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lics of the Soviet

Union, it contains

much more. The

Russian title,


Kremlya (After the


, is more

apt because the

book presents important

thoughts regarding history, democracy,

international relations and the external

events that influenced Russia’s revival of


These themes are worked into an

account of Gorbachev’s own activity

from 1992. Being the object of vilifica-

tion by Stalinist forces who accuse him

of destroying the Soviet Union to please

the “West,” he makes a vigorous effort to

defend his record. His account, it must

be said, rings true, while his accusers’

charges are vicious invention. After

all, it was his nemesis, Boris Yeltsin,

who conspired to destroy the Soviet

Union while Gorbachev was trying,

with the moral and political support

of the United States, to turn it into a

democratic federation. And it was Boris

Yeltsin who first appointed the current

president, Vladimir Putin, to the post.

Gorbachev is unsparing in his criti-

cism of President Putin’s actions that

undermine democratic institutions and

inhibit the political habits that make

democracy work, but he does not make

the mistake of calling it a retreat from

democracy. Gorbachev knows well that

Russia has never had democracy; what

he achieved with the reforms he cham-

pioned was the possibility of developing

democratic institutions.

What Russia had in the 1990s was

more akin to crime-infested anarchy

than true democracy. The myth in the

“West” that Russia was “democratiz-

ing” under Yeltsin survived even his

military attack on an elected legislature

Gorbachev’s Lament

The New Russia

Mikhail Gorbachev, translated by Arch

Tait, Polity Press, 2016, $35/hardcover,

400 pages.

Reviewed By Jack F. Matlock Jr.

When the Soviet Union came apart at

the end of 1991, the nuclear arms race

between the United States and the USSR

had ended, a negotiated peace that ben-

efited all parties had replaced the Cold

War, and the Iron Curtain that divided

Europe had vanished. We seemed to be

on the threshold of a new Europe.

President George Herbert Walker

Bush called it “a Europe whole and free.”

President Mikhail Sergeyevich Gor-

bachev called it “our common European

home.” Bush went further as he assem-

bled a coalition to oppose Iraq’s occupa-

tion of Kuwait, proposing nothing less

than “a new world order.”

Now, a quarter-century later,

rhetoric emanating from Moscow and

Washington resembles that of the Cold

War. Government officials and armchair

strategists in both capitals speak of geo-

political competition in terms that were

once reserved for the struggle between

“communist slavery” and the “free

world.” They seem to ignore the fact that

Russia is no longer communist and is,

in most respects, a totally different state

than was the Soviet Union.

Anyone puzzled by the way the

unity and hope of the early 1990s has

morphed to the division and fear we

are experiencing today will benefit from

reading and pondering Mikhail Gor-

bachev’s latest book,

The New Russia


Its contents cover more than its English

title suggests: while it does give the

reader a running account of events in

Russia after it shed the other 14 repub-


in 1993 and the patently fraudu-

lent presidential election of 1996.

For most Russians, if conditions

of the 1990s could be attributed to

democracy, then democracy was

not what they wanted. The potty-

mouthed pronounce the Russian






For diplomats, particularly Ameri-

can diplomats, Gorbachev’s descrip-

tion of the impact U.S. policy had on

internal Russian developments and

Russian external behavior is instructive.

Gorbachev feels betrayed not only by

Boris Yeltsin and those who broke up a

democratizing Soviet Union, but also by

the successors of those Western leaders

with whom he cooperated to end the

Cold War.

The Western leaders of his political

generation gave him broad assurances

in the transformative years 1989 and

1990 that they would not “take advan-

tage” of a liberated Eastern Europe; that,

in the words of Secretary of State James

Baker III, “NATO jurisdiction would

not move to the East, not one inch,” if a

united Germany was allowed to stay in

the NATO alliance. This was not a legally

binding obligation, and the subsequent

expansion of NATO was not a bad idea

because it was a broken promise. It

was a bad idea, period, if the goal was a

Europe whole and free. Europe would

inevitably stay divided unless Russia

were embedded in a system that united

the continent rather than perpetuating


The progressive expansion of NATO

to the east was only part of the prob-

lem. The Bush-Cheney administration

withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic

Missile Treaty that had served as the

foundation for U.S.-Soviet negotiations

to reduce nuclear weaponry. That, along