Tuesday, December 15, 2015

‘Disintegration of USSR Continues’ With New Force, Former Gorbachev Aide Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 15 – The forces which tore apart the USSR in 1991 continue to operate and have been reinforced by others so that one can only conclude that “the disintegration of the USSR continues” to this day, according to Zigmund Stankevich, who headed Gorbachev’s analytic group in 1990-1991.

            In an interview with Regnum’s Maksim Shalygin, the former Gorbavchev aide says that “everything which is taking place with regard to Ukraine is a delayed second act of the events of 1990-1991” and that because Soviet-era territorial divisions are being forgotten, “we cannot put an end to the process of disintegration” (regnum.ru/news/polit/2035022.html).

            “The old system of attraction with a center in Moscow is already gone. Everything is split apart. Small centers of influence have arisen along the entire perimeter [and] not only in Russia. The CIS de facto hasn’t existed for several years,” he observes. “When was the last time you heard a normal conversation about the CIS? I don’t remember.”

            Stankevich makes several interesting observations about the events of 1990-1991. He insists for example that Mikhail Gorbachev “knew everything” and wasn’t in any sense kept in the dark as some of his supporters say. He argues that the law on withdrawing from the USSR was adopted far too late.

            Like Vladimir Putin, he blames Russia’s Boris Yeltsin for the demise of the USSR in 1991. Had Russia stood firm for a new union agreement, “perhaps the Baltic republics would have left but all the rest would have remained exactly where they were.” And he blames the stagnation before 1985 for leaving the USSR with a generation not ready to defend the country.

            But his most intriguing comments concern the current situation, one in which Stankevich argues that “the storm of the disintegration of the Union has not quieted down.” Not only are there conflicts everywhere in border areas, but there are real problems in the governments of these countries, including in the first instance, Russia itself.

            “Russia all the time is associated with a certain nucleus of the Soviet Union … but it has ceased to be that.” However, some still think that “Moscow is the Union, it is the empire, Greater Russia.”  They forget that Russia became the Russian Federation, a successor state and not a continuation of the former USSR.

             If the former Soviet space is to be kept together rather than to continue to disintegrate, Stankevich argues, “Russia must offer all its neighbors some new forms of interaction, [at least]  to those who want this because the alternative is simple – constant conflicts along the entire perimeter of [its] border.”

            But there is a related problem in Russia that makes that improbable and that risks accelerating the process of disintegration of the former Soviet space, the former Gorbachev aide says.  One of its signs is the hands’ on management style practiced by Putin, a kind of rule that shows that ministries aren’t in apposition to solve problems.

            That represents a serious challenge not only to the former Soviet space but to the Russian Federation itself, he suggests.  “And this is only one of its manifestations. Such disorder as there is today did not exist in the USSR.” Nor did the Soviet system put such young people in senior positions.

            Instead, he says, in Soviet times, officials had to rise through the ranks gaining experience and showing their competence.  But now there are 30-year-old ministers and even younger heads of departments, a trend encouraged by Dmitry Medvedev who says people should move back and forth between business and government service.

            “I do not believe,” Stankevich says, “that people who move back and forth between state service and business think about state interests.” And he implies that their failure to do so can be fatal not only for the former Soviet space but for Russia as well.

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