Thursday, February 17, 2022

‘America Saved Russia’ in 1991, Tyurkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 26 – In another appreciation of the events of 30 years ago, Mikhail Tyurkin says that in a certain sense, “America saved Russia” at that time by opposing Mikhail Gorbachev’s plan to give autonomies union republic status and by insisting only union republics could be independent and that their administrative borders would become international ones.

            If the Americans had taken a different position, the historian who teaches at St. Petersburg State University argues the Russia that would have emerged would have been much smaller than it has turned out to be; and so the US left Russia the paramount power in Eurasia (

           Indeed, he insists, the Americans had the chance to destroy not only the Soviet Union but Russia itself but chose not to do the latter.

            According to Tyurkin, the reason the Americans did this was not out of any special sympathy for Russia but rather because they feared that if the autonomous republics exited from Moscow’s control, that would put large swaths of the country at risk of being dominated by China, Turkey or Germany.

            And he argues that it was this deference to Russia’s state borders and future capacity to dominate the former Soviet space rather than the chance to become rich that animated Russian elites to accept the demise of the USSR. Yes, many did see their wealth increase dramatically; but they acted patriotically in working with the West to keep Russia from suffering even more.

            The Americans thought, Tyurkin says, that the introduction of capitalism and democracy would change the Russian “cultural code” and thus limit or at least delay a resurgence of Russian power over the former Soviet republics. But they underestimated the power of that code, and now Moscow is actively engaged in doing just that.

            But Russians should recognize that at least in part this is possible now because of what the Americans did in 1991 and because of Washington’s view that regional hegemonic powers are going to be the dominant fact of life until there can be formed a single world government of some kind in the future.

            There is little prospect of that anytime soon, Tyurkin concludes; and thus Russians today, however much the Americans are now complaining, are acting according to a script that the US wrote the outlines of 30 years ago.


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