tv The Presidency George H.W. Bush Clinton Yeltsin CSPAN February 18, 2018 8:00pm-9:06pm EST
russian president boris yeltsin, and how they influence the new russia after the dissolution of the ussr. the university of virginia's cv looked at the complicated histor -- miller center look to the complicated history of the u.s. and russia. it included discussions of franklin, richard nixon, and ronald reagan as well as the russian counterpart. this is about one hour. >> as with the end of the cold and justthtaking speed when you think you are beginning by 1992, what happened wait there is a new administration in office and we are going to have that explain to us. >> let me start with a couple of ironies.
reporter,ber as a when the bush administration came in, it was a little reagany with the administration going out. , therecall a pause secretary of state wanted to make sure he was not captured by the building and that kind of thing. years later the clinton administration came in, all i can say is bill clinton picked up exactly where bush 41 was. it was an extraordinary transition. inauguration, a number of people including those you have heard from, and are going to hear from during the rest of the conference were calling their counterparts who
were coming in under the new administration. anothers, of course, ironic dimension of the bush 41 to clinton administrations. that was, bill clinton knew it masterly wayf the in which president bush had warled the end of teh cold and the sensitivity he brought end in made the cold war a reasonably peaceful way. clinton,r president before he was president clinton, when he was a president-elect saying i will not do the southern accent -- bush is
really something. he has acted like a very skillful, very prudent, very for mikaeld control gorbachev as he tried to bring this rickety thing down for a soft landing on the ash heap of history. had the coldthat, war continued, let's put it this in august of 1991, if they had succeeded bill clinton would not have had much of a chance to unseat one of the most successful and revered foreign policy presidents we have ever had. because of the great
contribution mr. bush had to yield the white house. that, i am going to give you a little sense of what his death president clinton's view of the situation was. a responsibility to keep the cold war over and to do everything possible to help boris yeltsin. help boris yelton in many ways, a number of which particularly involved money, that was contrary to the advice that he was getting from many people in his own administration. also was clinton determined to forge a personal relationship with yeltsin, not
only because he was the first democratically elected leader, but also because he was fairly determined to try and make democracy stick. illusent clinton had no ion on how hard this was going to be. no illusion. 1993, this is one vignette, in the midst of the black hawk down catastrophe in mogadishu, clinton was constantly moving from the real situation room to a made up situation room we had over in the state department. calling, withng, how yeltsin was doing with the mayhem in the streets in moscow. the violence had emanated from
attack onment, the the tv studio, and other facilities, and then finally, when he had felt he needed to use force to squash the rebellion. yeltsinworried about all the time. almost every conversation i ever heard from him, he had a combination of apprehension and admiration, sometimes though the admiration played second fiddle to the admiration as you can imagine. never did he ever waiver on his support for yeltsin. especially when the alternatives you got off --e other leaders who challenge and 1996n 1993
respectively. in short, clinton knew that the tsin reforms -- yels may fail, he never considered sinceg our bets, that would increase the prospect of failure. little bit say a about the bill of particulars of sins of -- alleged omission during this time. they have come up over the last 20 years. they have certainly come up in the last 24 hours. did the united
not rescue the post-soviet economy with a martial plan. forward,r has been put most recently by bob dylan. forcally, it would not have because of the political and economic environment that we were dealing with. remember, the marshall plan works for postwar world , and an allied occupation to keep order and enforce rules. the united states did what they could on the economic front with russia. notably working through bilateral and multilateral
institutions to jury rig a safety net to help a vast number of russians who lost the benefits of the welfare state. yesterday it was suggested that arrogant know it all americans swooped in to patronize the russians on how to build a democracy. in fact, the russians in the government and in the suddenly burgeoning civil society pleaded with the united states to help coach them on institutions and processes. what were we supposed to do? were we to refuse those requests, of course not. , ither point on the list addressed yesterday the issue of the tension between the united tsin's russials
over the balkan wars. george h.w. like bush handled gorbachev during the gulf war. reiterate, the united states and nato had to deal with the first major genocidal war since the 1940's. russia was a critical, diplomatic, not a military partner, but a diplomatic bring itith us in conflicts to a peaceful conclusion. least, there is a perennial, if not eternal debate over nato. , itwe not expanded nato would have been a grotesque double jeopardy for the nations
between russia and the west. couple havewhat a said in the earlier panel, we were not thinking of europe as gall divided in three parts. europe thinking of a that was whole and free. between,ntries in those in between countries, have suffered under the third reich only to be liberated by the red army so that they may suffer under stalin and his successors for the next 40 years. it would have been a triple jeopardy if we have let them m staythenme let the
in a strategic vacuum. pact nations could not have been taken into the european union without the nato security umbrella. europeans were left in strategic limbo, they would have very likely rearmed to the strategic disadvantage of their economies. they may very well have claimscted territorial with their neighbors, basically throwing that part of europe into conflict and chaos. furthermore, the u.s. and our allies did everything possible to convince post-soviet russia that it was not a target or
deterrence for nato. the participants who are active in creating the partnership for peace and the nato russian council during the clinton and bush 43 administrations. bottom line, the so-called missed opportunities are phantoms, they simply were not realistic or prudent, or contra double alternatives -- constable alternatives. two final points, yes, the ussr lost the cold war. that because it was defeated by rather it was defeated by itself. is its murderous self-defeating system. yesterday, while the russian empire achieved
record-breaking longevity, the soviet union had the biblical lifespan of three score and 10 years. it was a political monstrosity. expired mercifully from a congenital disease that was inside ay a spore arrived in that 1917. gorbachev did his very best to cure the ussr and he failed. yeltsin did his very best to cure post-soviet russia and he failed. this,are the facts, so is vladimir putin, while he has jettisoned marxist leninism has
back to its disastrous path. he stresses the inability to cultivate a major economy. i would add another list. rule from above and ruled by fear, the big lie at home and abroad. , institutional corruption, a paranoid view of the west, a point that was d, and at the very en new form -- a hybrid form of cold war. that putinbelief is will fail precisely because of his resurrection of a critical mass of fatal flaws that brought
the soviet union itself down. finally, a hope that a number of us have expressed during the last day, we can hope that be not successor, may immediate successor, will return to progressive reform that does succeed and russia can indeed friendswhat russian that is a to 1968, modern normal country. [applause]
svetlana: i feel very honored to be here. thank you so much. an incredible experience of brainstorming. ofis a great experience looking at history and tried to see if there are any lessons. i am trying to be optimistic. mentioned anere opportunity, a possibility that in the future there may be a new chance. talbot justrobe told us, there may be a new leader who would improve and maybe we will get an opportunity. what should we do then? we should be prepared.
how do we get prepared for that opportunity? i think we should really study the 1990's. we should study the 1990's very close and try to understand what happened in the 1990's. for that study, i could point lot of russian experts, even gorbachev who said the mistrust is not new. the roots of mistrust appeared in the 1990's. let's try to understand. , inso would like to mention helping us understand the 1990's , of course, there are so many new documents coming out. one of the sources we should all look at is the book that strobe ofbott wrote which is one
the best books on soviet u.s. relations. it is empathetic, it is very detailed, it gives us an insider view of what is happening. it also includes a lot of documents. i have used it extensively in my research and i just want to thank you for writing that book. let's remember how the clinton administration comes to power. the clinton administration inrts dealing with russia the beginning of 1993. it is quite a situation. it does not start at ground zero. it does not start in december 1991. by that time the clinton administration comes to power, the basic main choice in europe is already made. that is the choice to strengthen nato, itreinvigorate
not yet to expand nato. certainly, thinking along those lines must have been there. it was certainly there on the soviet side. it is already the moment when the russian liberals begin to think, those people who don't see data less threatening, they began to publish articles on international affairs, saying nato -- the strengthening of nato is supplanting, it is taking away the energy from what building newas european structures, expanding the european integration, and nato is taking away or supplanting this. bigould talk about imaginary thinking, really the common european hope was to completely integrate the soviet union and russia in the family
of nations. there were other possibilities rather than strengthening nato at the time. as many people pointed out, even in negotiations with gorbachev in 1990 over the german reunification. a lot of attention was given to -- what was compared to the common european. new european structure, changing the nato character to be a more political structure, the nine tonts, all of that seems quietly disappear from the attention of the u.s. policymakers in 1991 and 1992. this is on one hand, russia now has -- it is feeling not integrated, they want this partnership. the russian hand,
economic reform, the liberalization and privatization that starts in 1992, by the end of 1992 it did not produce any real result. it was painful for the end of 1992by the the inflation was 2500%. this initial grand, deep support by the economic reform russian population is becoming diluted, people want to slow down the reform. people want to change the reform. you're very natural when living conditions, when your salary, everything you see around you is deteriorating. theuld like to stress that reform itself, the democratic reform, and the market reform, it was not imposed on russia. this is an important point to be
made, it was not impose, it was the russians choice to go with that reform. the team of russian liberals who chose thed yeltsin more american based version of their reform. good of adebate how decision that was while they -- while the soviet union was a total command economy, now they are going to a market radical version, even more of a free market than in the united states. the choice was theirs. there was a lot of american advisers. asked for american advisers to teach them how a free market economy works. was thecratic choice
russians. the democratic choice in the yeltsin administration was very high. it was a very idealistic time. we all believed democracy and russia was possible. we all believed a mixed or free market economy was possible. we had big ideas at that time. so now, looking back, i am thinking some of the alternatives that were posed are a little bit of a strawman alternative. we are talking about -- when we discuss economic aid to russia we immediately say there was no possible plan. what you notice, what they were martialfor it was not a plan, there could be other forms of support to russian reform. i will look out -- not go into detail.
more favorable restructuring of debt. investing in searching, specific structures -- sectors. could pay pension salaries for teachers, and doctors, there were these proposals there. russianhear that the grievance there was not enough eight, the response is, we could not deliver a plan. extremethat is a wrong metaphor that does not belong. i would just like to quote an imf representative in his book, he said in the view of what was at stake, it is also unconscionable how little the rest of the world was able to provide in support of the countries post soviet union transition. to west, in retrospect, seem
amass a nuclear armed country with a disintegrating political and social structure, looks reckless. i think he is right. marti not talking about a plan, but more economic aid. the economic eight that was committed by the united states, i think it was only $2.5 billion. dynamic.ted this wrong the consultants were paid to go to russia and help, where the russians felt they could have used this money better for other reasons. it is a question if they could or not. that created this image of the arrogant americans coming in and telling people what to do. , when youi think that look at the materials coming out , some u.s. archives
russian archives are also available. debatesthese internal in the states about russia and such sources are memoirs, you will see the priorities proclaimed were very right priorities. was veryimself committed to the russian reform. i believe, and i think with this there is a real difference between the bush administration , and the and engaging clinton administration started right away. sayingr what clinton is is democratic reform is the top toority, we want russia become a democracy. we won't russia to become a democracy. it, wouldhink about
russia become a democracy? the clinton administration is very a wear of the road the mystic, political strains and constantly points to congress why they are unable to provide more aid, why congress could not respond with sanctions if russia cover iran. understand --not they understood but the way they sawht yeltsin's -- yeltsin's political constraints, he is the only democrat in town. we have to support him, no matter what. supremere is the soviet. that is all communist brown and red. you have the election of 1993, now the parliament is
democratically elected. there is still the communist brown and red. in 1995, parliament is again democratically elected. -- any yeltsin opponent is treated like a monster. if they oppose yeltsin's monster andey are a are about to take the country back to stalinism. that is certainly not a democratic way to treat your parliament. two times that yeltsin used massive force, first against the parliament -- no matter who was in parliament. bloodas the first time was spilled massively and moscow since 1917.
in 1991 there were three people who were killed during the putsch, because it congratulates him on his of this handling conflict. the second time, probably even more hurtful for the emerging russian democracy is the war in chechnya. when the human rights activists are trying to engage the west to put pressure on yeltsin to stop this war or at least limit the human rights violations. real atrocities, president clinton comes to moscow and he meets with yeltsin, everybody expects him to put pressure on yeltsin. time that chechnya comes up with that, is when he is
speaking. happens? 's book, healbott spo says in the beginning of the of illustration they were concerned. people around clinton were concerned, you are becoming too personally committed to yeltsin. you should be more politically aboutted -- more serious this. clinton shows he is very indeed committed to yeltsin. this asd sees black-and-white. he says it is a zero-sum gain. democracy cannot be a zero-sum game, it is a compromise. democracy, you should encourage interaction between the president and the parliament. it was the u.s.
'fault, a lot of their leverage could have been done. russia has itself to lose, it did not need somebody to lose it. ,oming back to the priorities this priority was support for democratic development in russia. there were many priorities, as always in the u.s. russia relations. i think a very important priority was to make sure the nuclear mechanical, and biological weapons were safe and secure. very important case of cooperation. the program were nuclear weapons were withdrawn from the ukraine, kazakhstan, belarus, the united states really came through to help secure the russian
mechanical weapons. that program produced real cooperation cannot military and military, politician to politician. storiesperation pretty of success, friendship, and ability of these people to trust each other, connect with each other, and work in the future. there were other priorities. certainly, expanding nato was a big priority for the united states. a lot of time, i think in the u.s. public statements, also --ernally they cheated treated yeltsin's resistance to the idea of = his resistance as pr. when you look at yeltsin, he in 1995 that for me to agree to the borders of
nato expanding towards russia, that would be a betrayal on my part of the russian people. political the russian spectrum, the opposition to nato was so strong, among liberals for different reasons. among the conservatives, the only issue in which there was a consensus was nato expansion. yeltsin and his entourage proposed various possibilities to take it slower, to create other cooperative structures. the united states proposed partnership for peace, the way it was proposed is that it convinced yeltsin that they were not stupid people, they heard what they heard, the partnership for peace would be an alternative to nato expansion. is not happening
right now. it is the partnership for peace russia will be integrated just as eastern europe. that point was not true. we can talk about it later, we just a have time. i will now pose the question of priorities, very often in the waements you can see there these high priorities. moment, inrticular and clinton. those priorities were superseded by priorities of the day, i would say the common priorities and clinton, russia and the united states, were superseded by priorities that were more unilateral.
for example, building up democracy and sticking to the principle of democracy was superseded by the issue of nato expansion. all of these conversations that we have now, they don't vote so much more time to issues like trade with iran, neil expansion is a major issue -- nato expansion is a major issue. it the, when you look at actual support for democracy becomes very low on the agenda. support for liberalization is very high, there was also this belief that with economic liberalization, democracy would economicy come because -- economic society is democratic. one thing i would like to conclude with. yeltsin, in every
summit that they had, with many , in a lot of internal documents they talked about the partnerships. the word partnership is used over and over. a strategic partnership. the issue of friendship and personal relationships. ownership, partnership, istnership, this word overused. what do they mean by partnership? if you look at the conversations. the last five years reading gorbachev, reagan, bush yeltsin comes now a completely different conversation. a complete different conversation. the conversation goes something like this. in the beginning, clinton praises yeltsin highly for his
war, heending the cold is a champion of democracy, he praises his skills and successes. then they get to the agenda. includes iranally , nuclear issues, yugoslavia, thenthe nato expansion -- the nato expansion, they change their priority and different conversations. clinton says this is what you should do. this is what you should do, this is in your interest. gradually, among the russian peopleeven very liberal this definition by the united states of what your interests are became very grating. in one of the conversations with insult -- add
insult to injury by telling me what i have to do is in my interest. , that partnership is very acute. it is thetrying to explain what is in his interest. sometimes it goes just like that , words. remember this is what you have to do, remember this is what you always do, boris objects, then he says i understand. the number of times he has this interaction is striking. not well accepted by the russians. the russian liberals came to power, they did not feel defeated, they did not feel that they were going to be taught by somebody. somebody will define their interest.
if you want to be a democratic nation that was in your interest. you have to do that. even if you at that time feel it distasteful. very quickly to hear them talking about the piece -- very quickly.s one of my lessons to putin and whoever is president of the don't use the is word partnership when you don't mean it. partnership, then the agenda has to be defined by both , what is happening in the 1990's -- that is what the russians complained about. the agenda of was defined by the united states. when the russians were willing to cooperate on that agenda, it was a very successful cooperation. on nato expansion.
be careful with the word partnership. also be careful with very close personal association and building up this partnership as the only person. three russia as a country that is trying to become democratic. isn when everything that happening right now, there will not be another opening. when it is, treat other political forces in that country as a legitimate force. monster whoa scary is going to take us back to stalinism. think in the end, i would say if you are serious about russian democratic development, stick your principles and stick to this. sake seriously the other side political pressures. just like you take your own. two words that i would like to
end with our empathy and respect. veryhy and respect are important in the u.s. russia relations. howink it was pointed out roosevelt was able to employ these two. what i am trying to understand, certainly the clinton administration had empathy for russia. the clinton administration had the best effort, they were willing and wanted to help russia. how does that not work out? , weink to learn any lessons have to understand, how is that most well-meaning prepared nation not fulfill its goals? and how does that make russians relive the 1990's?
thank you. [applause] >> what i would like to do, since we are short on time. i would like to take a question jeremy, turn to the panel, and then breathe a sigh of relief. it will have a conversation in a more relaxed setting. ei: thank you for a great panel. the 1990's were extremely important. on one hand, it is a soft landing of a superpower without violence. issues we have today in u.s., russia relations have their roots in the 1990's. ae question that i have is regard to the commonwealth of independent states, putin and said when theeech
commonwealth was great, that was a joined a sovereignty. my understanding of the russian view in general. the russians had a different that they abandon quite seriously. the u.s. role in that was incredibly important. there was the seriousness of independence versus the commonwealth is a form of russian control over the area and limited sovereignty. my question is mostly to strobe , in the clinton administration in the 1990's, those issues were discussed in , whether it was russia versus republic, what the fate of the commonwealth would be, or if it was something that that was the issue
of discussion, it was an inherited from the bush administration that suffer gaming sovereignty and independence means independence, thank you. >> to jeremy. jeremy: it is an external range of issues. might issue of been an analyst and rush at the time, it seems to meet we cannot talk about these issues without talking about the ways in which the privatization of the economy occurred to i just remember being there, seeing people's wealth collapse in front of them. seeing how wealth was stolen from -- right in front of their faces. i know that was not the intention of the clinton administration, obviously not. what have we learned from that ? how can we make sure there is a transition from an authoritarian regime to a non-authoritarian a economicn there is
information, what have we learned going forward? how can we help guide the process in the future? stroke of a wider you start off, then spent a lot of you can have the final word. you can have the final word. strobe: i think this is particularly important for me to hear from you. frustrated, ifit i can put it that way, there is something like a russian month rashomon dynamic and what you are same. i am not clearly convincing you that we, and the president of that we aretates
talking about also understood. let's leave that for a dinner conversation. with regard to this eis, remember theis, cis was already invented when the clinton administration came into office. it was a fact on the ground. a policy to do two things , often in life that we are in tension with each other. as thing was to treat russia one of the 15 -- this goes -- 15 new cis independent sovereign states. we made a lot of efforts, including having cabinet officers, the vice president,
the president himself, those of us in the lower echelon go into as many of the other 14 republics as possible to make sure they felt the united states respected their new status as sovereign. there was one issue, of course, we took the side of russia. wanted, we were dead set on having a russian federation, that was the only nuclear power in what had been the ussr. that caused a lot of diplomatic fortunatelyruggle, we were able to do that.
you didn't touch upon that, that was an issue that we understood, not only from the russian standpoint, i mentioned where we may be today with the relationship between russia and bigine, that was the problem. how dangerous the situation would be. up -- pick upke on one point that you articulated very passionately. maybe even with hurt feelings as a russian, a motional it. not --d partnership does remember, i think it was reagan in the battle days, there is no word for freedom in the russian language.
yes, he did say that once upon a time. there is a word for freedom. there was not a word for partnership. you from the english-language site of the table -- side of the table. .f course it was skewed this was the united states at its -- whatever you want to call polar moment. your country was splattered all over the map of eurasia. the largest part of your country, the one that i assume is yours, was a collapsed state. it had complete disintegrationa
anthem --ology, it's which has come back, of course and system. the skewing was not because we were trying to have our way. the skewing was an objective -- i am going to be very protective here of my president at the time, and very compassionate towards your president at the time. both of them worked to make sure their personal relationships skewed as possible. what we are not going to do is go through all of the particulars. in every one of those particulars, bill clinton was doing the best he could to make sure, in so far of what was
to treat russia as a big player in the world. boris yeltsin himself, as the leader of the country who was democratically elected, i don't know what more clinton could have done. i know you think he could have ore more by either differing canceling the expansion of nato, i have already given my thoughts to you on that. >> did you want to touch on jeremy's question?
what is your take away from that, anything you want to say? strobe: nothing that would enlighten you or make me sound very modest. imagine that if the place,egime remains in even after the disappearance of in putin himself, people that future, is the united states and the political west, if there still is one. at thiso back and look --sode and see if they can hasen to what svetlana
said, what they can bring to the next disintegration of russia. i can imagine, russia is still, lost 14 other republics, it is still the largest territorial state on the planet. forces and itt of -- in it. that down the road, if we do not get another try or if russia does not get another try, of what i would call a liberal reformer, not a all, a czar, that
person is going to have a sense of deja vu and so is the world. that is an important part of what could come out of this conference. i will try to be very brief. wonderful discussion, i wish we had more time. was unable to convince me that they understood. i am convinced that you understood. no, no, i think you understood correctly what was going on. you understood it correctly, it is just your priorities clashed or were not completely clear to you as you were going into your dealings with the russians. yeltsin'stood
precarious leadership, you understood the point he was trying to make. you understood why he used force, you understood why it was difficult for him to end the war in chechnya. rather than try to put some pressure on him or to say, we should focus more on the building institutions and encouraging him to talk to his opponents, even if they do not vote good. i think, while understanding, you felt that yeltsin was the only person in the whole country, the only person -- not who will build democracy, democracy is a messy thing. yeltsin was the only person who could guarantee the united states interest in russia. if we could move in a little bit here.
i think you mentioned three people. no, no.remember -- we had no quarrel with him. timeund before his death, to go and talk to him. if the -- i don't know if this is something i should put forward as something to be proud of or as a confession, the prospect that a communist party would come back and the head of the communist party would come back in 1996 in russia. that was very serious for us. that goes a little bit to privatization and loans for
shares, all of that. i have had, probably over the years, 10,rs, yes 20 12, conversations with david lipman. the guy on the team, was there anything we could do when we saw what the deal was that yeltsin was making with the oligarchs to try and get him to stop doing that? the answer was, probably not. we probably should have tried harder, if we had tried a lot harder, and did succeed, he may have lost. strobe: that is the key. -- know that is the dilemma. svetlana: with certain outcomes, but certain rules and procedures --
strobe: guess what, this is a rules and procedures desert. there weren't rules or procedures. of know, yeltsin was kind like one of those wrecking balls that we see in our cities from time to time. he did a hell of a good job of a ugly piece of architecture. the soviet union. therussian people and citizens of the other countries had to live in the rubble. else whond everybody were well-intentioned had to work with the rubble. rule of law to speak of. intra-russian
mechanisms to have a totally clean democratic process. i absolutely agree. i know you understood it at that time. boughto understood how that election was by the oligarchs and the oligarchs control media. rather than -- i just did not want to turn it into the fact that yeltsin was elected. he was running a dirty campaign. not just because of that. the oligarchs new -- knew. [laughter] number three candidate.
he famously said in one of his campaign speeches, do not worry, this will be the last election you will ever have to vote in. >> he said many things. he would take alaska back. privatization -- very quickly. privatization experience was extremely crucial for the way russians see the 1990's and democracy and free market. ist was built as a result oligarchy. it also disillusioned people. it almost eliminated support for the democracy. people were not idiots.
basic during the time when he was not drunk. it was not the best choice for russia. in their own interest, they framed it as black and white, going back to communism. the fact that privatization happened during that time, significantly undermined his chance to be elected. there was a great missed opportunity much earlier on to slow down the economical force. tell you. institutions have to be built. the pace have to be slowed down. i do not know if that would have but what we know now is that the way privatization actually worked out undermines support for the democracy.
.here were no rules of law everything was sold, including gradually. this was an illuminating discussion. i think we all agree it was a humbling discussion. since the experience that we just heard described is actually not unique to the russian story either, it is probably an issue that will occur. we will articulate crisply tomorrow. thank you to our panel. [applause]
about literary icon mark twain and his ties to the state of virginia. financesdiscusses his as the subject of the latest book on how not to get rich. historical society bnr lecture program is 50 minutes. onto our speaker today. a former senate speech writer alan crawford. he has reviewed books on u.s. history, politics and culture for the wall street journal's is 1993.