January 4 marked the 14th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR. Mikhail Gorbatchev resigned from the presidency and Boris Yeltsin became the first president of independent Russia. It was the end of what Ronald Reagan had named “the Evil Empire”. Thus, Russia and 14 independent states emerged.
Who could have thought that the Evil Empire would disappear with no war, that communism would collapse without a revolution? Who could have thought that the end of the bipolar world would come so peacefully and that a totalitarian dictatorship would transform into a society in “normal” transition such as Brazil, Venezuela, Indonesia or Nigeria? Who could have thought that after the then former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s statements in 1991, no nuclear weapon of the ex-USSR would fall into the wrong hands? Who ever thought the Russian government was going to be rich and that Russia was going to have an average economic growth of 7% after the financial crisis of 1998? Who ever thought that the Russian president would chair the G8 since year 2006?
Russia is still a kaleidoscope of contradictions and the Americans still see it as a rather empty glass. Vladimir Putin’s attacks against NGOs are not reassuring, but compared with our greatest fears, who would have thought Russia would be what it is today?
“14 years after evil empire, a stable Russia”, by Graham Allison, Boston Globe, December 26, 2005.