It’s now starting to be time for all the Western commentators, the op-ed writers, journalists, political analysts, academics, businesspeople and sundry Kremlinologists who acclaimed the “New Russia” that supposedly emerged after the fall of Communism to publicly admit that they were wrong – that what really took place was a co-ordinated attempt at a gross deception intended by a cynical post-Soviet elite to make the world believe in a manifest falsehood. There were reasons for this willingness to be duped. The liberated nations of Eastern Europe, the states of Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were genuinely liberated, able to begin the return to the democratic traditions of their pre-1939 existence, and many people in the West rightly greeted this with relief. In Russia, however, no such return took place, for the simple reason that there had never been any democratic traditions in Russia to begin with. A euphoric mood of “let’s make believe” took hold of many Western observers of the Russian political scene.
Yet if they took a closer look, they could see that in essence nothing had really changed in the halls of power within the Kremlin. Sixteen years ago, on December 14 1992, Andrei Kozyrev, the foreign minister of the newly-fledged Russian “successor state”, made a speech in Stockholm – in connection with the then newly developing Balkan crisis – which outlined the true nature of Russia’s foreign policy. Though Kozyrev treated his audience to a theatrical turnaround in which he claimed that his statement was a “rhetorical device”, intended to show the power of those who opposed the supposedly “liberal” tendency of the new government, experienced observers realized what was afoot. The speech went as follows:
I am obliged to introduce corrections in the general direction of Russian foreign policy. I wish to inform you briefly about these to the extent that they concern CSCE problems.
First: While fully maintaining the policy of entry into Europe, we clearly recognize that our traditions in many respects, if not fundamentally, lie in Asia, and this sets limits to our rapprochement with Western Europe.
We see that, despite a certain degree of evolution, the strategies of NATO and the WEU, which are drawing up plans to strengthen their military presence in the Baltic and other regions of the territory of the former Soviet Union and to interfere in Bosnia and the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, remain essentially unchanged.
Clearly, sanctions against the FRY were dictated by this policy. We demand that they be lifted, and if this does not happen, we reserve our right to take the necessary unilateral measures to defend our interests, especially since the sanctions cause us economic harm. In its struggle, the present Government of Serbia can count on the support of the great Russia.
Second: The space of the former Soviet Union cannot be regarded as a zone of full application of CSCE norms. In essence, this is a post-imperial space, in which Russia has to defend its interests using all available means, including military and economic ones. We shall strongly insist that the former USSR Republics join without delay the new Federation or Confederation, and there will be tough talks on this matter.
Third: All those who think that they can disregard these particularities and interests – that Russia will suffer the fate of the Soviet Union – should not forget that we are talking of a state that is capable of standing up for itself and its friends. We are, of course, ready to play a constructive part in the work of the CSCE Council, although we shall be very cautious in our approach to ideas leading to interference in internal affairs.
It’s time now to go back to the history of those early years of the Yeltsin government and to discover what really happened in them.