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What happened, states Mr. Gaidar, is that Soviet grain production stagnated between 1966 and 1990. Meanwhile, 80 million people moved from farms to cities. New Soviet output of oil and gas was not sufficiently expanded to provide the hard currency needed to buy grain abroad. Eventually, the Soviets had to borrow foreign money to buy grain.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, told a meeting of the Communist Party, "We are buying [the grain] because we cannot survive without it," noted Gaidar in a talk to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington last fall. An associate of Mr. Gorbachev had warned in March 1991 of the risk of famine in June if foreign grain wasn't obtained.