Brent Scowcroft, adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush: The Soviet Union went through a period of aging or unhealthy leadership, and Gorbachev brought the power to stimulate the system. Exactly how to promote, we do not know, and I’m not sure what he knew. But what he did in fact – he asks the question: “What must I do to the Soviet Union continued to operate?”
And I decided that the best thing he can do – is to improve labor productivity. He organized a campaign against alcoholism, absenteeism, corruption. In addition, he was trying to encourage the Communist Party to hold intra-party reforms. He was not a democrat, but trying to achieve greater efficiency of the system and reduce the degree of suppression and oppression. And then, in the course of these reforms, he underestimated the system.
On Gorbachev and nationalism.
Brent Scowcroft: I think his main incorrect assessment concerned the forces of nationalism. I think he believed that nationalism was deeply stifled by the system and he had the character of Soviet nationalism. Not Russian, not Ukrainian, Belarusian not. I think that’s really undermined his system.
On the Berlin Wall.
Brent Scowcroft: In fact, Gorbachev contributed to fall of the Berlin Wall. Not because he supported our efforts, it so happened that we were working in the same direction. Fall of the Wall frightened him. And he was careful not to resist it.
We have tried to promote the revival in Eastern Europe, the desire for independence. But this time we were trying to be smarter. Starting in Berlin, Hungary, Prague, we are, if anything, inspired by the uprising and the Soviet Union them suppressed. We would like once again to inspire, but inspire so that the sharpness of the situation has remained below the level at which Moscow would find it necessary to intervene to suppress. Of course, we did not know what exactly should be the pace, but that was our strategy.
Our strategy was to encourage the efforts of Gorbachev. When we first heard that the wall in Berlin was opened, we were not sure, but it invited the press in the Oval Office, and the president made a statement.
Journalists were asked: “Mr. President, you do not look too winged. We think you will go and dance on the wall “.
The President replied: “I am not an emotional guy.” He tried to say in fact that all benefit from the Cold War. There were no winners and losers have won everything. And we did not want to offend Gorbachev, saying: “Look what we did!”
About the end of the Cold War.
Brent Scowcroft: I prefer to consider the end of the Cold War, the reunification of Germany and a joint approach to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
On Yeltsin and Gorbachev.
Brent Scowcroft: I think one of the most important elements of how, in the end, there was a collapse of the Soviet Union, was the growing hostility between Gorbachev and Yeltsin. They started as friends but later estrangement between them was growing rapidly. And when there was a putsch against Gorbachev, Yeltsin wanted to use this situation against Gorbachev. How can you remove Gorbachev? Just pull out from under it, the Soviet Union. And I think the end of the Soviet Union, its technical end came mostly because Gorbachev lost his job.
On August putsch.
Brent Scowcroft: The coup failed, and for us it was strange, because these were people whom we most feared, the KGB and the army. The likelihood of success has been great. But the coup was not seriously prepared and implemented. And the central role played Yeltsin standing on a tank with slogans.
He knew that the military suppression of the will. This was followed by an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union Gorbachev in the form of a voluntary system, but it was too late. As I said, he underestimated the strength of nationalism.
On the Chinese model.
Brent Scowcroft: What did the Chinese? They changed the system economically, providing people purchasing power, still had control over the system. While Gorbachev did just the opposite: he tried to change the spirit of the people to change the system. Was it worth it to try to do it another way? That we will never know.
On the legacy of Gorbachev.
I think his legacy – the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the system, because if he was a man of another type, say, another Brezhnev, the system could exist for some time. Although ultimately it would be broken down. But this does not necessarily have to happen at a time. The collapse of the Soviet Union occurred precisely because of the actions of Gorbachev: he has destroyed the very foundation of the system.
On today’s Russia.
Brent Scowcroft: I think this is a country that is still looking for his soul. Since the days of Peter the Great in Russia are the internal debate over whether they belong to Asian culture or European culture, not taking advantage of the Enlightenment and the Reformation.
I think this debate continues today. So far we have seen only three leaders: Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin and Medvedev may be mentioned. They are all very different people and try to do different things. But I think it will take several years before the Russian, in the end, they realize who they are and what they are. And maybe it’s over what they say: “We Europeans”.
Brent Scowcroft: It is clear that Putin has always been a decisive force. And do not think this will change. Putin saw that style Medvedev was useful. If it is anything to upgrade in his indignation, in fact, you can just feel his indignation about how the Cold War ended. He even told us: “When we were weak, you’ve gone over our heads.”
The instinct of the Russian Security has always been based on the expansion of the external borders and the increasing strategic space, right or wrong. I do not think that Putin is trying to recreate the Soviet Union. But creating a friendly neighboring countries could be part of such a strategy.
On the “reset”.
Brent Scowcroft: I think the “reset” in a sense, was a ruse. And I think it is useful, because its goal – to build a relationship with Putin and his resentment at the fact that we have “passed over the head.” We “reboot” to start all over again to build a friendly relationship to move forward.
Date of airing November 9, 2011.
Windows to Russia!
- Gorbachev: Russia Moving Backward Since 1991, Needs Change (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Mikhail Gorbachev vs. USSR. What about Russia? (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Gorbachev wants perestroika for America (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Is Political Rhetoric in Russia Being Stirred by the West? (windowstorussia.com)
- Putin Has Radio Svoboda On His Mind (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Gorbachev hopes for economic unity of post-Soviet space (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Three chapters of history (news.windowstorussia.com)
- Podcast: Stepping Out Of The Shadow Of The Soviet Empire (news.windowstorussia.com)