it may turn into no more than an episode in the often-difficult relationship of the United States to the peoples of the Middle East. Once the hostages are fitted back into normal and routine lives, the matter will cease to block a logical reconciliation between Washington and the new regime in tehran.
1980 was also a year in which Americans finally realized that some of their industrial fabric was getting out of date, and that something had better be done to regain a strong competitive position in world markets. The American economy was not as sluggish as the Soviet economy, nor in as deep trouble as the British economy which spent much of the year well into double-digit inflation in spite of determined Tory government efforts to get it under control. But US economic weakness was an important feature of the year. It might have been some slight consolation to the men in the Kremlin when they reviewed their own shortcomings.
And 1980 saw Israeli making what seems to be a solid and probably even a lasting peace with Egypt, but shying away from the final step contemplated at Camp David for a "comprehensive" peace with its other Arab neighbors. As the year ends, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is still planting more Jewish settlements in Arab lands, still arresting and even shooting Arab student demonstrators who fly the Palestinian flag over their universities, and still refusing to accept the idea that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza must end so that the Arabs who live there may lead their own lives and govern themselves.