tv The Presidency George H.W. Bush Clinton Yeltsin CSPAN February 20, 2018 11:36am-12:43pm EST
the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. cspan is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. a look now at the relationships between president's george h.w. bush and bill clinton and russian president boris yeltsin, how they influenced the new russia after dissolution of the ussr. the miller center convened scholars for a conference looking at the complicated history in the last century. this is just over an hour. >> as with the end of the cold war, events are rushing forward with breathtaking speed and just when you think you're beginning to digest what happened by 1992, wait, there's a new administration in office and strobe talbott is going to explain it to us.
strobe? >> well, let me start with a couple of ironies. i do remember as a reporter when the bush 41 administration came in. it was a little scratchy with the reagan administration going out, and i recall talk of pause, secretary of state jim baker, wanting to make sure he wasn't captured by the building and that kind of thing. when four years later the clinton administration came in, all i can say is that bill clinton picked up exactly where bush 41 was. it was an extraordinary transition. well before inauguration, a number of people, including a couple of people you heard from
and are going to hear from during the rest of the conference were calling their counter par counterparts coming in in the new administration. there's of course another even more ironic dimension of the bush 41 to clinton administrations, and that is that bill clinton knew that it was because of the masterly way in which president bush had handled the end of the cold war and the sensitivity that he brought to that made the cold war end in a reasonably peaceful way. i remember president clinton before he was president clinton,
when he was president-elect saying i won't do the southern accent, but he said bush is really something. he's acted like a very skillful, very prudent, very calm ground control for gorbachev as he tried to bring this rickety thing, the ussr, down for a soft landing on the ash heap of history. and he also knows or knew that had the cold war continued or let's put it this way, if the pooch back in august of 1991 had succeeded, he, bill clinton, would not have had much of a chance to unseat one of the most
successful and revered foreign policy presidents we'd ever had, so because of that great contribution, mr. bush had to yield the white house. with that, i'm going to give you a little sense of what his, what president clinton's view of the situation was. he felt that he had a responsibility to keep the cold war over and to do everything possible to help yeltsin. and by the way, help yeltsin 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.
president clinton also was determined to forge a personal relationship with yeltsin, not only because he was the first democratically elected kremlin leader, but also because yeltsin was clearly determined to try to make democracy stick. president clinton had no illusion on how hard this was going to be. no illusion. in october, 1993, this is just one vignette, in the midst of the black hawk down catastrophe in mogadishu, clinton was constantly moving from the real situation room in the white house to a kind of made up situation room that we had over in the state department, calling, calling, calling to find out how was yeltsin doing with the mayhem in the streets
of moscow. the violence that emanated from the russian parliament and the attack on the tv studio and other facilities. and then finally when 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 admiration and sometimes though the admiration played second fiddle. never, ever did he waiver on supporting yeltsin especially when the alternatives were
people that challenged yeltsin in december of 1993 and 1996 respectively. in short, clinton knew that the yeltsin reforms which he also knew were the gorbachev, yeltsin reforms might fail but he never considered hedging our bets since that would, among other things, increase the prospect of failure. let me just say a little bit about a number of points that have come up which i would call the bill of particulars of alleged sins of omission and commission on the part of the u.s. government during this period. they have come up over the last 20 years and they certainly have come up in the last 24 hours.
first, why did the united states, why did the united states not rescue the post soviet economy with a marshall plan. the answer basically has been i think already put forward, most recently by bob zellik. basically, it would not work because of the political and economic environment that we were dealing with. remember that the marshall plan itself particularly for post war west germany had the benefit if you want to put it that way of a developed economic culture, albeit a shattered one, and an allied occupation to keep order and enforce rules.
the united states did what it could on the economic front with russia. notably working through bilateral and multi lateral institutions to jury rig a safety net to help the vast number of russians who lost the meager benefits of the soviet welfare state. moving along. 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 both in the government and in the suddenly virgining civil site under yeltsin pleaded with the united states to help coach them on institutions and processes. what were we supposed to do? were we supposed 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 balankan wars. a little like george h.w. bush handled gorbachev during the gulf war. i will just reiterate that, a, u.s. and nato had to deal with the first major genocidal war since the 1940s. and b, russia was a critical diplomatic, not military partner but diplomatic partner with us in bringing those conflicts to a peaceful conclusion. last but not least, there is of course the perennial, probably eternal, debate over nato
enlargement. had we not expanded nato, it would have been a grotesque double jeopardy for the nations between russia and the west. and i will echo what a couple have said in the earlier panel and that is that we were not thinking of europe as like gall, divided into three parts. we were thinking in terms as president bush said, a europe that was whole and free. those countries in between, the in between countries, had suffered under the third reich only to be liberated by the red army so that they might suffer under stalin and his successors for the next 40 years. it would have been actually a
triple jeopardy if we let them stay in what we thought of as a strategic vacuum. those ex-warsaw pact nations would not have been able to be taken into the european union without the nato security umbrella. if the central europeans were left in a strategic limbo, they would very likely have rearmed to the disadvantage of their economies, they might very well have resurrected territorial claims on their neighbors, with their neighbors, and basically thrown 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 for deterrence for nato. there are participants here who are active creating the partnership for peace and the na nato council. bottom line, the so-called missed opportunities i think are phantoms. they simply weren't realistic or prudent or con shenable to the policies we put forward. two final points. yes, the ussr lost the cold war. but not because it was defeated by the west. 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, the soviet union had the biblical lifespan of three score and ten years. it was a political monstrosity and it expired mercifully from a congenital disease that was induced by a spore inside a real reichert that arrived at the finland station in 1917. gorbachev did his very best to cure the ussr and he failed. yeltsin did his best to cure post-soviet russia and he failed. those are the facts. and so is this -- as arne has
said a couple of times, vladimir putin, while he has jettisoned marxism and lennonism, has taken russia back to a discredited and disastrous past. arne stresses the chronic inability to cultivate a modern economy. i would add quite another list. rule from above and rule by fear, the big lie at home and abroad, expansionism, institutional corruption, a paranoid view of the west to the point that bob zoellick raised at the very end, and a new form -- a hybrid form of 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. and finally, a hope that a number of us have expressed during the last day. we can hope that putin's successor, maybe not his immediate successor, but one of his successors will return progressive reform that does succeed and russia can indeed achieve what russian friends going back to my first visit there in 1968 put very modestly, and that is a modern normal country. [ applause ]
>> i feel really honored to be here. thank you so much, mel. it is an incredible experience of brainstorming. it is a great experiment of looking at history and trying to see are there any lessons? and i am trying to be optimistic. a lot of us here mentioned an opportunity, a possibility, though, that in the future there might be a new chance. just like strobe talbott just told us, there might be a new leader in russia and the united states who would be interested in improving relations and maybe we will even get a window of
opportunity comparable to late 1980s and 1990s. what should we do then? i think we should be prepared. and how to get prepared for that opportunity, i think we really should study the 1990s. we should study the 1990s very closely and we should try to understand what happened in the 1990s. and for that study, i could point you to a lot of russian experts and even president gorbachev who said that the mistrust is not new. the roots of mistrust appeared in the 1990s. so let's try to understand. i also would like to mention that in helping us to understand the 1990s, of course there are so many of the new documents coming out, but one of the sources we should all look at is
the book that strobe talbott wrote, "the russia hand," it is one of the best books on u.s.-soviet relations ever. it is very honest, it is empathetic and it's very detailed. it gives us an insider view of what was happening and quotes a lot of documents. so i've used it extensively in my research, and, again, i just want to thank you for writing that book. so let's remember how the clinton administration comes to power. the clinton administration starts dealing with russia really in the beginning of 1993. it inherits quite a situation. it does not start at ground zero. it does not start in december of 1991. by the time the clinton administration comes to power, the basic main choice in europe
is already made, and that is the choice to strengthen nato, to reinvigorate nato, and not yet to expand nato, but certainly thinking along those lines must have been there. it certainly was 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, well, strengthenning of nato is supplanting, taking away the energy what we thought would be building new european structures, expanding the european integration and nato is taking away or supplanting this process. we could talk about big
imaginary thinking, but the hope was to integrate the soviet union and russia into the european family of nations. there were other possibilities other than strengthening nato at the time. as many people pointed out here, even in negotiations with gorbachev in 1990 over the germany unification, a lot of attention was given to the common -- to what -- what was compared to the common european home. new structure. csc. 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. policy-makers in 1991 and 1992. so this is on the one hand. so russia now kind of is feeling
already not integrated, but certainly wants this partnership. on the other hand, the russian economic reform, the liberalization and privatization that starts in 1992, by the end of 1992 did not produce any real results. it was very painful for the population in the end of 1992. the inflation reached 2,500%. and this initial grand deep support for the economic reform by the russian population is becoming diluted. people want to slow down this reform or people want to change this reform. this is very natural. when your living conditions, when your salaries, when everything around you is deteriorating, but i would like to stress here that the reform itself, both the democratic
reform and the market reform, the liberalization, was not imposed on russia. and i think this is an important point to be made. it was not imposed, it was the russian choice to go with that reform. the team of russian liberals who were around yeltsin chose the kind of more american-based, washington consensus-based version of the reform. you can debate how good a decision it was while the soviet union was a total command economy. now you're going to a very radical free market model, which is, in fact, 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 strobe talbott pointed out, russians asked for american advisers to
teach them how free market economy works. and the democratic choice was russian and the support for the democratic choice in the beginning of the yeltsin administration was very, very high. remember, it was a very, very idealistic time. we all believed democracy in russia was possible. we all believed mixed or market economy in russia was possible. we had big ideas at that time. so now looking back, i'm thinking that some of the alternatives that were posed here are a little but of straw man alternatives. for example, we're talking about the -- when we discuss economic aid to russia, we immediately say, well, there was no possibility of a marshall plan, but if you notice what the russians were asking for, they were not asking for a marshall plan, there could be other forms
of support from the west to the russian reform. i will not go into detail, but, for example, forgives of debt, which, of course, was done for mexico. more favorable restructuring of debt. investing in certain specific sectors. for example, u.s. aid could be used to pay pensions, salaries for teachers and doctors. there were all these proposals there. yet when we hear the russian grievance there was not enough aid, the response is, well, we could not deliver a marshal plan. i think it's a wrong extreme metaphor that does not really belong. i just would like to quote imf representative to russia martin gilman in his book. he says, in the view of what was at stake, it is almost unconscionable how little the rest of the world was ready to
provide in support of the country's heavy post-soviet transition. for the west, in retrospect, such a stance vis-a-vis a massive nuclear-armed country with a dissent grating political and social structure looks reckless. and i think he is right. so we're not talking about marshal plan, but we're talking more of an economic aid commitment. now, the economic aid which was provided by the united states, i think bilateral aid was only $2.5 billion. it went mainly to the u.s. consultants, which created this wrong dynamic. the u.s. consultants were paid to go to russia and help where the russians felt that they could have used this money better for other reasons. it's a question whether they could or not, but that 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, but also some are -- some russian archives are also available. we see these internal debates in the united states about russia and such sources as memoirs and, again, strobe talbott's book. you will see that the priorities proclaimed were very right priorities. of course, clinton himself was really committed to the russian reform. i think and i believe in this there is a real difference between the bush administration coming in and engaging in the pause in the clinton administration starting right away. so if you hear what clinton is say, is democratic reform is the top priority. we want russia to become a democracy. we want russia to become a
democracy. but now if you think about it, what does it mean, we want russia to become a democracy? the clinton administration very aware of its own domestic political constraints and constantly points to congress why they are unable to provide more aid, why congress could respond with sanctions if russia continues its cooperation with iran, but at the same time i think the americans did not understand or they understand but the way they saw clinton -- yeltsin's political domestic constraints was in the way that said, well, yeltsin is the only democrat in town and so we have to support him no matter what. then there is the duma or the supreme soviet in the beginning. well, the supreme soviet is all communist browns and reds.
well, then you have the election of december 1993. so now the parliament is democratically elected, but it's, again, communists, browns and reds. then in 1995, the parliament is again democratically elected. but it's treated -- any yeltsin opponent is treated like a monster, you know? if they oppose yeltsin's program, they are a monster and a communist and about to take the country back to stalinism, which is certainly not a really democratic way to treat your parliament. two times which were very, very painful for the russian liberals, i remember them myself as a shock, two times yeltsin used massive force.
first of all, against the parliament. no matter who was in the parliament. that was the first time blood was spilled massively in moscow since 1917, okay? in 1991, there were three people who were killed. the united states, in fact, congratulate yeltsin on his skillful handling of the crisis with the parliament, and it's public, and yeltsin uses it all the time in his own domestic struggle. and then the second time, probably even more hurtful for the -- 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, the real atrocities. president clinton comes to moscow and he meets with yeltsin
and everybody expects him to put pressure on yeltsin. and the one time that chechnya comes up in that is when he's speaking about fred kuni. so what happens? and actually in strobe talbott's book, on page 55 -- [ laughter ] he says that in the beginning of yeltsin's administration, they were concerned, people around clinton were concerned to say, you are becoming too personally committed to yeltsin. you should be more committed to -- you should be more serious about principles and processes, and clinton shows them very clearly, indeed, committed to yeltsin and he, indeed, sees this as black against white. he says it's a zero sum game. there. democracy cannot be a zero sum
game, it's a compromise, so if you support democracy, you should encourage interaction between the president and the parliament. i'm not saying that was the u.s. thought -- fault, i'm saying that there was something that the united states with a lot of their leverage could have done. but russia -- russia has itself to lose. russia did not need somebody to lose it. now, coming back to the priorities. so the priority, announced priority, was support for democratic development in russia. in fact, there were many priorities, as always, in u.s.-russian relations, u.s.-soviet relations. i think a very important priority was to make sure that the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were safe and secure and there was a very important case of u.s.-russian cooperations, the non-lugar
program where nuclear weapons were withdrawn from ukraine, belarus. the united states really came through in securing nuclear, chemical weapons, not biological. that program created real cooperation. military-to-military, politician-to-politician. it produced success, friendships and the ability of these people to connect with each other, trust each other and work together in the future. there were other priorities. certainly expanding nato was a big priority for the united states. a lot of times i think in the u.s. public statements but also internally, they treated yeltsin's resistance to the idea of the expansion as just his pr. he needs this for his pr. but if you look domestically, if you look at yeltsin himself, he
basically said in 1995, in may in that summit, he told clinton for me to agree to the borders of nato expanding towards those of russia, that would constitute a betrayal on my part of the russian people. throughout the russian political spectrum. t the opposition to nato was so strong. among the liberals, for different reasons and among the conservatives. the only issue on which there was a consensus in duma was nato expansion. and yeltsin and his entourage proposed various possibilities to take it slower, to create other cooperative structures. the united states proposed partnership for peace, and the way the partnership for peace was proposed is that it convinced yeltsin, they were not
stupid people, they heard what they heard, but the partnership for peace will be an alternative to nato expansion, and nato expansion is not happening right now. it's the partnership for peace in which russia will be integrated just as eastern europe, but that was, of course, not true. we can talk about it later. we just don't have time. but i will now pose the question of priorities. very often in strobe's book and also in the documents, you can see that, yes, there were these high priorities, but at the moment, at each particular moment, let's say in may of 1995, in other summits between yeltsin and clinton, those priorities were superceded by priorities of the day and i would say they -- the common priorities of yeltsin and
clinton, russia and the united states were superceded by priorities that were more unilateral. for example, building of the democracy and sticking to the principles of democracy was superceded by the issue of nato expansion. you know, all of these conversations that we have now, they devote so much more time to issues like trade with iran, nato expansion is just a really, really major issue. cooperation on nuclear security, which was incredibly important, but, 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 there was also this belief that with economic liberalization democracy will eventually come because liberal -- economically liberal societies tend to be
democracies. okay. one thing i would like to conclude with is that -- and a lesson. so clinton and yeltsin in every summit that they had, in many phone calls we don't have transcripts of phone calls yet. in a lot of internal documents they talked about partnership. so the word partnership is used over and over and over, strategic partnership. the issue of friendship. the issue of personal relations. but partnership, partnership, partnership, partnership, this word is overused, but what do they mean by partnership? if you look at their conversations -- you know what struck me? i spent the 4r569 five years reading gorbachev/reagan conversations all the time and -- that's a completely different conversation. it's a completely different conversation.
conversation goes something like this. in the beginning, clinton praises yeltsin highly for his role in ending the cold war, building russian democracy, that he is a champion of democracy, praises his skills and successes. then they get to the agenda. and the agenda usually includes iran, nuclear issues, -- they change their priority in different conversations. and clinton tells yeltsin, look, this is what you should do. this is what you should do. this is in your interest. and gradually among the russian elite, even among very liberal people, this definition by the united states of what your interests are became very
grading. in one of his conversations with strobe, kosev actually says don't add insult to injury by telling me what i have to do is in my interest. so it seems like this partnership is kind of skewed. it's the united states trying to explain to yeltsin what's in his interest and that he has to do it. sometimes it goes just like that, boris, remember, this is what you have to do. boris always objects in the beginning and then he says, i understand. i understand. the number of times you have this interaction is striking, but it also was not well-accepted by the russians. the russians -- the russian liberals who came to power, they did not feel defeated. they did not feel that they were
going to tabe taught by somebod and somebody will define their interests. in you want to be in the family of democratic nations, you have to do that, even if at the time you find that distasteful. very quickly you hear them speaking about the cold peace. it actually comes very quickly. so my -- one of my lessons to putin and whoever is president of the united states is, you know, don't use the word partnership when you really don't mean it. if it's a partnership, then the agenda has to be defined by both. what is happening in the 1990s, and that's what the russians complained about, is that the agenda was essentially defined by the united states, and when the russians were willing to
cooperate on that agenda, like non-lugar, it was a very successful cooperation, okay? not so much on the nato expansion. so be careful with the word partnership. also, be careful with very close personal association in building up this partner as the only indispensable person. treat russia as a country that is trying to become democratic, even with, you know, everything that's happening right now, there will be another opening, and when it is, treat other political forces in that country as legitimate forces. and not just scary monsters who are going to take us back to stalinism. and i think in the end i would say if you are serious about russian democratic development, stick to your principles and stick to processes and take seriously the other side's
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, very important in u.s.-russian relations. i think frank castigliola pointed out in his presentation how roosevelt was able to present these two. certainly the clinton administration had empathy for russia and the clinton administration had really the best experts there who were willing and wanted to help russia. so how does that not work out? i think to learn any lessons for the next opening, we've got to understand how is that most well-meaning and prepared
administration does not fulfill the goals with the russians, and how does that make russians really agree about the 1990s? thank you. [ applause ] >> so what i'd like to do since we're very short on time is i'd like to go ahead and take a question from sergei and from jeremy, and take both those questions, turn to the panel and then we'll breathe a sigh of relief and continue the discussions in more relaxed setting. sergei? >> thank you for a great panel. 1990s are extremely important. on the unhand, it's a soft landing of a huge superpower without major violence. on the other hand, issues we have today in u.s.-russian relations, their roots are also in the 1990s, and the question
that i have is with regard to the fate of the commonwealth of independent states. putin in his crimea speech said that when the commonwealths were created, we all believed that that was a form of joint sovereignty. that was the -- my understanding is that was the russian position in general, people around yeltsin. republics had a different view to that, treating their independence quite seriously. and the u.s. role in that was extremely important. so siding with the seriousness of independence versus commonwealth as a form of russian control over the area and limited sovereignty. so my question is probably mostly to strobe talbott and whether in the clinton administration in the 1990s those issues were discussed in those terms. what side was russia versus
republic? what the faith of the commonwealth would be or it was something that wasn't really something that was the issue of discussion and it was inherited from the bush administration that, well, sovereignty means sovereignty and independence means independence. thank you. >> and to jeremy. >> thank you for an excellent panel. i think it's extraordinary the range of issues you covered there. my question comes from both being an analyst and someone in russia at the time. it seem wes can't talk about these issues without talking about the ways in which the privatization of the economy occurred. i just remember being there, you all know this better than i do, but i just remember being there and seeing people's wealth collapse in front of them and seeing how wealth was stolen from right in front of their faces. i don't think -- i know that wasn't the intention of the clinton administration, obviously not. what have we learned from that?
how can we make sure we're in this next sort of a situation, a transition from a authoritarian regime to a nonauthoritarian regime, when there is a economic transformation of that time, what have we learned going forward? how can we help guide that process going forward in the future? >> strobe, why don't you start off and swevetlana you can have the last word. >> first of all, i think this has been particularly important for me to hear from you. there is a -- i'm a little bit frustrated if i can put it that way that there is something like a russia -- dynamic in this. because i do understand what you're saying, but i'm not clearly convincing you that we
and the president of the united states that we're talking about also understood. but let's leave that for maybe a dinner conversation. with regard to the c. i.s., remember, of course that the c.i.s. was already invented by the time the clinton administration came into office. it was a -- it was a fact on the ground. we had i would say a policy to do two things that often in life were in some tension with each other. one thing was to treat russia as one of the 15 -- this goes beyond the c.i.s., one of 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, going to as many of the other 14 republics as possible to make sure that they felt that the united states respected their new status as sovereigns. there was one issue, of course, where we took the side of russia. and that was that we 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
angst and struggle, and fortunately we were able to do that. and you didn't touch upon that, but that was an issue that we understood, not only from the russian standpoint, and imagine where we might be today with the relationship between russia and ukraine, which was the big problem. how dangerous the situation would be. let me just pick up on one point that you said and articulated very passionately. maybe even with hurt feelings. >> emotionally. >> emotionally. >> emotions, yes -- thank you. >> partnership. by the way, the word partnership doesn't -- remember i think it
was reagan who said back in the bad old days there is no word for freedom in the russian language, right? yes. right. he did say that once upon a time. there is, of course, a word for freedom. there was not a word for partnership. thank you from the english language side of the table. that's my -- that's my point. and of course it was skewed, svetlana. of course it was skewed. this was the united states at whatever you want to call it, its uni polar moment, where as your country was splattered all over the map of eurasia. and the largest part of your country, the one that i assume is yours, was a collapsed state
and had a complete disintegration of its ideology, its anthem, which it has come back, of course, and its system. so the skewing wasn't because we were trying to have our way with you. >> no. >> the skewing was an objective fact. i cannot -- i'm going to be very protective here of my president at the time and very, very compassionate towards your president at the time. both of them worked to make sure that their personal relationships were as unskewed as possible. then we -- what we're not going to do, mr. chairman, is go through all of the particulars, but in every one of those particulars, bill clinton was
doing the best he can -- did the best he could to make sure that insofar as it was possible to treat russia as a big player in the world, the g8, you didn't say anything about that. the former g8 and boris yeltsin himself as the leader of the country who was democratically elected. i don't know what more clinton could do. i know you think he could have done more by either deferring or cancelling the expansion of nato, but i've already given you my thoughts on that. i'll leave it there. >> strobe, did you want to touch on jeremy's question at all about what lessons to learn about dealing with a country
with a blasted economic landscape and weak intermediary institutions on which you can build something, not so much to reflect backwards, but as you take away from that, anything you want to say to jeremy? >> nothing that would enlighten you or make me sound very wise. but i can imagine that if the putin regime remains in place, even after the disappearance of mr. putin himself, people in that future in the united states and in a political west, if there is still one then, should go back and look at this episode
and see if they can -- and listen -- listen to what svetlana has said, that they can bring to the next disintegration of russia. i can imagine russia -- you know, russia is still, even though -- even though it has lost 14 of its other republics, it is still the largest territorial state on the nation on the planet. there are a lot of centrifugal forces in it. ethnic, geopolitical and medical, if i can put it that way. so 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, and i think that is an important part of what could come out of this conference. >> svetlana? >> i'll try to be very brief because we have a plane. it's just a wonderful discussion. i just wish we had more time. strobe just said that he was not able to convince me that they understood. in fact, i am convince that you understood. >> well, we were just wrong? >> no, no, no, i think you understood correctly what was going on. you understood it correctly. it's just that your priorities clashed or were not completely
clear to you as you were going into your dealings with the russians. you understood yeltsin's very precarious position. you understood the compromises he was trying to make, sometimes very unseemly, you understood why he used force, you understood why it was difficult for him to end the war in chechnya, but rather than try to put some pressure on him or to say, okay, we've got to -- as you pointed out in your book, we should focus more on the processes and building institutions and encouraging yeltsin to talk to his opponents, even if they don't look good, but i think while understanding, you felt that yeltsin was the only person in that whole country, only person, not who will build democracy, because democracy is a messy thing, but yeltsin was the only person who could guarantee the
u.s. interests in russia. i think -- >> well, could i just move in a little bit here? >> mmm-hmm. >> i think you mentioned three people, but i can't remember if it was -- no, no. lebit, we had no quarrel with him, and we actually found before his death times to go and talk to him, but -- >> yeah, awful. >> zuganov. i don't know if this is something that i should push forward as something to be proud of or a confession, but the prospect that a -- that the communist party would come back and the head of the communist party would come back in 1996 in
russia was very, very serious for us. >> right. >> but that goes a little bit to privatization and loans for shares and all that. i have had probably over the last 20 years almost, yes, 20 years, 10, 12 conversations, particularly with david lipton, somebody that i think many of you know, who was the larry somers' guy in the team. was there anything we could do when we saw what the deal was that yeltsin was making with the oligarchs to get him to stop doing that? and the answer was probably not, but we might -- we probably should have tried harder, but if we had tried a lot harder and did succeed, he might have lost. >> right. and that's the key. and that's key. >> no, that's the dilemma.
that's different. that's the dilemma. >> isn't democracy elections with uncertain outcome but certain rules and procedures? >> well, yeah, but guess what? this was a rules and procedures and law desert. there weren't rules -- >> well, in terms of elections there were. >> you know, yeltsin was sort of like a -- one of those wrecking balls that we see in our cities from time to time. i mean, he did a hell of a good job of knocking down -- >> right. right. >> -- a really ugly piece of architecture, the soviet union, and then the russian people and those -- and the citizens of the other countries had to live in the rubble. and he, yeltsin, and everybody else who were well-intentioned had to work with the rubble.
there was no rule of law to speak of. so that -- what -- we didn't have intra-russian mechanisms to have a totally clean democratic process. >> that is -- i absolutely agree, and i know you understood it at the time. you also understand how bought that election was by the oligarchs and by the oligarch-controlled media and by loans for shares among those. so rather than -- well, you know, i just don't want to turn it into, you know, clinton is to blame for the fact that yeltsin was elected. yeltsin was running a dirty campaign supported by the oligarchs' money through loans for shares, but not just because of that. the oligarchs knew if somebody else wins, they get nationalized.
>> you know, zuronovsky was the number three candidate in that. he famously said in one of his campaign speeches, don't worry, this will be the last election you'll ever have to vote in. >> well, he said many things. he also -- he also intended to take alaska back and, you know -- okay. can i respond to jeremy's question? privatization -- >> very quickly. >> privatization experience was extremely crucial for the way russians see the '90s and see democracy and see free market. what was built as a result of privatization is oligarchy. but it also disillusioned people. it almost eliminated support for democracy. people were not idiots, they
knew that the president was running in march with 5% approval was mostly drunk and very sick during the time when he was not drunk. was not the best choice for russia, but the media and the oligarchs in their own interests framed as black and white, voting for communism or voting for yeltsin. the fact that privatization happened at that time significantly undermined yeltsin's own chances to be elected. there was a great missed opportunity much earlier on to slow down the economic reform. i am not an economist. i can't tell you how. i think institutions had to be built first and the pace of the reform had to be slowed down. i am kind of with yavalinsky on
that. we don't know now. but the way the privatization worked out supported democracy, created the system where there was no rules of law, the mafia was running around and everything was sold, including gradually free media, unfortunately. >> all right. this was an illuminating discussion. i think we'll all agree that it's a humbling discussion. >> yes. >> and yet i think it actually -- since the experience that we've just heard described is actually not unique to the russia story either, and is probably an issue that is going to recur. i think it really does tee up some things that we're going to solve and articulate crisply tomorrow. so thanks to our panel for a terrific discussion. [ applause ]
here's what's coming up. next, more about u.s.-soviet relations with a discussion on president kennedy and nikita cru krush chev. coming up tonight, join us for american history tv in prime time. we'll continue to look at our relationship between u.s.-soviet union leaders at the height of the colder war from the university of virginia's miller center. starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span three. elsewhere on the c-span networks, be with us later today
when "new america" in washington, d.c. hosts a panel discussion on the influence of politics on race relations. live konchlgs begins this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. later, the white house correspondents association hosts a discussion with white house press secretary sarah sanders and former white house press secretary mike mccurry. that will be followed by a panel discussion with white house correspondents. live coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. eastern, also on c-span. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies, and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider.
join us tonight on c-span for portions of the first "unrig the system" summit from new orleans. the event focussing on issues such as campaign finance, the electoral college and redistricting, speakers include actress jennifer lawrences interviewing former federal election chair trevor potter the relationship between federal elections and super pacs. here is a preview. >> okay. so if there is a wall between candidates and super pacs, if i as a political donor throw big money at a super pac, my personal politician does not get to decide how it's spent, right? >> well, that is technically correct, except that the people who do decide how to spend it are usually in this scenario the former campaign manager of the candidate or close friends of the candidate, and one of my favorite examples, it was actually the parents of the
candidate who are running the super pac. so it's -- they also can share what are called common venders so they can use the same consultants. basically i think it's useful to see it as the other pocket on the candidate's coat. >> okay, but if the candidate tells a super pac exactly what to do with the money, that's legal? >> that would be illegal. >> okay. >> how. -- however, first they have to get caught and then the fec has to have a majority vote on whether to investigate it. as you may have heard, the fec has basically deadlocked on all of this in the last couple of years. >> that just a short portion from the first "unrig the system" summit in new orleans. watch it in its entirety tonight starting at 8:30 eastern on c-span. the university of virginia's