tv [untitled] June 13, 2011 3:31pm-4:01pm EDT
bases or you know we just all american bases in our bases are fine or the doe noise is our noise and doesn't bother us at all because they're our basics but for other people it's almost like a cancer here for those people a day since the end of world war two these spaces have been here. we're here to provide a safe and secure environment for everybody. the questions they are thing else get everything you needed hungry for the full story we've got it first hand the biggest issues get a human voice face to face with the news makers on. the white stream cascading from mountain slopes the view is mesmerizing. in this beauty brings death at
a speed of more than two hundred kilometers per hour. stepping down avalanche and. come to life in the russian capital this is r.t. top stories this hour toxic ripples from the focus shima nuclear facility reach beyond the no go zone with radiation levels some eighty kilometers away from the plant exceeding legal limits meanwhile seeing groundwater in the area being found to be contaminated. kind of gadhafi pledges that he'll never leave libya receive faces off against a chess grandmaster in the devastated capital of tripoli meanwhile nato steps off its offensive and declares its expanding operations against libyan government forces. profoundest in sentiment spreads across europe as activist i'm on the government stop ignoring the israeli occupation of the west bank and call for a boycott. goods from israel. i'll be back with more news for you in less than
thirty minutes from now in the meantime it's a debate program cross talk and today peter labelling these guests discuss the legacy of russia's first president. twenty years after he was elected the country's leader. and you can. follow in welcome to cross talk i'm peter lavelle boris yeltsin was he a great man who made history or was he merely a product of his time and opinions differ widely don't know when denies the important role he played in creating our present cross-talk continues that series on the collapse of the soviet union twenty years ago. and. to cross talk yeltsin's russia i'm joined by dmitri baba chair in the studio with
me he's a political analyst said ria novosti news agency in washington we have donald jensen he's a resident fellow at the center for transatlantic relations and in london we go to alex proud he is director of russian and eurasian studies center at the university of oxford all right gentlemen crosstalk rules and in fact that means you can jump in anytime you want well the reason why we're doing this we're doing our series here on cross talk on the collapse of the soviet union twenty years ago and twenty years ago on june twelfth one thousand nine hundred ninety also became the first popularly elected president of the russian soviet federated socialist republic well basically the beginning of the demise of the soviet union that would follow later in the year dimitri. let's look at that time twenty years ago and how the soviet union unraveled how much was yeltsin involved with that unraveling of the soviet union people talk a lot about going to charge what about yeltsin at this time well i think there are two parallel process that's going on which should not be mixed up there was the process of democratization and i think it was yeltsin storrow for the first time in
russian history and man came to power on us to election against the will of the government that was an achievement as for that collapse of the soviet union it had begun long before that it's been. back in one thousand eight hundred nine already there was a lot of talk about it and by one thousand nine hundred the the process was almost complete i would remind you of that in march two months before the election. seven republics out of fifteen did not take part in the referendum on the reform of the soviet union so the process has already gone very very much fault and yeltsin of course when the soviet union was just virtually collapse and in some one thousand one thousand vonne he didn't shed dius he started building the russian federation of the new states they attempting to. go to you in washington from a russian perspective in two thousand and eleven that was the good yeltsin ok the
else and they did the right thing ok because right now in two thousand and eleven most people in this country are very pleased that the soviet union is gone there's still a small minority that regret it but yeltsin was seen as a great banner to bring the end of a system that wasn't working for the people anymore so yeltsin twenty years ago what kind of character do you sense some to be. i have some looking back i'm very contradictory figure both i would almost say heroic but certainly someone who displayed tremendous political courage and i would note in passing about. with the most comments and the ultimate was ahead of even the u.s. government many outside observers and moving forward were a lot of people and most notably the first president bush seemed to indicate they wanted to preserve the soviet union albeit in a more reformed way but you asked about yeltsin i think he was in many ways one of the most politically courageous people i've ever been around and i was in moscow at the time as a diplomat but also he was
a tremendously contradictory contradictory figure whose career has to be separated into a number of phases not all of in not all of which he performed admirably alex in if i go to you in london let's speak up a little bit let's have mr yeltsin as president of the of russia the first president of russia how do you see his the beginning of his reform process because this is where people start disliking yeltsin then and very much to some extent hating him today i'm talking about the liberalization of the economy. yeah before i come to that can i say that i agree absolutely with the fact that he's a larger than life historic and historical leader who has huge pluses and huge minuses and this goes with his economic reform program as well you remember that in one thousand nine hundred nine when handing over to putin yeltsin reflected on his own contribution to russia and he for started by saying of course the great
achievement was we broke with communism broke as you just wanted to know the command economy into broken to a liberal market capitalism but then he added an apology and he apologized for the fact that he was along with others so naive to think they could do it all in one big breakthrough exact breakthrough politically breakthrough economically breakthrough socially and if you break through you break things and ended up with a lot of inequality a lot of corruption a lot of the things that yeltsin i don't think would have wanted i remember meeting him in that in the two thousands and he sincerely came over as someone who was a big populist leader concerned with people's welfare and he. reflected that it was a shane with so many poor people still in russia after all he tried to do so the economic change was necessary whether it could be done in one big leap but whether it would be better done in small stages is a very very big question demon what do you think about that in the studio here more
ideologically driven a theory driven in the early years because it is alex just pointed out i mean it in a lot of people now is that the the russian economy contract a division fifty percent at one point during his administration and i like to point out to my audience here the great depression in the united states the u.s. economy contract a twenty five percent so if we can put that magnitude out there well i think it was not an ideological president and if you listen to his speeches if you read his speeches now he never said the word capitalism. all the world socialism that was not quite he style i mean i remember him saying in one of his interviews back in the eighty s that people are tired of ideology people just wanted to leave better and they wanted more economic freedom and he gave them economic freedom in one thousand one thousand nine hundred eighty two the problem was that of course people were poor and the only ones who would reach an influential were criminals or some
form of but your boss us so obviously they benefit from these privatization more than in every direction but unfortunately i think it was a global tendency if if will look the world was tremendously down just during all of the ninety s. and it continues to be unjust now it's built on some really a wrong premises which have little to do with the real liberalism and with real capitalism they wage was told by a local hopes it in the seventeenth eighteenth century maybe some people would say that yeltsin in the russians around him and took the idea of a market market economy too seriously because you got rid of you know you privatized the the family jewels that actually created wealth in this country and the rest of it just fell apart i mean and in the process i got to you don on this one one of the one of the biggest criticisms to this day is the creation of oligarchy that controlled so much of the economy and the and this is exactly the inequality the demon here was talking about and it still plagues this country today
there's still a concentration of wealth in this country and it comes from yeltsin there ott. i very much agree i think that if he and others have talked about talk more about strengthening the rule of law i think russians probably would be a lot happier today about what happened in the ninety's and and problem i'd even be wealthier today just to go back to a point that demon alex said which i agree with which is whether he was a man motivated by idiology i think in many ways he was motivated by instinct to sit around moscow and say well he was a democrat he's a democrat but he doesn't really know what it means and we watched this tremendous churning in society and it was very difficult to understand sometimes what yeltsin did or worse not thought he was doing particularly after ninety one when when you had to build a state and this this weakness of institutions when it's in the rule of law i think
is something we're at fault him very seriously alex what do you think about that because it's very interesting is because in the two thousand the argument was made that the state had to restructure the government had to restructure the state because yeltsin had allowed to do deteriorate so badly and have the so much of the economy captured into private hands i mean it this is one of the things that went wrong and maybe will not will intentionally but i mean eventually this is the russian state was no longer serving the purposes of what it was supposed to do and this is the legacy of that that that follows ielts and to this day. right i mean i think two things come out of that one is that yeltsin came out of a heavily state apparatus dominated system the communist system he reacted against that wanted to give people the freedom the liberty to be creative and make society themselves but i disagree a bit with dmitri but no ideology no explicit ideology but a culture of seeking panaceas believing that there are solutions out there which
will fix things within maybe five or ten years and that's part of a sort of russian cultural heritage seeking marxism combining it with russian characteristics then he'll see in seeking broad based capitalism giving people like gaidar free rule rein giving true bias handing out and believing it's a belief that if you allow people the opportunity to be entrepreneurs to grab the assets to make things work that everything somehow will be positive sum game and that wasn't the case and therefore you don't need the state you don't need to regularize redistribute manage in the old command system so it was a typical spend to them swing from over come on over state of education to undeceive occasion if you want and that undermining mr to sions and a free for all and liberty as we know has enormous costs for most people who haven't got the energy to fight for their rights let me ask you this i mean that's and it's another. accusation made against yeltsin his he was such a pendulum person he would go to such extremes if it was for on the democrat
democracy issue the economy issue defense security i mean first he embraced the west by the end when you look at the kossovo experience yeltsin felt that he had been betrayed by the west but there was that pendulum i don't agree with this because it was not yeltsin it was the west they changed it to russia. in one thousand nine hundred one the west was applauding russia and unfortunately the country was collapsing. and then in the end of the nine just when russia tried to say something the west suddenly became very critical so it was not yeltsin what changed it was the edges of the of the west that changed us for here my thinking about again two very distinct process. yeltsin was a democrat in the early ninety's by the end of the ninety s. he was a different person talking about their political system it were it became very difficult to access hear him much more difficult than to access gorbachev in the
end of weakness there were all kinds of weird people around him who had absolutely no legitimacy including an authority to bice was never elected by anyone. so basically people when they made demonstrations in support of yeltsin one thousand nine hundred one what they wanted was kind of their social democratic you want to go purely this point out of the browser and regular continue our discussion of the legacy of boris like yeltsin today without. any. more news today violence is once again flared up. these are the images the world.
trying to moderation through today. more than a month. in one of the most extreme environments on the planet this is antarctica and people have to be aware that they're far away from civilization sean combs discovers fun to make sounds hard to is so special and attractive for many the wildlife in antarctica is a bozo and friends. expedition to the bottom of the earth arts he's. known for. bringing you the latest in science and technology from around russia.
we've got the future covered. it. started. welcome back to cross talk here about remind you we're talking about russia's first president boris yeltsin. but first here's a brief report on yeltsin's contentious legacy. in recent russian history few personalities remain a spoiler arising as boris yeltsin twenty years after the fall of the soviet union yeltsin is still seen in the west as the politician who ended communism and i'm sure they're in the area of personal freedoms and western style capitalism but sure that anything you learn just better proceed from
a distance especially in history i think we still need more time for the emotions and troubles to give way to serious analysis of what to take tannic figure you'll see really was in a moment that later became one of russia's most iconic yeltsin with genuine popular support helped to stare down an attempted coup in one thousand nine hundred ninety one yes we declare illegal all of the craze decisions by the state emergency committee in the us and in the western world yeltsin was seen as a reformer and a leader who could compromise he was embraced as a friend and told he was treated as a peer and when he died in two thousand and seven some of the warmest eulogies came from western leaders he stood up for freedom and democracy and openness he really believed that russia couldn't go back to communism or back further to extreme rationalism praise from abroad yes. but yeltsin sharpest critics were in the new country that he helped bring into being russia in theory yeltsin supported
a market economy but the reality was western inspired shock therapy and crony capitalism russia's economy went to. freefall and the russian ruble had to be devalued twice during his time in office for millions of russians this was yet another time of troubles. yeltsin played a critical role in ending communist rule the us president he ordered the army to tackle mutinous parliament he then ran through constitutional reforms that extended his powers as president of the expense of parliament and few can forget the brutality of the first chechen conflict by the end of his presidency yeltsin like so many russians at the time became wary of the west i told near to the americans the germans don't push us toward military action otherwise there will be a european war for sure and possibly world war there's no doubt that boris yeltsin is an outstanding historical figure you know it may take decades for the russians
themselves to find a consensus about a name that changed russian and world history forever. for crossed off our team. ok alex i'd like to go back to you in london. in the studio brought up a very interesting point about how russia looked at the west and the west looked at russia during yeltsin's tenure how do you assess that i mean was there a pendulum there whether misperceptions on one side or both sides. i think they were misperceptions on both sides russia expected the west to applaud the end of communism the introduction of a post communist purportedly democratic regime and it. expected the west to give lots of money to support the regime in to stabilize the transition to market democracy but the west responded to russia's soft liberation by appearing to be fairly mean it wasn't the best of economic conditions the big
marshall play a marshall plan number two as it were didn't come about and russia became more and more disillusioned about real partnership with the west but the trouble with russian foreign policy we were back to before the discussion is that rhetorically there was a lot of protest about nato expansion and nato militarism and european like a friend in us but in actual fact the actions were pro western until the late one nine hundred ninety s. it was the combination of the bombing of kosovo and preceding that the economic crisis the banking crisis in the crash that brought about a real disillusionment not just with the with the west among the leaders of russia but also among the new liberal middle classes don't i don't know what years you were a diplomat in the one nine hundred ninety s. and russia but what did you see i mean were the russians expecting too much from the west or the west just thought well that you know the cold war is over we won i mean you know they'll find their way on the i.m.f.
you know there's you know have a liberal economic system and everything will just be destroyed and dandy but we know it wasn't i mean what were the perceptions and misperceptions during your tenure here. well there were a lot of misperceptions i want to say first that i agree with alex that that yeltsin change the west changed but i would also say that that russia changed i think the west expected a kind of a breakthrough to a larger version of maybe what polar the czech republic is today and that simply was never in retrospect going to be the case second the west i think it's important to recall the rest championed the one nine hundred ninety three constitutional reforms that gave a much stronger presidency to yeltsin then have existed before and as a consequence to some extent we better that what we now criticize as a super thought super presidential regime but i want to go back to ninety one i think that there is a lot of misperception about what happened in ninety one where as i and many others
thought it was a democratic breakthrough i think there were a lot of impulses there populism anti soviet ism and frankly russian nationalism that in a moderate form which which blended together with the pro so-called pro democratic forces so ninety one i think was misinterpreted and then once that was misinterpreted a lot of what we saw go on that in the following decade was i think under arrest or a that and misinterpreted as well you know it's very interesting is because you think in retrospect that the that the west wanted russia to disagree invented self and it's in a western image because that's what it sounds like when you go back and you know it because it's it's the triumphant ism of winning the cold war and russia looks at it in a very different way it collapsed the soviet union itself would want to do it wanted something different it wasn't a defeat but still even the mainstream media still treated as a defeated power and well i think that's the problem russia was treated as a defeated ball and in that sense the west has shown
a little fantasy i would say i think it characterizes the whole beat it of the ninety s. level fantasy the west would not think would not invent a new russia and. light state or a neutral state each return to the old ways of treating russia with suspicion we just usual you know there was nothing new i asked for one thousand nine hundred and i can tell your story in july in one thousand nine hundred one. government delegation came to russia and they came to what was their head of the government and they said we stay when you we don't believe these democrats we think you are a serious person a few people remember that i am sorry that you were and i think it shows you all the level found at the time again alex go ahead jump in. like a friend is a year but it's very difficult to get this. great sense of this russia want to be treated in the early one nine hundred ninety s. both as a cove victor a victor against communism sort of self imposed to victory and therefore be treated
as a partner and also to be given this kind of economic aid which would be expected of a defeated power it will be to. will war so at that one of the same time they wanted to be treated as equal victors and also to be bailed out and helped to recover as defeated pows and that was a very difficult pair of conceptions to get people's minds around in the west don when you think about that that's a very interesting to hear is i'm very interesting paradigm it off first of all i should i should tell dimitri that i did not write those comments to me honestly at the time. i think i very much agree with what alex and frankly i know the person what the perception in russia is i was being treated like a defeated power certainly i think in policymaking circles in washington that was not the case even if it maybe appear about way to people in russia they basically thought that russia would end up relatively quickly i think being i and that way
and us a lot of the trouble that happened in the following decade at least for some people in washington what was the summer. a surprise the second point i would make is that russia itself then was ambivalent about the soviet past about its own past and that made it much more difficult to craft a policy. in one way or the other political or economic to move russia and the way we tried we wanted it to go and the fact that because the russians themselves were uncertain about which way they want to go dimitri i mean in and we look at it in retrospect now. after his presidency was that a missed opportunity i mean was really wanting to be. a partner of the west and that we just wasn't simply in braced i think he wanted to be able the west and i think it's very unfortunate what happened there was a lot of me stuff but you need this you know my moment and sort of moving in russia
. and america and some of the europeans just didn't recognize that moment and some were more me they didn't believe it and when they finally believe that russia started to set in you know the moment i'm still moving you know but i don't let me say to all the gentlemen we look at the one thousand nine hundred six presidential election i mean it was amazingly fraudulent but everybody in the west wanted to ignore all of the fraud he won he won reelection ok we don't know exactly i mean i haven't gone back on the empirical evidence myself but i mean just supporting him and not what he was trying to do the democratization of this country its economic reforms they just wanted to base everything on yeltsin hoping that he would do the right thing what do you think about that alex not a systemic change but putting it on a person. you know well first of all. leaders of states always want stability first and foremost because stability equals security for them so yeltsin was a symbol of some degree of stabilisation instability that's why they backed him but
they did like in the early ninety's magination and we mentioned lack of imagination of before but the biggest like of imagination was on the international stage had there been an imaginative sitting down with russia at that time said let's to redraw the european security system let's end an expansion of nato for inertial bureaucratic safety first reasons and let's look at the ways in which we can structure russia in an equal founding basis russia always wanted to be a founder member of something new rather than an adjunct junior member of something old that was an opportunity missed them by in one thousand nine hundred ninety six that almost gone because they told started expanding so russia was let down in a way from a lack of imagination the same time russia let itself down by not having a unified strategy of any kind the voices coming out of moscow yeltsin say one thing one remember we went to warsaw and so poland could join nato if he wanted then on that second time around there were several voices and the most important
voices among them with the corporate voices who were pro western pro western economic links. to jump in here gentlemen we've got run out of time and we certainly can all agree that yeltsin led a revolutionary life many thanks to my guest today in the studio here with me in london and in washington thanks to our viewers for watching us here r.t. see you next time remember crosstalk.