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The myth of Russian humiliation

You will often hear people claim that in the 1990s Western countries rubbed Russia's nose in the dirt. It is because Russia was so belittled and mistreated by the United States and other Western nations that a revanchiste resurgent Russia is assailing Ukraine. However, this thesis is largely bogus.

In 1991 the Soviet Union dissolved and the Russian Federation became independent. Russian ultra-nationalists now claim that the independence of the other former Soviet republics is illegal. This is nonsense. They declared independence in 1991 mostly after referenda and Russia accepted this. At the Belovezh Accords in 1991, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine all explicitly recognized each other's sovereignty.

Soon afterwards Moscow recognized the independence of all the other former USSR republics and exchanged ambassadors with them. It is the height of duplicity for Russia to both recognize and de-recognize Ukraine at the same time. Putin's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine is predicated on the principle that Ukraine is part of Russia and has absolutely no right to exist as an independent state and this is what he said in his broadcast on 24 February when he announced the invasion.

That is despite his saying in July that Ukraine is an independent country and is entitled to join the European Union if it so wishes. This is the inane and hypocritical doublethink of Putinism. As Russia prepared its unprovoked attack on Ukraine it still had full diplomatic relations with its intended victim.

Within months of the end of the USSR, the Russian Federation tried to overthrow the President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia was shot dead. Whether he was murdered or committed suicide is hotly disputed. Moscow caused the Georgian Civil War and invaded Georgia. Russia illegally occupies Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Both these regions are internationally recognized as Georgian sovereign soil. Russia claims its illegal occupiers are peacekeepers. This flagrant lie is beyond absurd. Aggressors cannot be peacekeepers. The side that started the conflict cannot be peacekeepers. Peacekeepers must be neutral and accepted by both sides. Turn to the United Nations for peacekeepers.

In the early 1990s, Russian troops helped Armenia invade Azerbaijan. Armenia occupies some Azerbaijani land to this day.

Russia caused the Transnistrian War. Russian troops attacked Moldova. The Russian Army illegally occupies some of Moldova to this day. How do they excuse this? They claim that they are unable to remove their stores of weapons. Russia has removed weapons from twenty other lands some of them much farther away. But they cannot remove them from Moldova. Are they totally imbecilic? It is another blatant lie.

Western countries took almost no action on this. The countries that were Russia's victims were small, poverty-stricken and thought to be unimportant. Most Occidentals had never heard of these countries. Why cause a fuss over a faraway land of which we know little? It was considered much more vital to build a cordial partnership with Russia.

Western nations led by the United States advanced enormous loans to Russia. The USA, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and even non-Western countries such as Japan saved Russia with these bridging loans. US-dominated institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF bailed Russia out. That is not wrecking Russia. Some Russians complain about having to repay these loans. Do not hire the money then. Where would Russia have been had it not been for these crisis loans? Why did Russia keep coming to beseech Western countries for more loans?

The Russian economy was in decline from the early 1980s. Much of the economy was based on oil exports. Not a lot has changed there then! Low oil prices in the mid-1980s meant that the Russian economy got worse and worse. Russia introduced tentatively the free market in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s, there was the big bang of privatization. There was a bonanza of auctions. However, the same secret service thugs who had terrorized the Russians for 70 years in the name of communism now did so in the name of capitalism. Thugs controlled rooms where auctions were held. Therefore oil fields were bought for an infinitesimal fraction of their true value. The public purse was ripped off.

In the early 1990s, many people were laid off. Those who had jobs often went unpaid for months. The crime was rampant and corruption was widespread. This was partly because the police were accountable for some time and there were fair trials. It is harder to control crime if people have rights. There was much social dislocation and economic implosion. To make it more galling, a handful of people got filthy rich overnight. These homines novi expatriated their lucre. They had no confidence in Russian banks, courts or police officers.

It was very handy for the Russian elitists to scapegoat the West. The daylight robbery of the national wealth by a tiny number of Russians and the government's complicity in all this was something they liked to blame the West for. Russia's dysfunctionality in the 1990s was almost total. It was on the verge of being a failed state.

In 1993 there was open fighting in Moscow and hundreds of people were killed in three days. In 1994 Chechnya broke away. The Russian Army was defeated by tiny and almost disarmed people. The United States said that Russia had the right to repress the revolt and maintain its territorial integrity. Despite several large-scale massacres of Chechen civilians by the Russian Army and the widespread use of torture by Russian against the Chechens, Western criticism of Russia was muted. The gross human rights abuses by the Russian Military were extensively documented by valiant Russian journalists and human rights activists. These noble Russian human rights defenders were often murdered for their morality. In 1996, Russia de facto accepted Chechen independence. Putin later falsely claimed that Western countries openly supported Chechen 'terrorism' when the Chechens sought independence.

If the USA wanted to crush Russia in the 90s, it could have done so. Generals could have been bought. Many of them were not paid for months on end.

Until 1991 the Soviets (50% of whom were Russians) were the second most puissant people on earth. The USSR was the home of an ideology believed in by half the world. Russia went from being a superpower to being a fourth-rate power within just a few years. This was a deep contusion to the ego. Russia was traumatized by the havoc and collapse that the 1990s represented.

In fairness, some Westerns did harm Russia in the 1990s. Some Occidental economists recommended shock therapy. Shocks are never good. The changeover to capitalism was mismanaged. The trouble is Russia did not get a free market in the 1990s. There was an unfree market controlled by ex-KGB intimidators. Westerners were no slouches at accepting dirty money.

In 1991 a Russian girl group had a hit single with a song entitled 'American Boy American Joy'. In it a young Russian expresses her pining for an American boyfriend. He will bring her a Mercedes she says. She sings 'Moscow farewell'. For a Russian woman, a Western husband was a route out of poverty. Prostitution and drug abuse became rampant partly because loud, ignorant and conceited Western men were flashing the cash in Russian cities. No men would like it if their womenfolk were hankering after boorish cashed up foreigners.

In sum, Western countries helped Russia in the 1990s and did not harm it. It was Russia that harmed other countries by invading them and the West turned a blind eye to this. We are living with the consequences of the international community failing to take a firm stand against Russian aggression in the 90s. The West became a convenient factor to blame for the ineptitude, decrepitude and criminality of the Russian Government in the 90s.

The author is a political analyst from the UK. He can be watched on YouTube George from Ireland

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TAGS:the myth of Russian humiliationUkraine WarRussian invasion of Ukraine
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