Staunton, January 8 – One of the many unfortunate consequences of the Cold War was that Washington and Moscow supported horrific regimes because as bad as they were, they were “our bastards.” When that conflict ended, each side withdrew its support for such regimes and a large number of them fell.
Now, there is a growing danger that something similar will return along with growing tensions between Moscow and the West, with each side backing noxious regimes because they are once again at least “our bastards.” To the extent that happens, a major dividend of the end of the earlier cold war will have been lost – and many people around the world will suffer.
Aleksandr Skobov calls attention to this positive collateral benefit of the defeat of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Not only did that event lead to the destruction of “almost all totalitarian party regimes built on the Soviet model,” but it also led to the end of a large number of right-wing dictatorships” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C3371DCEFE11).
That happened, the Russian commentator says, because the leaders of such dictatorships no longer were viewed as people the West had to support in opposition to Soviet expansionism. And without that support, the rulers who even the West called “our bastards” in many cases were overthrown to the benefit of their populations.
“For example,” Skobov writes, “Latin America for the first time in its history was completely cleansed of the unending series of military juntas with their invariable attributes of mass repressions, tortures and death squadrons.” Moreover, “in many parts of the world, civil wars which had lasted more than one decade ended.”
On the whole, he concludes, “the 1990s were a time of a massive shift in the direction of the Western political model across the world … the general level of repression, political force, and violations of human rights qualitatively fell … [and] despite all shortcomings, the world became freer and more humane.”
This gave rise to a certain euphoria and talk about “the end of history,” and such attitudes did not lead to anything good. Instead, many of the progressive changes that followed 1991 not only in the former Soviet space but around the world proved to be reversible. “But all the same,” Skobov argues, “the 1990s were years of a fundamental progressive shift in the world.”
Now, although he does not say so in this commentary, many of those gains are being walked back not only as a result of the growing authoritarianism and aggression of Vladimir Putin’s Russia but also because some in the West are more than willing to support a new group of “our bastards” in the name of defending democracy against Moscow.