Thirty years later, residents of the various republics are considered to be better off in some respects than they were at the time of independence. The 15 republics have seen their life expectancy improve since 1991.
by Victor Cherubin
It has been 30 years since the Soviet Union dissolved following a failed reform by the Soviet leadership on December 26, 1991. The Soviet Union was created by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. It did not done overnight. It was no surprise. The collapse of the 15 republics that made up the Soviet Union was met with both internal and external pressures. Back in the USSR, they tried to establish political structures and reform economic systems, which failed. They faced unresolved territorial issues, the socio-economic crisis and above all the ambiguity about the direction to take for the future.
I don’t want to discuss the causes of the breakup in a short article, except to say that there was an unwieldy empire, a permanent food shortage, the official exchange rate was 78 kopeks, while that the black market rate was 48.70 rubles. to the US greenback. Unlike a revolution, the peripheral Soviet Empire was eager for long-simmering reform. Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev resigned and Boris Yeltsin became president of a newly independent Russia. The bursting of this colossus was already a matter of time.
President Putin’s Russia
Fast forward to President Putin who said, “the breakup of historic Russia (Imperial Russia) lost 40% of its territory built over a millennium (1000 years) and lost its greatest productive capacity.” He had the ambition to rebuild Russia to its pristine days. But his dream was blocked, not necessarily by Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition party nicknamed “The Future of Russia”. It has been cornered by punitive economic sanctions from the West.
Vladimir Putin, according to Western reports, is a ruthless dictator. He is, however, known in Russia for saving Russia from disintegration, for ending the war in Chechnya and destroying ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria. Russia lost blood and sweat to accomplish all of this, including getting out of Afghanistan.
My personal experience, now only a memory
Looking back some 60 years ago (February/March 1962) under the Khrushchev regime, when I was “free and free”, I visited the Soviet Union after my study stay in the United States en route to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). I was lucky enough to spend an entire month traveling around the Soviet Union and visiting some of the capitals of its republics: Moscow, including Leningrad in Russia; Kiev, capital of Ukraine but also Odessa and Sochi in Ukraine, Yerevan capital of Armenia, Tbilisi in Georgia, Baku in Azerbaijan and Tashkent in Uzbekistan. I learned a lot about the Soviet way of life then, the “collective” kolkhoz agricultural systems, Soviet education. I had read a lot about Soviet space exploration while I was in President Kennedy’s United States. I wrote three feature articles published in 1962 in the Times of Ceylon, which readers can access, including the one I remember: “Russian students are paid to study”.
I realized that Russians and Ukrainians belonged to the same group of people, both speaking Russian which was then the official language; and Ukrainian which was the language of Ukraine. Ukrainians were naturally very proud of their “Zaporozhe Cossack” tradition of their history. I was very well received and treated with great courtesy because I came from the friendly country of Mrs. Srimavo Bandranaike. So much for my references, which I’m sure my readers will forgive me for.
Today, Ukraine is a separate and rightfully free nation. But the two Russian-speaking brothers are at loggerheads largely thanks to NATO and turmoil, as Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 and annexed it.
Russia now says it has stationed nearly 100,000 “border patrols” on Ukraine’s eastern flank. This may well be in fear that Ukraine will become coerced into being a member of NATO.
Diplomacy or deterrence, does the choice of Russia tell the United States?
US Under Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, a seasoned diplomat, recently said, “De-escalation and diplomacy versus deterrence and the very significant costs to Russia, if it chooses invasion, subversion or coercion”. She continues: “I’m not sure why Russia feels so threatened by Ukraine. President Putin will have to judge where he can get the kind of progress he wants.”
“Why are they threatened by a much smaller country that is just a developing democracy? It makes no sense.” Are we witnessing a form of “arms diplomacy”?
Nearly 8 hours of bilateral talks between the United States and Russia in Geneva a few days ago yielded no progress. Nerves are on edge.
Of course, NATO and the West are nervously watching Russia’s buildup, a tremendous buildup of forces along the Ukrainian border, its eastern border with Russia with around 600,000 suspected Russian troops, including tanks of invasion. But Moscow has denied plans for a general strike, which could escalate into a world war. Will it be in Moscow’s interest to step up, anyone guess?
President Putin did not want to fall into the same mistake made after the collapse of the Soviet Union, or by Ukraine wanting to join NATO, a threat to Russia’s security. It has Estonia and other Baltic states within earshot of the Russian border. He has the problem of the Nordstrom pipeline to Germany unresolved. But 8 years later, he still holds Crimea.
President Putin presented an eight-point draft treaty setting out demands, its terms for withdrawal, including long-term security guarantees, including NATO will end its eastern expansion, exclude the membership of the Ukraine and push back US and NATO forces stationed in Central and Eastern Europe. Is this a big challenge?
The United States wants to protect Ukraine’s borders and sovereignty. The United States is already using sanctions to limit Russian intervention. The Biden administration and its allies signal to Russia that they would face financial, technological and military sanctions against Russia. They say they would come into effect within hours of an invasion of Ukraine, if Russia sent troops across the border.
What has been achieved by the former Soviet republics during these 30 years of freedom?
Thirty years later, residents of the various republics are considered to be better off in some respects than they were at the time of independence. The 15 republics have seen their life expectancy improve since 1991. They have experienced a drop in poverty levels, thanks to reliable comparison data, which is difficult to determine. There are, however, some nostalgics of the Soviet era,
naturally, especially among older citizens, who knew ……………. in the former Soviet Union.
Will Putin use diplomacy rather than deterrence is the trillion dollar question?