Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Moscow Must Learn From Five Greatest Historical Mistakes of Russian Leaders, Yevdokimov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 6 – Svobodnaya pressa commentator Aleksandr Yevdokimov says that it is not secret that Russians “love to ascribe their problems to others,” especially with regard to international affairs given that Russia always has and always will face foreign threats given its immense size and wealth of natural resources.

            Bur unfortunately, he continues, many of Russia’s most serious problems have been and are now the result of “crude mistakes” by its rulers, mistakes that must be acknowledged, avoided in the future and, whenever possible, corrected particularly when as now the country is in crisis (

            The commentator points to five such “historical mistakes” by Russian rulers, and both his selection and his remarks about each are suggestive of the policy directions he believes current Russian rulers should avoid and even more important should take in order to win out in the international environment.

            The first of these mistakes, he suggests, was the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867, a decision taken by the tsar as part of his effort to find allies after the disastrous Crimean War but one that deprived Russia of an important economic and political base on the North American continent. 

            This act of  “state treason,” Yevdokimov results, was visible as such at the time, but it has become even clearer since then given the rise of the US as an enemy of Russia, its exploitation of Alaska’s wealth against Russia and its positioning of American missiles on the territory of that state.

            The second of these five historical mistakes, he continues, was the refusal of the tsarist regime to conclude a separate peace with Germany in the first years of World War I, despite the efforts of Grigory Rasputin to get Nicholas II to do just that. Had Russia done so, it would have lost something but nothing nearly as much as it did by not taking that step.

            The third mistake was Stalin’s failure to recognize that Hitler would attack the USSR in 1941. The Soviet leader assumed that Hitler wouldn’t do so and thus continued to fulfill the provisions of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact right up to the eve of the German invasion, sending supplies west as Hitler sent his armies east.

            Stalin and Molotov “seriously believed all those fairytales” that Hitler told them, Yevdokimov says, a warning about putting too much confidence in the words of any foreign leader.

            The fourth mistake was Mikhail Gorbachev’s agreement to the reunification of Germany “without precise guarantees” that NATO would not expand to the east.  Such arrangements could have been made, the commentator suggests, pointing to the arrangements for Austrian neutrality prior to Soviet withdrawal in 1955.

            And the first case, he continues, involves “the conduct of the market course in the economy of the Russian Federation under conditions of the currently rapid worsening of the international situation.” Moscow is pursuing an “unnatural combination” of market-based ideas even as it claims to be defending the country’s state interests.

            That is reflected above all in the “paradoxical” situation under which Moscow is putting its money in the bonds of foreign states even when those states, like the US, are pursuing a policy directed against Russia and in which the country is promoting markets when everything dictates the need for a state-organized economy.

            “How can one conduct a liberal course which presupposes privatization and an uncontrolled currency market and hope with this for the concentration of the efforts of the entire society for ensuring a high level of defense capability”? he asks rhetorically, suggesting that no one “will be able to respond” to that.

            Under current conditions of ever greater threat, Yevdokimov continues, “the country must shift to a mobilizational model of development whether anyone likes this or not.”

            “No one ever will be ensured against mistakes and miscalculations,” he concludes, but everyone who cares about the future must learn from and try to correct them rather than deny their role in the current crisis. 

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