by Jonathan Steele for Middle East Eye
… Western leaders also share the blame for Russia’s retreat from liberal politics, which began long before Putin’s installation as president.
Yeltsin’s use of tanks to shell the Russian parliament in 1993 to end an opposition sit-in was a more serious outrage than any of Putin’s domestic policy excesses. The shelling was supported by Bill Clinton and John Major, then the US and British leaders.
They also approved the despatch to Moscow in 1996 of American election specialists, who advised the regime-controlled TV stations on how to discredit opposition candidates in the presidential election. It was an object lesson in media manipulation.
Clinton is responsible for the most egregious betrayal of Gorbachev’s legacy.
The last Soviet leader’s dream that the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany would allow for the creation of a “common European home”, and the end of armed alliances confronting each other, has been airbrushed out of most of this week’s western eulogies. They ignore the malign consequences of the expansion of Nato that Clinton promoted.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov joined forces this week with the chorus of patronising western commentators, saying: “[Gorbachev] sincerely wanted to believe that the Cold War would end, and that it would usher in a period of eternal romance between a new Soviet Union and the world, the West. This romanticism turned out to be wrong.”
One need not go so far as Peskov in adding: “The bloodthirsty nature of our opponents showed itself. It’s good that we realised this in time and understood it.” But there is no doubt that western triumphalism after the Cold War blinded politicians to the need to treat Russia with respect. They preferred to enlarge Washington’s sphere of influence in states all along Russia’s borders.
Finally, we should not forget the legacy-destroying role of former US president George W Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair. Their gratuitous, illegal and unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003 undermined the principles of international law that Gorbachev had done so much to get Soviet foreign policy to conform to.
By all means let us mourn Gorbachev, the man who did more than any of his contemporaries to change the world for the better. But let us not forget that most of the failures of his reforms were not his fault.
Read the full above article here.
Another earlier piece by Steele, Mikhail Gorbachev: I should have abandoned the Communist party earlier.