40
$\begingroup$

A common topic in alternate history fiction works is the question what would have happened if a major conflict had been won by the other side. These usually focus on the events after the conflict, and the change itself is not depicted in a realistic way: it's either not discussed, or attributed to a superweapon or deus ex machina.

I know that the Cold War was a complex time, with a huge number of social and economic factors in it so that there was not single realistic "miracle" which would have guaranteed a certain different outcome, therefore I list a number of disclaimers, in order to make this question fit into the topic of this site.

It doesn't have to guarantee a Soviet triumph, but it has to significantly increase its probability. A victory doesn't necessarily mean complete global domination. If the Soviet Union ends up in control over most of the Eastern Hemisphere, it would count as a victory for the Communists.

The change has to be a single event, or a collection of tightly coupled and interdependent events. It has to happen either during the Cold War, or not more than a few years before it. The Cold War should, at least in the beginning, look very similar to what happened in real life: the alliances should be roughly the same, the events like the war against Nazi Germany, the occupation of Eastern Europe, the Communist victory in China, and a cold war between the USA and the Soviets should occur (or at least begin), even if at different dates or different order. The major participants should be the same.

The change should have a realistic justification (so no secret Soviet UFOs), I would think in the following changes: events progressing slightly faster or slightly slower than in real life, a single large event or series of interconnected evens tilting history in the Communists' favor (if that had even a small chance of happening).

I'm thinking along the lines of the Soviet Union and its allies advancing faster against the Nazis and crushing them before the Allied landings in Normandy, or Stalin not butchering his officer class so they could respond effectively to the Nazi invasion right away, faster scientific development for the Soviets in electronics, computers, space, missile and nuclear technology, the Soviets invading Japan before the Americans can mount a Pacific campaign, no US intervention in the Berlin Blockade, Korea or Vietnam, or a different sequence of diplomatic events leading to Soviet domination in either Asia or Europe which in turn could lead to a victory on the other continent, etc.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I will gladly credit this question for inspiration. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 8 '15 at 18:13
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That's funny: here in Russia we think that "both sides gave up on Cold War", while Western propaganda consistently boast how "we won and USSR lost it". This alone speaks a lot on who's agressive side in this. It is also funny to read other answer from Western readers that all insist that winning is somehow only possible by conquering more. People, you're just too hellbent on domination. Here in Russia and back in USSR people wouldn't care about you at all as long as you don't get your nose in our business. OTOH, you treating it as ongoing conflict that you must "win" back since WW2 or even bef $\endgroup$ – Oleg V. Volkov Dec 10 '15 at 16:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 10 '15 at 23:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @OlegV.Volkov "That's funny: here in Russia we think that "both sides gave up on Cold War" What evidence is there that the West gave up on the Cold War? The collapse of the enemy. That's not what "gave up" means. "This alone speaks a lot on who's agressive[sic] side in this." no, but it does say a lot about Russian historical revisionism: "we didn't lose, both sides just gave up!!" LOLOLOL $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 28 '17 at 8:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here was me thinking that, as it stands at the moment, the Russians are edging a lead in a Cold War that's still very much alive in the respective president's heads... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Apr 12 '18 at 10:37

22 Answers 22

40
$\begingroup$

Let's try this: in late spring of 1952, the Warsaw Pact launches a surprise invasion of Europe, and succeeds in sweeping NATO off the map. Great Britain is either overrun or remains free at your discretion.

Mid-1952 is chosen for the following reasons: Stalin is still in charge, and the US is bogged down in Korea. Stalin understands, on a gut level, that it's perfectly possible for a conventional conquest of half of Europe. After all, he'd already conquered the other half. The US is heavily engaged in Korea, and particularly air and artillery assets have been diverted to the effort. Combined with the general post-WWII decline in low-level American military effectiveness (which is being addressed by the US as a result of Korean experiences), Soviet armored forces are able to move faster than expected.

The elephant in the middle of the living room, of course, is the question of how to keep the conflict from going nuclear. As late as the mid-60s, I heard an ROTC officer casually mention that, in the absence of nukes, a reasonable projection of the USSR invading Europe had the Russians reaching the English Channel in two weeks, and the whole thing would go down in our history books as a classic doomed defense.

So, how to deal with this? Well, in 1952 neither U2s nor reconnaissance satellites were in operation, so intelligence about Russian military capabilities was very spotty (which would also work in the Russians' favor in assembling the invasion forces). The Russians had touched off their first nuke about 3 years earlier, and if they claimed to have produced more units than they had (which they did in any event) it would have been hard for US decision-makers to disregard those claims. Without ICBMs, threatening the Russian heartland with nukes via bomber delivery, especially if Great Britain is out of the picture, would have been a dicey proposition. The first jet strategic bomber, the B-47, had only been deployed for a year, was available in small numbers, and had teething problems. The primary strategic bomber at the time, the B-36, had the range and payload capability, but was horrendously slow (240 - 300 mph) had a 40,000 foot ceiling, and would have been easy meat for MIG15s. Further complicating a successful defense is that fact that, as the invasion progresses, tactical nukes become less desirable from the point of view of the invadees, who justifiably may conclude that they would rather not nuke their own people, and who are unimpressed by "It became necessary to destroy the village to save it".

EDIT - Per David Grinberg , a few additions. 2 weeks is indeed aggressive, but the distances are remarkably short. The classic choke point for a westward Soviet advance is the Fulda Gap, and from there it's only 400 km to Amsterdam, and 500 to the Cherbourg Peninsula. I'm assuming that the NATO armies were subject to the same sort of victory disease which had infected the US when they arrived in Korea. See Task Force Smith for depressing reading. It takes a certain amount of hard knocks for an army to get its collective head out of its peacetime arse, and the defenders simply wouldn't have had that luxury. From this distance in time it's hard to realize just how far the US Army had fallen from its WWII effectiveness levels, but reading about the early stages of the Korean war is educational. Again, this sort of thing is fixable in fairly short order (and with a lot of blood shed), but the defenders simply wouldn't have had much time.

I do not have an attribution for the quote I heard. It was casual conversation with an ROTC officer.

The USSR reputation mentioned is only partly applicable. For instance, the 1945-1952 period saw the introduction of the T54 tank with no real matching change in the US armory. And the Soviet steamroller is arguably the approach to use in Europe prior to the introduction of changes such as portable anti-tank missiles and precision munitions. The Germans, for instance, were unwilling to adopt defense in depth (since that meant starting with the assumption that they were going to lose a lot of territory, and they didn't have all that much to give up), and this left them vulnerable to getting their defensive forces hammered and shattered. With the Germans gone, the northern route over Belgium and the Netherlands into northern France does not seem like all that hard a push. And, as I say, the distances aren't all that great. 400 km (250 miles) is 2 weeks at an average of 20 miles per day.

Strategic surprise on the part of the WP forces would have been critical.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Few notes: You should add that the US didn't have ICBMs until 1957-8. Can you also add some references for the 2 weeks claim? That sounds a bit aggressive to me. Also, the UK got their first nukes in 52, so how would the USSR prevent the UK's nukes? Finally, the USSR had a reputation of having old and outdated equipment that didn't fare well when it went too far from home. Are you sure that wouldn't come into play here? $\endgroup$ – David Grinberg Dec 8 '15 at 22:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In the timeframe you mention, what German army? The Allies might be willing to nuke their occupation zone. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 9 '15 at 6:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for MiG-15 remark. US nuclear strike would be via night raids and I thought Soviets got a gap there until MiG-17P circa 1954. I didn't know MiG-15 (actually MiG-15bis) was used as a night fighter successfully - it was used against night raids of B-29 in Korea. $\endgroup$ – kubanczyk Dec 9 '15 at 12:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg while in WW2 Soviet equipment was only good for a few hundred km before the need to pause for a heavy maintenance cycle; even as it was being ground into the mud the German army remained an effective fighting force. If the US forces in Europe were as dysfunctional as the army in Korea was at the start of the invasion; a few hundred km of successful attack might be enough to destroy it as a fighting force. At that point even with a large portion of their hardware dead lined for maintenance there wouldn't be anything to stop the bits that were running from continuing the advance $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Dec 9 '15 at 16:08
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast: The Warsaw Pact was founded in 1955 (as was NATO). In 1952 you only have Soviet troops. No Germans and no relevant other forces. Remember: It's only seven years after WW2, most of Europe is still in ruins. $\endgroup$ – Martin Schröder Dec 14 '15 at 21:47
31
$\begingroup$

Operation Overlord ending in disaster.

Hitler not falling for "it must be Calais". Rommel getting free reign to position his troops, and meeting the landing force early on with massed troops and tanks. The weather forecast being wrong and the troops having to land in heavy winds. There are so many well-known things that could have gone wrong.

With the advance in Italy stalled, and no easy way to pour Anglo-American troops into Europe, that would have meant the Russians steamrolling all over a collapsing Germany, and possibly all the way to the Atlantic too.

No real foothold for the USA in Europe, and all the spoils of war (jet and rocket technology, the Uranium, all the nice technology and brainpower that in our timeline got split up between the two powers) going to Russia alone.

No NATO. France, West Germany, Austria, none of those end up as part of the "western world". Wernher von Braun and his colleagues building ICBMs based on their A-4 / V-2 experience, not for the US but the Soviets.

That alone should have shifted the balance.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Yup, absent an allied frontline meeting them, Stavka would have gladly kept pushing past Berlin to the Atlantic ocean if they could. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Dec 9 '15 at 19:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think you understand the context of the Allied invasion of Europe. Stalin was forcing their hand to act as soon as possible, as the Russians were barely able to hold the line any longer (and that's with a massive amount of supplies coming in from the US). If the Germans repulsed the invasion forces at Normandy they would have then turned their attention back to the Eastern front, and who knows what might have happened? Their victory would be far from guaranteed. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 10 '15 at 21:44
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM: I don't think you understand the WWII timeline. Operation Overlord was summer 1944. Let's have a look at a year before on the eastern front: 6th Army capitulates in Stalingrad. At the Battle of Kursk, the Germans fail at their last strategic offensive on the eastern front. Charkow, Donbass, Kiev are lost, the Wehrmacht in full retreat. In the Atlantic, the U-boats ceased their wolfpack attacks on atlantic convois due to unsustainable losses. Only then came the invasion of Sicily and Italy, which stalled at the Gustav line. Sorry, the US were quite late to the party. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 11 '15 at 7:53
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM: It's a sad fact that US perception of WWII is quite skewed. They faced pretty much second-string troops for most of their campaign. The few exceptions have a specific ring to them: Hürtgenwald (where the Allied advance threatened the marshalling area for the Battle of the Bulge), and the Battle of the Bulge itself -- which was defeated not by US ground forces, but by lack of supplies. Sorry, but Russia broke Germany's military might. The US didn't even face it most of the time. What they did bring to the table was supplies, and air power. That did its part, but on the ground... $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 11 '15 at 8:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Rome fell after five months at the Gustav line. And if Overlord failed, there would be lots of assets available to aid in an Italian campaign... for both sides, and after tens of thousands of Allied soldiers had died on the Normandy beaches. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 11 '15 at 10:48
24
$\begingroup$

I could think of a couple of scenarios:

  • Trinity fizzles and the Manhatten Project stops to a crawl. The US wins WWII anyway, much as they did in the real world, then they demobilize almost as much of their Army. (The Navy becomes the strategic force, with conventionally-armed carriers ruling most oceans of the world.) A decade later, the US has only a few dozen first-generation bombs. During some crisis (Hungary 56?) the Soviets overrun Europe with conventional forces.
  • Communists win elections in one or more NATO countries in Europe. That's not completely far-fetched, just assume that the voters of the socialist parties got more extreme. Either cue the domino theory, or violent oppression which cripples those nations. The economic strength of the West goes down and the Soviets can out-produce them.
  • Chinese and Soviet leaders cooperate effectively. Improbable considering the rivalries, but it could be done by convincing just a few people ("hang together or hang separately"). China industrializes more quickly. The lower efficiency of communist Economies is compensated by much larger numbers.

Edit/clarification: I did not want to belittle the Soviet part of the WWII victory. I meant that the US defeats Japan much as they did in the real world. A fizzle of Trinity might have delayed Little Boy long enough for conventional firebombing to cause a Japanese surrender, and that would have slowed the post-war nuclear program.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Just Trinity fizzling wouldn't've mattered. We did the trinity test because we weren't sure if the highly complex implosion design of Fat Man would work. We didn't test Little Boy before use because the gun type mechanism it used was so simple that there was no doubt it would work. The increased delay before dropping a second bomb might have extended the war; but even if we weren't able to debug the implosion design for several more years there would be a US nuclear arsenal. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Dec 9 '15 at 16:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The US wins WWII anyway, much as they did in the real world. -- I beg your pardon? I grant the US winning the war against Japan in the Pacific, but...?!? $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 9 '15 at 18:05
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @Snowman France was a sideshow in 44/45. The Russian army in the east dwarfed the combined US/UK/etc force in the west; and would've taken the Germans down regardless of what the west did. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Dec 9 '15 at 18:32
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @DanNeely: The US providing supplies for the UK and Russia was the biggest contribution. By the time US troops set foot on mainland Europe (1943-09-03), Germany was completely and utterly on the defensive. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 9 '15 at 18:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ japans surender coencides with russia declaring war on japan... Bomb or not the game was over. I have the feeling that the bomb is a graceful excuse. $\endgroup$ – joojaa Dec 10 '15 at 12:46
16
$\begingroup$

Lenin is only lightly wounded in failed assassination. He survives, excludes Stalin from Central Committee and succeeds in establishing New Economic policy which was more capitalism-oriented, like China's Socialist market economy and Stalin does not have chance to cancel it. Cult of personality exists, but avoids worst excesses.

Lenin also avoids executing top military experts as Stalin did, so USSR is better prepared for war with Germany, and victory is one year faster (Germany is defeated in autumn 1944), and more decisive for Red Army - USA meets USSR on German borders with France, over-running Germany completely and including whole Germany in Eastern block.

As a result, Werhner von Braun and his team is captured by Russians, (instead of by USA, Operation paperclip ) and USSR has vastly superior rocket technology than USA does (no Redstone rocket, winning space race and landing on the moon before USA does. After stealing results of Manhattan project with their superior spies, and putting stolen nukes on top of their superior rockets, USSR is dominant superpower.

Cold war is won, but let's continue:

Split with China's communists is avoided (by power of Lenin's cult of personality), and China's economic reforms, modeled of Lenin's NEP, can start 20 years sooner, avoiding the disaster of Great Leap Forward.

If you feel extra generous, USSR also invites Jewish scientists expelled from Germany, like Einstein, increasing scientific prestige of USSR for relatively cheap price.

With ability to direct huge resources of state-owned companies, and special natural resources like rare metals, USSR and China can buy lots of influence in Europe and can guarantee their allies better security (or else, such security guarantee would be of course blackmail, but heck, it does work) and access to rare metals and other resources. USSR and China insist on transfer of technology and know-how as condition of access to their markets (and have access to German engineering skills).

World looks much different. USSR won the Space Race (using the same Saturn V build by von Braun, but launched from Baikonur) with appropriate gain in prestige (increasing it's ability to recruit spies). And possibly by now there is USSR-China-Germany joint Permanent Moon Colony, which is working on electricity-powered rail gun to launch humans to Mars. Yes, it costs trillions. Trillion is about a dollar per day per citizen each year. USSR/China/India sphere of influence, with total population 3 billion and including Germany and possibly all Europe, can afford it, especially if they don't need spend much money on army.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I was just about to post this same answer! My only addition was going to be the USSR seeming much more appealing post-WW2 to the European countries, which form an alliance with the USSR instead of the US. With Europe operating as a cohesive block and the US lacking non-Soviet trade options, American communists win control of the government, promising integration with the USSR. $\endgroup$ – ckersch Dec 10 '15 at 23:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The Russians never trusted their German rocket scientists. They got the Germans to teach their own Soviet rocket scientists everything. The Germans didn't work on Soviet rockets. Russian space engineers would have done the rest. Von Braun would have watched Korolev's rockets land on the Moon. This doesn't change your Soviet won Space race. It only clarifies a small detail. The Russians had more reason to hate the Germans. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 30 '16 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android - Yes, I agree that "Von Braun would have watched Korolev's rockets land on the Moon". But without Stalin's paranoia, collaboration would be better - and Korolev was able to build R-7 which is most successful rocket family, still going strong. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Oct 18 '17 at 14:27
14
$\begingroup$

This doesn't seem hard. I always thought it was pretty amazing that the U.S. won.

I can easily posit one triggering event: Ronald Reagan loses the 1980 election. Instead the winner is a weak pacifist.

Then the U.S. remains paralyzed and humiliated by the hostage crisis in Iran. The U.S. develops no strategy to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Afghanistan falls, and so the rest of the Middle East, already Soviet-leaning, becoming solid Soviet allies. Any that don't are invaded or subverted. The Soviet take-over of Grenada is unopposed. Emboldened by this, the Soviets, acting through Cuban and Grenadian proxies, take over other governments in the Caribbean, and then in central and South America. Meanwhile, the U.S. begins dismantling its nuclear arsenal while the Soviets give little or nothing in return, perhaps with the idea that this gesture of peace will somehow win over the Soviets, perhaps because the U.S. is outmaneuvered and/or duped in arms control talks. You can write a variety of endings to that story, but the general theme is a U.S. declining in military power and political influence until it cannot stand up to the Soviets.

Scenario 2: The Soviets invade western Europe. They tell the U.S. that if it tries to intervene, they will launch a full-scale nuclear attack. The U.S. is not prepared to sacrifice tens of millions of its own people to save Europe. It engages in some face-saving gesture but backs down and does little to stop the Soviets from taking over all of Europe.

This scenario seems eminently plausible to me. During the 1960s and 1970s there was talk of a "telephone war": the Soviets would call the president and tell him to surrender, and the U.S. would cave in rather than risk a nuclear war. I don't know if there's any evidence about what the Soviet government really thought at the time, but many Americans believed that the Soviets were much more willing to take casualties than Americans were. Many Americans believed that as long as the Communist Party was confidant that their leaders could survive in bomb shelters or remote areas, that they would gladly sacrifice millions of ordinary Russians if that's what it took to win a war. But the United States would not.

Many people questioned at the time if the United States would risk a nuclear war to defend Europe. Many have said that the job of U.S. soldiers in Europe and South Korea was and is not to repel an attack, but rather to die, so that the United States would have to go to war to avenge their deaths.

Scenario 3: Subversion. There were plenty of communists in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. It's popular today to laugh at the paranoia of Joe McCarthy et al. But in fact when the Soviet Union fell and westerners were able to access KGB files, it was found that most of the people McCarthy accused of being communists were, in fact, paid spies in contact with the Soviet government. One book I read claimed that literally EVERYONE that McCarthy accused turned out to be either a member of the Communist Party, a paid Soviet agent, or in contact with the Soviet government. I haven't researched it to find out if that's true. But it's clear that the Soviets did have a systematic program to plant agents in the U.S. government, and that even without that, there were plenty of Americans who were communist "true believers". It's not that hard to imagine that if these efforts, by Soviet and by American communists, had just been a little more successful, that communists might have taken over the government -- won a majority in Congress, elected a president, etc -- the U.S. could have turned communist, the two sides declared unity, and the Cold War ended with a communist victory. Harder to pick one single triggering event for such a scenario. Maybe this scenario is less plausible than others: more and bigger things would have had to happen differently.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Uh, the Soviets got bogged down in Afganistan with little aid from US at first. The equipment and troops deployed there were no where near enough to deal with the mountainous terrain and gorilla troops hiding is said mountains. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Dec 8 '15 at 23:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Ronald Reagan loses the 1980 election. Instead the winner is a weak pacifist. " Already done. "American Dad" has an episode imdb.com/title/tt0920930 where Stan goes back in time to the early 70s, in passing convinces Martin Scorsese to give up coke. Scorsese makes "Taxi Driver" with John Wayne instead of Robert DiNiro, which is so bad Hinckley does not try to assassinate Reagan. Without the sympathy from the attempt, Reagan loses his second term to Mondale, who surrenders to Russians after 47 days in office. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Dec 9 '15 at 0:15
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ There are gorillas in Afghanistan? ;) $\endgroup$ – fgysin Dec 9 '15 at 13:38
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ I find scenario 1 unlikely. By 1980, the Soviet Union was already well on the way to collapsing under its own weight. President Reagan may have helped things along some, but he was mostly just lucky enough to be the guy who happened to be President at the time when the inevitable finally occurred. If "a weak pacifist President" had won instead, the USSR would probably still have collapsed right on schedule. Maybe a few years later, but not by too much. If you really want to change the course of history, you'll have to move the fulcrum back a lot further. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Dec 9 '15 at 18:28
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Jay: Sure, but the Roman Empire wasn't built upon an inherently contradictory ideology that could never be stable long-term. The USSR was: it expected the people to put aside greed and selfishness and cooperate for the good of all, while at the same time explicitly rejecting and even attempting to stamp out the one aspect of human nature that can actually get people and populations to do so: the religious impulse. The Romans weren't that dumb. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Dec 11 '15 at 0:33
9
$\begingroup$

If Henry Wallace had become President of the United States.

In our world, of course, Henry Wallace was the U.S. vice president in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term (1941-1945) but not the fourth term -- Harry Truman was selected as FDR's running mate instead. Truman became president when FDR died a few months later.

The policy set by President Truman, and generally continued by his successors, was to contain communism. Truman backed up this policy with major efforts including the Marshall Plan to economically rebuild Western Europe, the Berlin Airlift to sustain West Berlin during the Soviet blockade, and the Korean War to stop communist North Korea from taking over South Korea as well.

Wallace, who was far more sympathetic to communism and the Soviet Union, would have had very different policies. It's easy to imagine President Wallace presiding over an era of unimpeded communist expansion. Especially since...

Had Wallace become president, a number of the men to whom he intended to give cabinet and other top positions were Soviet spies or agents.

"Just When You Thought Soviet Propaganda Was Dead," by Ronald Radosh, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323482504578229663495014162

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ 'Had Wallace become president, a number of the men to whom he intended to give cabinet and other top positions were Soviet spies or agents.' This already happened. Check out Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White $\endgroup$ – Mauser Dec 10 '15 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Mauser Wallace as President means that there would have been more Soviet spies in DC. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn - Nice statement, but untestable. My point was that we already had soviet agents getting top cabinet positions. Harry Dexter White engineered the Bretton Woods agreement and was chief architect of the International Monetary fund, for goodness sake. $\endgroup$ – Mauser May 15 '17 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ White was a Communist spy... who designed the economic system (Bretton Woods) which ensured decades of US domination of the world economy. Thanks, Communist spy!!!! $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 15 '17 at 15:17
4
$\begingroup$

Option 1 (fast). The Marshall Plan for reconstruction of Western Europe after WWII is badly mismanaged. That would both badly weaken NATO and discredit the U.S. and capitalism in general in Europe. Then multiple NATO countries go communist in about the 50s or early 60s.

Option 2 (slow). The Cold War takes a couple more generations and the spread of communism and radicalism within Western academia produces a generation of leaders the Soviets can co-opt.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I have to wonder if the ideas of communism and radicalism would have spread within Western academia if the Cold War was still ongoing. It seems to me as though it's one of those things that we're now separated from to the point that we are able to focus on the good parts. If we were still involved in the Cold War, I can't see communism/socialism/radicalism gaining that foothold, because it'd still be "the system of the enemy". $\endgroup$ – John Robinson Dec 9 '15 at 20:06
4
$\begingroup$

A significant nuclear accident on US soil, ideally before Sputnik.

It would have two major impacts:

  • Americans would grow more distrustful of nuclear work, removing public support for the arms race.
  • Americans would look inwards to fix the accident, both leading to less support for foreign relations and more money and political capital spent on this rather than the space race, which in turn harms American influence around the world.
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Nope. Not nearly enough. Sure, some US policies might change, but the USSR had major issues of its own which were already well on their way to causing major economic issues. Their collapse would come no matter what the US did with its nukes. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 10 '15 at 21:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There was a nuclear accident on US soil in 1959. It was only a few miles from where I grew up. It was no Three Mile Island, but it was a partial meltdown. I'd like to say the government covered it up, but they hardly even knew it happened, or how serious it was. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_Reactor_Experiment $\endgroup$ – Mohair Dec 10 '15 at 23:14
4
$\begingroup$

1948: Truman listens to his top advisors and the Berlin airlift does not happen at all. The Soviets see no serious opposition from the West and continue their piecemeal conquest of Europe. France perhaps installs a communist government even before the Russians arrive. The Russians, for decades, do not have to guard their western frontier as they had to from the end of WWII to 1991. The lack of NATO means the Russians can seize Middle East Oil relatively easily. Facing only the Chinese as a real threat and with free oil, the Soviets don't collapse despite the inherent flaws with real socialism/communism and with the way they actually practiced communism.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Operation Unthinkable is launched. One the verge of VE day the allies attack the Soviet Union. And they lose. They are pushed out of Europe. The large oceans between the two powers turns to a cold war, which the now dominant USSR wins.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

It's all about the economy

The Soviets eventually lost the cold war because their economy lagged horribly behind American. Free enterprise allowed the Americans to innovate, improve and export.

A booming economy meant plenty of tax dollars to spend on weaponry and research.

Ultimately Star Wars lead to glasnost and perestroika

The Star Wars missile defence system would have lead to a whole new arms race. Gorbachev recognised that the ailing soviet economy could not afford to keep up, and so attempted reconciliation, a policy which ultimately lead to the fall of the Berlin wall and the break up of the USSR.

The solution is to improve the Soviet economy

A capitalist society allows lots of people to "have a go". Most of them will fail, and when they do, that company goes down. Some will succeed. Ultimately the economy improves.

A communist society on the other hand allows centralised bureaucracies to make decisions for everyone. If they fail, everyone loses. It's a more brittle system because there's a single point of failure.

We now know that Communism and central control ultimately lead to corruption and bad decisions. However at the time of its conception, this was far from obvious.

Some alternative form of central control might work better. Some sci-fi concepts might be:

  1. Control by an AI or alien intelligence which is incapable of making wrong decision.
  2. Competition amongst bureaucracies, backed by accountability.
  3. Eugenics, or genetic manipulation creating a smarter ruling elite.

A more prosaic solution might be a communist/capitalist hybrid such as we now see in China.

References:

http://www.academia.edu/8275555/Causes_of_the_Collapse_of_the_U.S.S.R._under_Mikhail_Gorbachev

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Your own source mentions that people as far back as Khrushchev recognized the need for reform. No SDI back then. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 20:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 because it really is all about the economy. But you only really needed the last line of your answer -- if the USSR only needed to implement just a few of the reforms that are now making China rich in order to have survived. $\endgroup$ – Simba Oct 18 '17 at 14:23
4
$\begingroup$

I hate such brutal actions as tank attacks. To properly rule time, you need to look deeper for minimal reality changes. Read The End of Eternity

Start with Charlie Wilson, US senator who helped to arm Afghan guerrillas with shoulder-lauched Stinger missiles. USSR has total air superiority until then. Before his first trip to Pakistan, Wilson had hit-and-run car accident, but was able to leave USA before investigation started.

Stop him from leaving, and put him in jail instead. No Stingers, USSR uses its air superiority to brutally suppress Afghans, in which looks like a military victory. Good enough for Gorbachev to claim victory. USSR is victorious, USA is humbled. USSR does not collapse.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The USSR was collapsing anyway, because of low oil prices. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 20:36
3
$\begingroup$

Event: Manhattan project (the atomic bomb) fails or at least is delayed by five years.

Inmediate result: - Delay on the ending of WWII in absence of an atomic bomb. Hence Soviet Union occupy all Korea (so Korea war never happens), USA wastes more resources to finish off Japan, Japan ends more devastated. - Increment of resistance to japanese occupation forces in Asia (Vietnam, Phillipines, Malaysia, Indonesia) => Increase of local Communist power. - Land and Lease exports from USA to Soviet Union continues for a longer time.

Potential results: - Vietnam liberates by itself of Japan occupation. So France does not try to restore their colony there => Vietnam war comes early. - Soviet Union can invade occidental Europe or South Asia because no deterrence is available without an atomic bomb. - Taiwan might never exist, because japanese forces are still there. China is a single country.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

WW3 happens

Any nuclear exchange would most likely end in USSR owning what's left of Europe. There were several periods when one of the sides had advantage in ICBMs over the other (or at least they thought they had). But it was merely an uninterrupted string of "NO" decisions made back then. Any of them going "YES" would result in both sides owning their half of nuclear wasteland.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That would be a Pyrrhic victory. $\endgroup$ – Trang Oul Dec 11 '15 at 11:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TrangOul Probably yes. Nevertheless, it satisfies OP's criteria. If he wants to tweak more, he can give Soviets faster development of ICBMs and have the outcome acceptable for Eurasian side. $\endgroup$ – Agent_L Dec 11 '15 at 11:13
2
$\begingroup$

Of course this is cheating, but instead of relatively weak 1959 Yellowstone earthquake let's have full scale Yellowstone Supervolcano explosion.

1 foot of ash 1000 miles downwind (east) all the way to Denver. Inch up to Chicago, St Louis, and almost to Austin, TX, and Washington, DC. 100K people die immediately. Ash is not like wood ash, more like glass wool. Animals cannot graze and die. Water sources are polluted. All transportation north of Albuquerque, NM disabled for months.

How yellowstone supervolcano eruption works

USA has other problems than trying to win Cold War. Space Race was never a race - USA cannot afford the entry ticket. Tens of millions of refugees, with lungs damaged by silica (and deaths for few decades). Cornfields of Iowa under 4-8 inches of ash. Engines in car are damaged by bust and break often, increasing the cost of maintenance. Etc etc.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Nor sure I would rate this as USSR winning. They lose less badly than USA, but it would be fairly horrible globably. $\endgroup$ – Taemyr Dec 11 '15 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Globally there could be a cold summer or two, and global economy will slow down somewhat. But damage will be centered in USA. USA will be devastated, no more a superpower. Vast areas of prime agricultural land unusable for many decades. Look at the map. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Dec 11 '15 at 17:06
2
$\begingroup$

The author did not specify what he considers the winning criteria.

So, here I envisage the development. This is from the point of view of expectations of an optimistic Soviet citizen.

Let's start in mid-1980s. The only change you are asking for: the Perestroika went well.

As the ideological basis for further development was chosen the "Convergence theory". That is, the idea, that Capitalism and Socialism converge to a single highly-developed and highly ethical, just society. The USSR started to develop into direction of Scandinavian countries (with which the USSR already had a lot in common). But instead of introducing of Capitalism, Soviet planning system was thoroughly reformed to utilize huge computing power of newly-available computers as well as market-like machanisms dealing with virtual "currency" that would provide feedback. The system was, say developed in international cooperation, with European countries, and as such, was introduced there as well, and in other countries worldwide. This produced the international real-time planning system, that would gradually replace stormy and unpredictable "capitalist" market exchanges.

The relations between the USSR and the rest of Europe is deep multi-dimentional cooperation. In ethics, the USSR was able to convince the majority of the world that big financial inequality, free markets, paid healthcare and education are unethical. So, along the transition to real-time planning, most countries in the world also introduce welfare state.

This is not the case of the USA though, which refuses to participate in this new international real-time planning mechanism, and whose citizens still do not enjoy welfare state (free healthcare, education, guarantee from becoming homeless etc). This is viewed worldwide as vestiges of the wild and cruel past, and completely unethical (as well as usage of capital punishment which is abolished worldwide). Many in the US agree with this point of view.

Finally, a huge financial crisis strikes the USA, who is not protected by the regulation mechanism the rest of the world uses. Many become homeless and bankrupt, there are race riots and all other bad things happening. Finally, a left-wing politician of the type of Sanders comes to power, and cites Scandinavia as a model for development. He openly says he supports Socialism (but not as radical as in the USSR he says). This is universally agreed in American society as the only possible way to go. The USA joins the international planning system, introduces free healthcare and other social guarantees.

So, in this scenario, the USA still remains, but the USSR is at the lead in science, international cooperation and economic development.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Paul O. Müller was was a Austrian theoretical nuclear physicist who was stupidly drafted into the the German army and sent to die on the Russian front at Pechenkino near Sukhinichi on March 9 1942. Instead of having him die have him be captured and then the Soviets use him to run a separate nuclear program rather than use the Rosenberg's to steal the information from us. That way they could be on a par or even ahead of us.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

In 1991, a group of hard core Communist Soviet officers organized an attempted coup d'etat. This was the Avgustovsky Putsch or "August Putsch". The idea of the coup was to oust Gorbachev and roll back his attempts to reform the Soviet economy in order to compete with the United States (and avoid starvation, frankly, as the Soviet economy slowly ground toward a complete standstill).

Gorbachev and others had long known that the USSR had to reform it's economy with or without pressure from the USA (since a collectivist, centrally controlled economy has never worked in all of human history), but the "Star Wars" program initiated by Reagan had really underlined the need to compete with what the US could afford to spend on military R&D. (Why was it so important? Because if the USA could reliably shoot down Russian nuclear missiles, the entire balance of terror is totally thrown out of whack and the USSR becomes little more than a 2nd world military with a 3d world economy).

In our alternate reality, the coup is successful. Hard line Communists succeed in capturing the centers of power in the USSR. Glastnost is stopped in it's tracks. There is no "privatization" (and lawless chaos) under Yeltsin. Instead, the old guard politburo members who hold on to power through sheer force of rolling tanks through the streets of several major cities keep the secession wave to a minimum, only losing 2 or 3 Soviet Republics and maintaining control over Ukraine.

The USSR economy is still a complete wreck though, but that would soon cease to be relevant.

Desperate in the face of ongoing domestic turmoil and constant shortages and lacking a singular, charismatic leader thanks to the balance of power held by several senior Politburo members and generals, the Soviet junta decides that desperate times call for desperate measures and seeks to negotiate with the EU.

In the aftermath of the heady and massively hyped reunification of Germany, the liberal leaders of Western Europe are receptive to overtures from the USSR for a diplomatic end to the Cold War, and even allow a vote on officially allowing the USSR to join the EU, despite loud objections from the USA.

Amid tremendous media fanfare, the EU and USSR officially begin a complicated series of pacts and deals that will eventually lead to a de-facto merger between the two economic spheres. What the junta don't tell their people is that in effect, many of the measures of Glasnost and Perestroika will be implemented in any event in order to allow for inter operable and relatively free trade with Western Europe, but these reforms will be staged, will vary from region to region, and will be heavily regulated.

Within 5 years, it's all over but for the crying from the USA (which does not stop). As Germany, France, and other major European powers have to choose between their utopianist "European Project" and the NATO alliance they don't want to pay for anyway, NATO is relegated to the ash bin and declared obsolete as it eventually becomes a US-UK-Turkey club with little realistic hope of "containing" anything.

In the USA, the election of Bill Clinton stifles a lot of the howling from Washington, which frees up the EU-USSR bloc to really consolidate. Brussels and Moscow have a lot of bureaucratic infighting to figure out, but in the end, Russian tanks trump French farms and the USSR does radically outnumber any other member of the club. Following the pattern of forcing the UN to count USSR member states as nations for purposes of voting in the UN, the USSR does the same trick in the EU Parliament, dominating the decision making process within 10 years.

This all leads to a "Brexit" rather earlier than in our real history (I'd say by about 2004 at most). In the meantime, the still desperately sick economy of the USSR has effectively sucked the life out of Western Europe even as it systematically extended military control all the way to the Atlantic coast.

Rising gas prices help the EUSSR recover economically as well as a singularly dramatic event in New York on Sept 11, 2001. After what amounts to a religious war against the USA is declared, the EUSSR wisely steps aside and facilitates the US "War On Terror" while secretly feeding arms and supplies to anyone shooting at US troops. After 8 years of rising costs with no clear benefit, a US President is elected (Obama) with an agenda that amounts to "full retreat" on all fronts.

The EUSSR spends 8 years spreading influence around the world while oil prices remain high thanks to an endless war on "Terror", and America's economy stalls. By managing the ongoing friction between China and the USA, the EUSSR emerges as the dominant global superpower despite a still very shaky economy and vast discrepancies in lifestyle between it's Westernmost and Easternmost regions.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ By 1991, the USSR was going to collapse, no matter what Reagan did. Their economic system was so dysfunctional that it would have collapsed in 1981 without the 1970s oil shocks. In fact, more important than SDI was Carter's 1979 executive order to remove price controls by 1981. The resulting glut caused Soviet oil revenue (which was a significant source of hard currency) to tank. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 18:11
0
$\begingroup$

No Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 - the Soviets basically buy off the government in Prague instead and use it as a showcase for Westerners. The major unrest in Europe that was ongoing at the time does not lose its significant pro-Communist slant and Left election victories sweep through Europe, leading to countries like France leaving NATO and adopting a "Czech-like" soft-socialism or "Finland-like" capitalist nonaligment approach.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

In the end of the 80s the KGB knows that the USSR is losing the Cold Ward as they can't keep the pace of the arms race with the USA, Soviet economy is near to collapse and even communist control over the USSR is unsustainable. However, they just switch from arms race to intelligence and prepare a plan in order for the KGB to controll both the USSR and the USA.

First of all, they let the Soviet Union collapse - they can't avoid it anyway - but put some agents in key positions of Russian administration under Yeltsin. In the 90s one agent becomes prime minister and even president of Russia in the 2000s. Meanwhile an elite agency of KGB agents and spies - now with a new name - keep gathering relevant information on American politics and using it to fuel their political allies in USA and to keep them under control.

In the 2010s the Russian puppet candidate becomes president of the Unites States, backs Russian invasion of former Soviet republics to rebuild the Russian Empire, stops any American effort to support democracy anywhere (specially in Russia and its satellite states) and disrupts US international trade causing American economy to collapse until a point it can't afford its military budget while wrecking the US diplomatic position on the World by making as many enemies as possible.

Then, US forces are withdrawn from overseas, US are isolated and somewhere between a rump state and a Russian puppet, and the Russians can peacefully take the world. The KGB has actually won the Cold War about 30 years after the dissolution of the USSR.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Acknowledging that the Soviet Union would collapse -- as would the Warsaw Pact -- doesn't answer the question of how the Soviets would win the Cold War. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ Who are the Soviets? In this story line the Soviets rebuild the Russian Empire and take over the USA and the world - under the tune of the Soviet hymn. If the name bothers you, In the end they could even style themselves USSR and restore its flag or even rename the UNO as USSR. In fact, the main difference between my answer and the question is that the Russians win a few decades after the nominal end of the Cold War, although historians in my alternate time line might say that the Cold War ended in the 2010s or the 2020s. $\endgroup$ – Pere May 14 '17 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ "Who are the Soviets?" You need to do a bit of research before asking such questions. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, I'm not asking you. Have you ever heard about rhetorical questions? (No need to answer this question). Whether a world ruled by former Soviet officials and a former Soviet organization qualifies as the Soviets winning the Cold War doesn't relates to historical research. It is just about the question scope. Let historians in the alternate timeline decide when the Cold War ended and let's enjoy the fiction. $\endgroup$ – Pere May 14 '17 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ They aren't Soviets if they aren't part of the Soviet Union. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 14 '17 at 18:19
0
$\begingroup$

Depends on what you consider winning (your question mentions control of Europe, but by that standard nobody won, and 'control of [geographical region]' is a pretty poor standard - imagine the Nazi nuclear program going well until it doesn't, spreading radioactive dust in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, making it a wasteland for the next 500years. The western Allies (sans Britain, that now only sports five sheep, having 8 heads among them) go: 'yeah, keep that shit') - and what you consider to be the Soviets. I'm keeping your vagueness (hah!) and answer thusly: While the US build their nuclear arsenal, the Soviets don't - without a nuclear shield they don't bother with the tank-tsunami at the borders of Europe either. They exploit that moral highground and instead pour their industrial potential into the civilian uses of nuclear energy. The strains of the Manhattan project, and the following nuclear program on the US were greater than usually acknowledged - the strains on the USSR are sometimes credited with her downfall. Now those strains only pertain to the US. Europe does not quiver from the threat of Soviet nuclear bombs, and Soviet tanks, and instead worries about the hypercapitalist US swinging their dick around with nukes in their pockets. To even out the increasingly monopolar power structure, the EU is created earlier, and far reaching treaties are made with the USSR and the US. More nations loose less than they did in reality, including the USSR, thereby making her the 'winner'.

$\endgroup$
-1
$\begingroup$

Soviets don't go over the Germany, but stop at the border after gaining some territories in Europe. That way it would still have all the benefits from those countries, but would leave Germany with some army and with Hitler, so it would still do some harm in France, England and so on. US and other countries would lose more lifes, taking more time to recover.

This "extra" that Soviets didn't expend on Germany could be used to help China against Japan, so that Japan wouldn't be a US ally after the war.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ That’s entirely unrealistic. The desire for destroying the German invaders and marauders was what kept the Red Army fighting despite heavy losses. Also, conquering land in the East was Hitler’s main motivation, occupying France etc. just needed to be done to make that possible. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Dec 10 '15 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ Well, in that sense, all answers are unrealistic, since no one is able to test the hypothesis. And the question was very clear: "there was not single realistic 'miracle' which would have guaranteed a certain different outcome", so I don't think the OP was expecting a 100% proof. $\endgroup$ – woliveirajr Dec 11 '15 at 11:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You would at least have to provide a reason to make their stop at the border somewhat believable. Occupying Eastern Europe was not the SU’s or Stalin’s top agenda. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Dec 11 '15 at 11:32

protected by James Feb 1 '17 at 15:08

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.