Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Putin Continues Yeltsin's Policies Rather than Reversing Them for Good or Ill, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 11 – It is almost an article of faith among both supporters and opponents of the current Russian president that he represents a rejection of the approach of his predecessor; but in fact, Vadim Sidorov says that in fact, Vladimir Putin has continued rather than reversed the policies of Boris Yeltsin.

            Of course, there is some basis for those who believe otherwise, the Prague-based analyst says. Yeltsin posed as an ally of the West but Putin opposes it, Yeltsin maintained good relations with Ukraine but Putin invaded it, and Yeltsin gave at least a nod to federalism while Putin has erected a centralist power vertical (

            ”But if you look more carefully, Sidorov says, “it becomes clear that the foreign policy of the Kremlin now  represents not a break from the policies of Yeltsin but a development of those lines based on the use of force which appeared already under him.”

            As everyone recalls, Yeltsin launched the first war against Chechnya, but that was hardly the only time he used force in an aggressive manner. He did so covertly in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and quite openly in Transnistria. He also used force against the domestic opposition in October 1993 and, despite denials all around, did so to support one side of the Tajik civil war.

            For all his much-hyped anti-communism, Yeltsin’s commitment to support the nomenklatura around him made him “allergic to genuinely anti-communist leaders like Gamsakhurdia in Georgia, Ter-Petrosian in Armenia, the Peoples Front in Moldova and Dudayev in Chechnya,” Sidorov continues.

            And it was Yeltsin, long before Putin, who “began to restore on the post-Soviet space the party nomenklatura ‘Holy Union’ which Russia then undertook to defend against ‘color revolutions,” the Prag-based analyst says. Moreover, the first Russian president committed himself to Russian dominance over the former Soviet republics.

            It was under Yeltsin, Sidorov says, that Kremlin policy again took on “clearly expressed anti-American notes,” over Yugoslavia and many other issues.  And it was Yeltsin who began the turn away from the West and toward communist China and who launched “the cult of a multipolar world” against American dominance.

            But perhaps the most influential policy Yeltsin launched and Putin has continued is one directed at “the absolutization of the results of World War II and the fight against any revision of them.” Moreover, and related to that, Yeltsin did not engage in any serious lustration or the removal of potent Soviet symbols including Lenin in his Red Square mausoleum.

            “Strictly speaking,” Sidorov says, “having taken from the hands of Yeltsin absolute power … his successor Putin developed all the same political and ideological lines which were clearly expressed in the administration of his predecessor.” Both the supporters and opponents of the current president need to recognize that rather than engage in their respective denials.

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