Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Yeltsin’s Fear of Muslims Dominating Slavs Killed Chance for Union State in 1991, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 29 – Convinced that if Ukraine did not agree to join a new union state, Russia and Belarus, two Slavic republics, would be dominated by five Central Asian Muslim ones, Boris Yeltsin worked hard to ensure that no new union would be created, according to Andrey Illarionov.

            After the August 1991 coup, the Russian economist says, Yeltsin sought to destroy the USSR but also to create a Union of Sovereign States “in which he would have played the dominant role,” but when Ukraine refused to participate, Yeltsin realized such a union would have only seven members, two Slavic and five Muslim, and rejected it.

            There is ever more evidence both archival and memoir that this was the primary reason Yeltsin was not prepared to move toward the creation of some new union of those republics prepared for some closer union, Illarionov continues (svoboda.org/a/28193788.html).

            Yeltsin telephoned US President George H.W. Bush on November 30 and told him that “we cannot allow an arrangement in which two Slavic republics would have two votes and the Muslims five.”  Everything hinges on Ukraine, the Russian leader continued, because “our ties with Ukraine are more important than with the republics of Central Asia.”

            And in memoirs published last month, Sergey Vasiliyev, who was an economic reformer close to Yeltsin, argued that “the principle cause of the liquidation of the Union of Sovereign States was that … in the upper chamber of the new state formation the two European Christian Slavic republic would have two votes while the Muslim and Asiatic ones would have five.”

            If Ukraine and thus Moldova had agreed to be a part of this new union, Illarionov says, then there would have been “four European republics, four Asiatic ones and Kazakhstan,” with the last occupying “an intermediate position.” But after Ukraine and thus Moldova were unwilling to be a part, Kazakhstan certainly would line up with the other Muslim republics.

            The draft union treaty, the economist says, give 20 seats to each republic “plus one place for each autonomous republic, autonomous oblast and national district.” As a result, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus would each have 20 votes; Uzbekistan, 21; Tajikistan, 21; Kazakhstan, 20; and Russia, 52. 

            If Ukraine and Moldova had joined, the Slavic republics would have had 113 votes against 102 for the “Asiatic” republics. Without Ukraine and Moldova, Russia and Belarus would have been outnumbered by them, 102 to 72.  Yeltsin wasn’t prepared to allow for that situation to occur.

            Some suggest that Mikhail Gorbachev might have kept things together by force. Fortunately, he didn’t because had he tried, the situation could have evolved in the direction of an even more horrific Yugoslavia.  Yeltsin might have done so and Putin almost certainly would have had they been in Gorbachev’ position.

            “Therefore,” Illarionov says, “we are greatly indebted to Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev” who despite many mistakes and shortcomings did not try to save the USSR or create a new union state on the basis of force.  Yeltsin for example wanted an empire and threatened other republics, talking about Crimea and the Donbass and using force in Chechnya.

            Unfortunately, the economist concludes, the proclivity to ignore law and thus be willing to use force to get one’s way was set already in 1991. “Boris Yeltsin was no Vladimir Putin. One must not equate the two. But that which we see today, the foundations of this we see also in the fall of 1991.”

            To give but one example, Illarionov concludes, there is the fact that the first Russian government was simply proclaimed by those in power rather than approved by parliament. As a result, it was “strictly speaking, illegitimate.”  That has opened the way to all the other disasters since that time. 

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