In the Spring of 1986 the Soviet Union was in a slow motion collapse. No one in the US intelligence agencies predicted it, the military was taken completely by surprise and no apologies were ever made for the thirty year, multi-trillion dollar oversight. It’s political and social institutions were Potemkin villages kept alive by little more than inertia yet on the outside everything appeared normal, and if not healthy, at least it seemed monolithic in it’s outward appearance.
The structural rot that had taken hold after the death of Stalin had become the central pillar of Eastern European civilization and the foundation upon which it was built- the blood of tens of millions of murdered citizens- softened the ground further, leading to it’s eventual implosion five short years later. On the 26th of April a failed experiment at a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine initiated a slow and steady series of system failures, leading to a full blown meltdown that forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of inhabitants from the exclusion zone.
Most Americans recall the event as a catastrophic ecological disaster that threatened- at that time- to spread radioactive particles across wide swaths of Europe, poisoning the groundwater that fed the Dnieper River, leading directly to the Black Sea. No one was certain in the aftermath of the extent of the damage, nor of the ability of the Soviet system to respond truthfully to international inquiries. It was assumed throughout the Free and Democratic nations of the West that the USSR was incapable of sharing anything that would reflect poorly on their ability to govern.
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