tv The Presidency George H.W. Bush Clinton Yeltsin CSPAN February 19, 2018 12:00am-1:06am EST
unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, and the supreme along with public policy events in washington dc and around the country. this is brought to you by your provider.llite >> next on the presidency, a look at the relationships between president george h w bush and will clinton, and russian president boris yeltsin, and how they influence the new russia after the dissolution of the ussr. the university of virginia's center convened scholars at the conference looking at the complicated history between the u.s. and russian leaders in the 20th century. the discussion included assessments of presidents like ronald reagan, and john kennedy are and their russian counterparts. riyad. about one hour to
>> as with the end of the cold war, breathtaking speed and just when you think you are beginning to digest what happened by 1992, 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. i do remember as a reporter, when the bush administration came in, it was a little scratchy with the reagan administration going out. i do recall a pause, the secretary of state wanted to make sure he was not captured by the building and that kind of thing. when four 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. well before 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. there is of course another even more ironic dimension of the to clinton administrations, and that is that bill clinton knew that it was because of the masterly way in which president bush had ,andled the end of the cold war
and the sensitivity he brought at made the cold war and in a reasonably peaceful way. i remember president clinton, before he was president clinton, when he was a president-elect , saying, i will not do the southern accent, but he said -- bush is really something. he has acted like a very skillful, very prudent, very calm, ground control for mikael gorbachev as he tried to bring this rickety thing down for a soft landing on the ash heap of history -- the ussr. thate also knows or knew had the cold war continued,
let's put it this way, in august h back in august of 1991 had succeeded, he would not have had the chance to unseat one of the most successful and revered foreign policy presidents we have ever had. so because of that great contribution, mr. bush had to yield the white house. with that, i am going to give you a little sense of what his , president clinton's view of the situation was. he felt he had a responsibility to keep the cold war over and to do everything possible to help boris yeltsin.
and by the way, help or a sealed sin in many ways, a number of which particularly involved money. that was contrary to the advice of many in his own administration. president clinton also was determined to forge a personal relationship with yeltsin, not only because he was the first democratically-elected kremlin yelpr, but also because and was clearly determined to try to make democracy stick -- was fairlytsin determined to try and make democracy stick. president clinton had no illusion on how hard this was going to be. no illusion. in october of 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, calling, calling, with -- to find out how yeltsin was doing with the mayhem in the streets in moscow. the violence that emanated from the parliament, the attack on the tv studio, and other facilities, and then finally, when boris yeltsin felt that he had to use force to squash the rebellion. clinton worried about yeltsin all the time. in almost every conversation i ever heard from him, he had a combination of apprehension and sometimes, though the admiration played second
the apprehension, as you can imagine. but never ever did he waver on supporting borussia, especially when there were alternatives like other leaders like zu rganov, when they challenged him in 1993 and 1996 respectively to riyadh in short, clinton knew reforms boris yeltsin which he also knew were the or gorbachev-yeltsin reforms might fail. but he never considered hedging our bets, since that would increase the act of failure. let me just say a little bit about the bill of particulars of
alleged sins of omission during this time. on the part of the u.s. government during this period. they have come up over the last 20 years, and on the part of the u.s. government during this period. they have certainly come up in the last 24 hours to riyadh first, why did the united states not rescue the post soviet economy with a marshall plan? the answer has been put forward, most recently by bob dylan. -- by bob zoellick. basically, i would not have worked because of the political and economic in burma we were dealing with. remember, the marshall plan postwarparticularly for
west germany, had the benefit, if you were to put it that way, of a developed economic culture, , and an shattered one 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 rig autions to jerry safety net to help a vast number of russians who lost the benefits of the soviet welfare state. moving along. yesterday, it was suggested that arrogant know it all americans, swooped into patronize the russians on how to build a democracy. in fact, the russians, both in the government, and in the
elderly burgeoning civil society - under borussia, pleaded with the united states to help coach them on institutions and processes. -- civil society under boris yeltsin 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. another point on the list, i addressed yesterday the issue of the tension between the united states and yeltsin's russia over the balkan wars. it was a little bit like the way george herbert walker bush theled gorbachev during gulf war. i will just reiterate, the united states and nato had to deal with the first major genocidal war since the 1940's. also, russia was a critical,
diplomatic, not a military partner, but a diplomatic partner with us in bringing those conflicts to a peaceful conclusion. last but not least, there is a perennial, if not eternal debate over nato. had we not expanded nato, it would have been a grotesque double jeopardy for the nations between russia and the west. i will echo what a couple have said in the earlier panel, we were not thinking of europe as into threedivided parts. we were thinking as president bush said, of a europe that was whole and free. countries in between, those in
-between countries, had 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 in a strategic vacuum. as we thought of it. ex warsaw pact nations - could not have been taken into the european union without the nato security umbrella. if the central europeans were limbo, a strategicall strategic they would have very likely
learned to the strategic disadvantage of their economies, well haveorry very resurrected territorial claims 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. there are participants here who were active in creating the partnership for peace and the both duringcouncil the clinton and of the bush 43 administrations. bottom line, the so-called missed opportunities are phantoms, they simply were not realistic or prudent, or contra double alternatives -- constable conscionableence o
alternatives to the policies look forward t. two final points, yes, the ussr lost the cold war. not because it was defeated by the west, but rather, the ussr was defeated by itself. that is, its murderous self-defeating system. i noted yesterday, while the russian empire achieved record-breaking longevity, thept soviet union had the biblical lifespan of three score and 10 years. it was a political monstrosity. and index hired mercifully from a congenital disease that was -- it expired mercifully from a congenital disease that was induced by a spore inside a railway car that arrived in in the finland station in petrograd in gorbachev did his
1917. very best to cure the ussr and he failed. best yeltsin did his very to cure post-soviet russia and he failed. those are the facts, so is this, vladimir putin, while he has jettisoned marxist leninism has taken russia 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. expansionism, institutional corruption, a paranoid view of the west, points that bob
zoellick raised at the very end, proved that there was a hybrid form of the cold war. my bet, my belief is that putin too 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 putin's successor, may be not immediate access her, but one of his successors, will return to progressive reform that does succeed, and russia russianed achieve what
friends going back to my first visit there in 1968, put very modestly, which is, a modern, normal country. [applause] svetlana: i feel very honored to be here. thank you so much. it is an incredible experience of brainstorming. it is a great experience of -- experiment of looking at history and trying to see if there are any lessons. i am trying to be optimistic. a lot of us here mentioned an opportunity, a possibility that in the future, there might be a
new chance. just like strobe talbot just told us, there may be a new russia and the united states, who would be interested .n improving relations are and maybe, we will get a window of opportunity comparable to the 1980's and what should we do 1990's. 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 you to a lot of russian experts, even president mikhail gorbachev , who said that the mistrust is not new. the roots of mistrust appeared in the 1990's.
so, let's try to understand. i also would like to mention, in helping us to understand the 1990's, of course, there are so many new documents coming out. but one of the sources we should all look at is the book that strobe talbott wrote which is one of the best books on soviet "the russians, hand." it is very honest and empathetic and very detailed, giving us an insider view of what is happening. it also includes a lot of documents. i have used it extensively in my research, and again, i want to thank you for writing that book. so, let us remember how the clinton administration comes to power. the clinton administration starts dealing with russia in the beginning of 1993.
it is quite a situation. it does not start at ground zero. it does not start in december , 1991. by the time the clinton administration comes to power, the basic main choice in europe is already made. that is the choice to strengthen nato, to reinvigorate nato, it to expand nato, but certainly, thinking along those lines must of 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 nato as threatening, they begin to publish articles on international affairs saying -- the strengthening of nato is supplanting, it is taking away the energy from what we would a building of new european
structures expanding the , european integration, and nato is taking away or supplanting this. we could talk about big, imaginary thinking, but really, the common european hope was to completely integrate the soviet union and russia in the family of european 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 reunification, a lot of to what wass compared to the, european hope. new european structure, changing the nato character to be a more political structure, the nine
points, right? all of that seems to quietly disappear from the attention of the u.s. policymakers in 1991 and 1992. this is on one hand. russian now is feeling already not integrated, but certainly want this partnership. on the other hand, the russian economic reform, the liberalization and privatization that starts in 1992, by the end of 1992, it did not produce any real results. it was very painful for the population. by the end of 1992 the inflation reached 2500%. this initial grand, deep support for the economic reform by the russian population is becoming diluted, people want to slow down the reform. people want to change the reform. this is very natural when you're
-- when you're living conditions living conditions, your salary, everything around you is deteriorating. i would like to stress that the to what was itself, both theeuropeanreform democratic reform and the market reform, the liberalization, it was not imposed on russia. this is an important point to be made, it was not imposed, it was choice to go with that reform. the team of russian liberals who were around yeltsin chose the american-based version of their reform. you could debate how good of a decision that was while they soviet union was a total command economy, now they are going to a ,ery radical, free market model
even more free market than it was in the united states. but the choice was theirs. yes, there were a lot of american advisers. as was pointed out, russians asked for american advisers to teach them how a free market economy works. the democratic choice was the russians. the support for the democratic choice in the beginning of the boris yeltsin administration was very, very high. remember, i was a very idealistic time. we all believed moxie and russia democracyall believed in 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 that some of the alternatives that were the democratic choice was the russians. proposed here are a little bit of a strawman alternative. for example, we are talking
about -- when we discuss economic aid to russia, we really say, well there was no marshall plan. but what you will notice is that the russians were not asking for marshall plan, there could be other forms of sub or to russian reform. for example, forgiveness of debt, which of course, was done for mexico. more favorable restructuring of debt. investing in certain specific sectors. for example usa could pay , pension salaries for teachers, and doctors, there were these proposals. yet, when we hear the russian grievance that there was not , the response was -- we could not deliver a marshall plan. i think that is a wrong extreme metaphor that does not belong.
i would just like to quote an imf representative in his book, martin gilman. in his book, hein his book, he e view of what was at stake, it is almost unconscionable how little the rest of the world is able to provide support of the countries in post-soviet union in transition. the west, in retrospect, seem to amass a nuclear armed country with a disintegrating political and social structure, looks reckless." i think he is right. we are not talking about a marshall lamb, we are talking -- plan, we are talking about economic aid. aid that was committed by the united states, i think it was only $2.5 billion. that created this wrong dynamic.
u.s. 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, but it created this image of the arrogant americans coming in and telling people what to do. secondly, i think that, when you look at the materials coming out of the u.s. archives, some russian archives also are available. you see these internal debates in the states about russia and memoirs, youas will see that the priorities proclaimed a very right priorities. , you will see that theof course, clis very committed to the russian reform. i think there is a real
difference between the bush administration coming in and engaging, and the clinton administration starting right away. hear what clinton is saying is that democratic reform is the top priority. we want russia to become a democracy. now, if you think about it, what does it mean -- we want russia to become a democracy? the clinton administration was verythe clinton administration s very aware of its democratic pointed to, and they congress work they were not able to provide more aid pointed to congress, why congress could not respond with sanctions if russia continued to iran. at the same time, i think americans did not understand ir- they understood, but the way fought boris yeltsin choco
political constraints, was by saying -- he is the only democrat in town, so we have to sub him, no matter what. then there is the supreme soviet. well, the supreme soviet is all coming browns and reds. then you have the election of december, 1993. is thee parliament methodically elected, that it is again come in his brown and reds. -- it is again come in just andght -- communist brown reds. if they oppose yeltsin's programs, they are a monster and are about to take the country back to stalinism. that is certainly not a democratic way to treat your parliament. a really not democratic way to
two times that yeltsin used massive force, first against the parliament -- no matter who was in parliament. that was the first time blood was spilled massively and moscow since 1917. in 1991 there were three people who were killed during the putsch. the united states congratulates him on his skillful handling of this conflict. the second time, probably even more hurtful for the emerging russian democracy is the war in chechnya.
when the russian dissidents and 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. president clinton comes to moscow and he meets with yeltsin, and everybody expects him to put pressure on yeltsin. one time that chechnya comes up is when he is speaking. what happens? in strobe talbott's book, he says in the beginning of the of -- the administration, they were concerned. people around clinton were concerned, saying you are becoming too personally committed to yeltsin. you should be more politically committed -- more serious about principles.
clinton shows them that he is indeed committed to yeltsin. he indeed sees this as black-and-white. he says it is a zero-sum gain. democracy cannot be a zero-sum game. it is a compromise. if you support democracy, you should encourage interaction between the president and the parliament. i am not saying it was the fault of the u.s., a lot of their leverage could have been done. russia has itself to lose, it did not need somebody to lose it. coming back to the priorities, the 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, chemical and biological weapons were safe and secure. there was a very important case of u.s. russian cooperation. nuclearram where weapons were withdrawn from the ukraine, kazakhstan, belarus, the united states really came through to help secure the weapons in russia. that program produced real cooperation, military to military, politician to politician. that cooperation pretty stories 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
internally, they treated yeltsin's resistance to the idea of resistance as pr. when you look at yeltsin, he basically said in 1995, that for me to agree to the borders of nato expanding towards russia, betrayald constitute a on my part of the russian people. throughout the russian political 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, that the partnership for peace would be an alternative to nato expansion. nato expansion is not happening right now. it is the partnership for peace in which russia will be integrated just as eastern europe. that point was not true. we can talk about it later, we just do not have time. i will now pose the question of priorities. very often in the documents you can see there were these high priorities. at each particular moment, in
may of 1995. those priorities were superseded by priorities of the day, i would say the common priorities of yeltsin 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, the devote -- they devote so much more time to issues like trade with iran, nato expansion is a major issue. in fact, when you look at it the actual support for democracy becomes very low on the agenda.
support for liberalization is much higher, but the results of this belief that with economic liberalization, democracy would come because economic -- economic society is democratic. one thing i would like to conclude with. clinton and yeltsin, in every summit that they had, with many phone calls, in a lot of internal documents they talked about partnerships. the word partnership is used over and over. a strategic partnership. the issue of friendship and personal relationships. this word is overused. what do they mean by partnership? if you look at the conversation -- i spent the last
five years reading gorbachev, reagan, bush conversations, now yeltsin comes out and says a completely different conversation. it is a completely different conversation. the conversation goes something like this. in the beginning, clinton praises yeltsin highly for his role in ending the cold war, he is a champion of democracy, he praises his skills and successes. then they get to the agenda. the agenda usually includes iran, nuclear issues, yugoslavia and the nato expansion, they change their priority in 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 elite, even very liberal people , this definition by the united states of what your interests are became very grating. in one of the conversations with droves, do not add insult to injury by telling me what i have to do is in my interest. it seems like, 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 have to do. boris always objects, then he says i understand.
the number of times he has this interaction is striking. it also was 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 is your interest. you have to do that. even if you at that time feel it distasteful. ray quickly, you hear them speaking about the cold piece. peace. one of my lessons to putin and whoever is president of the united states, is don't use the word partnership when you don't mean it.
if it is a 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 was defined by the united states. when the russians were willing to cooperate on that agenda, it was a very successful cooperation. not so much 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 indispensable person. treat russia as a country that is trying to become democratic, even though everything that is happening right now, there will be another opening. when it is, treat other political forces in that country as a legitimate force. not just as a scary monster who is going to take us back to stalinism.
i think in the end, i would say if you are serious about russian democratic development, stick to your principles and stick to this. take seriously the other sides political pressures. just like you take your own. two words that i would like to end with are empathy and respect. empathy and respect are very important in the u.s. russia relations. i think it was pointed out how 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 experts, they were willing and wanted to help russia. how does that not work out? i think to learn any lessons, we have to understand, how is that most well-meaning prepared administration does not fulfill its goals for the russians russian mark 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 from sergei and jeremy, turn to the panel, and then breathe a sigh of relief. we will continue to discussions in a more relaxed setting. sergei: 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. on the other hand, issues we have today in u.s. russia relations have their roots in the 1990's. the question that i have is a regard to the commonwealth of independent states. crimea speech said when the commonwealth was great, that was a joined a sovereignty. that was my understanding of the russian view in general. the russians had a different look at that. 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 talbot. in the clinton administration in the 1990's, those issues were discussed in those terms, whether it was russia versus republic, what the fate of the commonwealth would be, or if it was something that wasn't really something that was the issue of discussion and it was inherited from the bush administration that sovereignty and independence means independence, thank you. >> to jeremy. jeremy: it is extraordinary the range of issues you covered. it seems we cannot talk about these issues without talking about the ways in which the privatization of the economy occurred. 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 regime, when there is a economic transformation, what have we learned going forward? how can we help guide the process in the future? >> strobe, why don't you start off? -- svetlana you can have the final word. strobe: i think this is particularly important for me to hear from you. i am a little bit frustrated, if i can put it that way, there is
something like a rashomon dynamic because i understand what you are saying, but i am you thatly convincing we and the president of the united states that we are talking about also understood. let's leave that for a dinner conversation. with regard to the cis, remember the cis was already invented by the time the clinton administration came into office. it was a fact on the ground. we had a policy to do two ,hings that often come in nice
that we were in tension with each other. one thing was to treat russia as one of the 15 -- this goes beyond the cis -- 15 new 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, where we took the side of russia. 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 angst and struggle, fortunately 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. imagine where we may be today with the relationship between russia and ukraine. that was the big problem. how dangerous the situation would be. let me just pick up on one point that you articulated very passionately.
maybe even with hurt feelings as a russian, emotional. the word partnership does not -- remember, i think it was reagan who said back 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. right, thank you from the english language side of the table. of course it was skewed. this was the united states at its -- whatever you want to call it, it's uni-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 a complete disintegration 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 fact, i cannot -- 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 were as unskewed 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 possible, 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
done more by either deffering or 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. i can't imagine that if the putin regime remains in place, even after the disappearance of mr. putin himself, people in
the future, in the united states and the political west, if there still is one, should go back and look at this episode and see if they can -- listen to what svetlana has said, what they can bring to the next disintegration of russia. i can imagine. russia is still, even though it lost 14 other republics, it is still the largest territorial state on the planet. there are a lot of forces in it.
i can imagine 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 monarchist at 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. svetlana: i will try to be very brief. it is a wonderful discussion, i wish we had more time. he said he 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. you understood yeltsin's precarious leadership, you understood the compromises 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, because democracy is a messy thing. yeltsin was the only person who could guarantee the united states interest in russia. strobe: if we could move in a little bit here. i think you mentioned three people. i can't remember -- no, no. we had no quarrel with him. we found before his death, time to go and talk to him. 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 last 20 years, yes 20 years, 10, 12, conversations with david lipman. somebody i think many of you know. 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. 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. you know, yeltsin was kind of 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 knocking down a ugly piece of architecture. the soviet union. the russian people and the
citizens of the other countries had to live in the rubble. yeltsin and everybody else who were well-intentioned had to work with the rubble. there was no rule of law to speak of. we didn't have intra-russian mechanisms to have a totally clean democratic process. svetlana: i absolutely agree. i know you understood it at that time. you also understood how bought that election was by the oligarchs and the oligarchs control media. so, rather than -- i don't want to turn it into clinton was to blame for yeltsin being elected.
yeltsin was running a dirty campaign supported by the oligarchs money. not just because of that. the oligarchs knew it, when the bank was nationalized. [laughter] strobe: the number three candidate famously said, don't worry this will be the last election you will ever have to vote in. [laughter] svetlana: he said many things. he also said he would take alaska back. can i respond to jeremy's question? privatization. >> very quickly. svetlana: privatization was very crucial for the way russians see the 1990's and democracy and the free market.
what was built as a result of privatization is oligarchy. it also disillusioned people. it almost eliminated support for the democracy. people were not idiots, they knew the president was running with 5% approval was mostly drunk and very sick during the time when he was not drunk. it was not the best choice for russia. the oligarchs in their own interest framed as black-and-white going back to communism or voting for yeltsin. the fact that privatization happens during that time, significantly undermines yeltsin's own chance to be elected. there was a great missed opportunity much earlier on to slow down the economic reform.
i am not an economist. i think institutions have to be built first and the pace of the reform has to be slowed down. i don't know if that would have worked. what we know now, the way privatization actually worked out undermined support for democracy, created the system where there were no rules of law. everything was sold. >> alright, this was an illuminating discussion. i think we will all agree that it is a humbling discussion. think the experience we just heard described is not unique to the russian story either. it is probably an issue that is going to recur.