hrushchev’s son discusses Russian economy, politics at U

Nathan Arnold

Dr. Sergei N. Khrushchev, son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, discussed the current economic and political situation in Russia on Saturday at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
He also gave some insight on his father and his actions during the Cold War.
Sergei argued that the West’s interpretation of why the Soviet Union attempted a transition to a market economy was incorrect and that the assumption of Soviet defeat in the Cold War was wrong.
Instead, it was the country’s lack of innovation and the growing difficulty of centrally managing an ever-more-complex economy that continually dogged the Soviet economy.
“In the 1980s, it became clear that the system must be changed,” Sergei said.
He explained the market economy of the West presented a more efficient model than the Soviet command economy, where the government controls and plans production and distribution of goods and services.
The young reformers of the post-Soviet era stopped following the writings of Marx and turned to the economic theories of the Western economist Milton Friedman. The problem, Sergei said, was that while Friedman wrote about running a market economy, he did not explain how to transform a command economy into a market economy.
The new Russian economy failed because, although the rules for a market economy were put in place, there was no foundation for the market economy to rest upon, he explained.
Sergei became an American citizen in June of 1999 amid much fanfare of how the son of a Soviet Premier who led the Soviet Union through the height of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Space Race, could choose to become an American.
The former premier was well known both for his loud, outspoken manner and for his atypical antics. During a United Nations assembly, for example, he once removed his shoe and banged it on the podium to make a point.
Sergei has far different memories of his father’s political career than those who observed him from the West. The younger Khrushchev said he saw his father as a peacemaker and, despite his firm belief in Communism, he was not a proponent of the Cold War.
During his father’s time, there was an “arms race in the U.S. only” and his father’s main goals were not military might but housing construction and agrarian improvement, Sergei said.
The former premier reduced the Soviet Army in size from 5.5 million men to 2.5 million, his son said, and was more interested in spending resources to improve the lives of everyday people than on expensive military projects.
Sergei was born in 1935 and accompanied his father on many major foreign trips. He was a control systems engineer, worked in the Soviet space and missile programs, and was also involved in the development of the Soviet cruise missile.
The younger Khrushchev is published extensively on the topics of Russian security, politics and economy. His most recent book about his father is titled “Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower.”
Sergei, a senior research fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies, currently resides in Rhode Island.