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Bertelsmann Foundation. 25th Anniversary Symposium.
Transforming Our World - Building Democracy

Grigory Yavlinsky's speech.

YABLOKO expresses its gratitude to Bertelsmann Stiftung for granting us the transcript of Dr. Yavlinsky's speech.
March 11, 2002

Let me start with a short observation about the assessment of the Russian economic reforms as discussed many times under the framework created by the Bertelsmann Foundation. As you know perfectly well, Russian economic reforms and the reforms in Eastern Europe were discussed in many institutions in the world and many think tanks. And I have had a chance to take part in many of these think tanks. I have been involved in these discussions, especially when I was preparing data about Russian economic theory, which was published in Princeton and mentioned just a minute ago. Let me assure you that over the past ten years the framework organized by the Bertelsmann Foundation was the best framework in terms of openness and intellectual preparations. The Carl-Bertelsmann-Prize delivered last year simply underlined the impact of the analysis performed by the foundation during the past ten years under this framework and the think tank in general. This was a very impressive project on transformations in the world. It differed from the others in that it was first and foremost intellectually honest. Secondly, in my opinion it was very professional, and most importantly, something which was not evidenced in other think tanks, it was based on real values. All the things discussed during these seminars and these different forums and different events, on what we would have tomorrow, all the things were discussed from the point of view of major values, which are the basic concepts for democracy and a market economy. That is why it is so important that tomorrow we will discuss an issue that is only discussed in this framework as part of the Bertelsmann Foundation, the quality of democracy. Everybody discusses only democracies, but it is already well-known that while almost every country has democratic procedures, this doesn't mean that they are democracies. So, as a first step it should be noted that the word democracy doesn't mean a lot. And I think that a lot of people, who are just here from all over the world, understand what I mean. So, international involvement in such a liberal and tolerant discussion process make it possible to listen to different opinions and different people. That is why a number of advisors from this environment were able to create real solutions. Maybe not for the largest things in the world, but at least their solutions were useful for the countries. But we are discussing here developments in Russia. I want to return to the discussions that I have had with this audience for many years. Your views differ from interpretations in the major European newspapers. If you look at articles in the most important European newspapers five years ago, eight years ago and items published by the Bertelsmann Foundation, you will perceive very important differences. So the main question raised here that I found very interesting was - why were the reforms successful in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary? I think this is a key question for all transformations in Russia. If we manage to answer this question, we will be making progress in finding the answers to the most important questions. In my opinion the reforms were successful in those countries because democratic revolutions occurred in 1990 and 1991 in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In Russia it was a "nomenclature termidor", and that was the key answer which was not provided at that time. Hungary had been moving towards a democratic revolution since 1956, the Czech Republic since 1968 and Poland since the mid-1970s: Russia had no experience at all. Russia took everything for granted owing to simple events caused by the political activity of Mr. Gorbachev. He had a two-day revolution, on 19 and 20 August: we had a termidor on 21 August. Over ten years of Russian reforms we have had seven prime ministers who were all members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union or representatives of the KGB. Phase B. We had a president who was a member of the Politbureau of the Communist Party. Now we have a president who represents another sister institution of the Communist Party, as you know well. This "termidor" - this very important issue - was the one thing that all the crowds of consultants didn't understand. They came to Russia, as if Russia had already been transformed into Switzerland. They thought that everything happened in one day, when Yeltsin climbed on top of a tank and made a speech from the tank and the next day everybody thought all over the world that everything had been done, finished after eighty years of communism, even though it was the same mentality and same people in the offices. They only changed the portraits, changed their jackets and changed the words about a five-year plan, Lenin or whatever on democracy, privatisation, liberalisation. Some of them learnt it in English and that was key for consultants, as the consultants were paid by their own countries. So they have a very important role to consume the salaries they receive. But speaking seriously, I want to express on behalf of the Russian people my gratitude to everybody who has tried sincerely to help my country. And I will never forget this fact and my people will never forget the efforts made by governments and different institutions to help. But as a result the major consultants didn't understand what had happened in Russia. Let me offer one more conclusion. The mentality of the people - who were not really devoted to democracy - and values were perpendicular to the developments of the country itself. Russia paid an enormous price over ten years, owing to the mentality of our prime ministers and presidents and leaders. Russia waged two wars, one of which is still under way. We have two economic crises and two defaults: one was enormous in 1998. We faced inflation in 1992, which amounted to 2,600%, where we have almost witnessed the beginning of a civil war in 1993. That was the price that we had to pay. Something very painful happened at the end of the 1990s. The people's energy for reforms disappeared. This was really very unfortunate. Consequently it proved so simple to transfer power to Mr. Putin. And that is why it was so difficult to fight him during the presidential elections. I was in this room on 11 September last year. I may have made my first speech after this event in the seminar. During this speech I asked - what is going on in Russia? I talked about management of democracy, the Potemkin village of Russian democracy, about the situation with the media, manipulation of the elections, the situation in the legal system, when it is not at all independent and is used as a political tool to fight your competitors. At this time Russia's foreign policy was to put it mildly rather strange. You may recall the visit of a president of North Korea to Russia, who was travelling through Russia on a bullet-proof train for two months. There were the visits of the leaders of Libya or invitations to Belarus and also to Russia, the visit to Cuba: this was a very strange period of time. So on 11 September last year it was almost difficult to see any light at the end of this tunnel? I have a feeling that the situation was moving into a difficult period. What has happened since then? What has happened over the past six months? This is what I want to share with you. Most unexpectedly, on 11 September, while I was here and President Putin was able to find President Bush, he called him and supported him. On 24 September, he organised a special meeting among the leading politicians of Russia. There were 21 people in the room. And he asked for everybody's opinions on Russia's next moves. He received the following response. One individual said that Russia should provide military support for the Taliban: 18 people of the 21 said that Russia should remain neutral and not allow anybody to use Russian possibilities for a coalition. Only two politicians said that it was necessary to support the United States and the anti-terrorism coalition immediately and unconditionally. Putin took his own decision. His decision was, as you well know, to be a part of this coalition and to take a real step forward to support this fight. He had very serious practical reasons for doing so. People interested in politics know that the Russian Security Council announced in the middle of the summer in 2000 that Russia was prepared to launch a military onslaught on Afghanistan, as the camps of the El Qaida were preparing the terrorists for the war in the Northern Caucasus. So it was the first time in history when Russia was able to use somebody's force and ability to resolve Russia's security problems. This had never happened before. Russia was used many times in history, but never was able to use anybody for that. So it was a very smart move by Putin, although he had no political support in his inner circle. However, later on it became clear that he was looking not only for tactical alliances, but also for alliances which can be similar to the alliance in the Second World War, that he was looking for something more strategic. It was a real surprise in Russia that Putin was making a real step in that direction. What was the main problem which was also never recognised by the consultants, but was discussed on many occasions by the Bertelsmann Foundation? Russia was always viewed by the West as a very strange country with people who were not ready prepared for democracy and for a market economy. And the main task was to have a friend in the Kremlin. So the policy of the West was always based on personal relations. If you have a good personal relation with Yeltsin, that is all you need in Russia. You would help Yeltsin, he would have a strong hand and keep those Russians, who don't understand democracy and a market economy in this strong hand. It always felt that the West viewed Russia as a possible ally that would be needed, but also turned away from Russia, if it was not needed at a particular moment in time, and because it was deemed dangerous and unpredictable: consequently it was necessary to constrain Russia and exploit the country where necessary. Certainly, if you look at this strategic possibility, such a view on Russia must be overcome. It is necessary to make steps. But we have to accept that in order to create a strategic relation with the West, Russia has to do a lot of homework, as the domestic changes in the country are key to strategic relations for Russia. This is attributable to the fact that relations between Russia and the West should not be based only on security issues, but also on sharing common values. This is the task that Russia must accept and recognise that today's domestic policy in Russia is unacceptable from a democratic point of view. It is a very bad situation with the media. It could be said that there is no freedom of speech at the moment. There is an enormous manipulation of elections. There is considerable manipulation of the legal system and the courts. The war in the Northern Caucasus and in Chechnya is not the same as developments in Afghanistan: this is a different story by way, although there is a big terrorist element. So, without understanding and improving such things, it will prove very difficult to create these strategic relations. On the other hand I want to say that the energy of the people, of the nation for these democratic changes, was lost over the past ten years. So this represented another lost opportunity And suddenly this opportunity appeared. This opportunity represents a step towards the West for Russia. It is an extremely important move for Russia today. But in this sense it is also important for the West to recognize some difficult things. First of all, I said that Russia is not only one man in Kremlin.

Also Russia has the longest borders with the most unstable and dangerous places in the world. If Russia was not strong enough to enforce order at these borders, something terrible could happen. Thirdly, it is necessary, finally, to say very openly and clearly that Russia is part of Europe. Russia would be a full member of all European institutions - security, politics, economy, military - let's say 20 years from now. But this is the way and this is a symbol. It must be announced today and not in a sense of Brussels bureaucracy, but in terms of the spirit of politics, spirit of everyday living. In that context Russia is part of Europe. So if you take all this together, I want to say that - look around. And after 11 September it would be clear that the world desperately needs a new way of thinking about foreign policy. The world desperately needs to address the core foreign policy issues in the global system. That means that at the level of world politics it is necessary to have a new quality of new international relations, a new quality of international institutions and it is indicative of the bad state of policy that at present no leading politician is formulating any concepts here - this is an open way forward. Look! New quality, I mean there must be something different in international relations than NATO. And something very different from old fashioned treaties on the nuclear weapons, which we had last century. There must be a different kind of relation, because we need to resolve new problems. What am I talking about? I am talking about the steps taken by Russia to create the opportunity for a real political and military alliance with the West as soon as possible. Not to sit and discuss problems based on 19 plus one or something similar, which is reminiscent of saying something, when you have nothing to say. But it must be a qualitatively new kind of relations. It would be interesting to know if there are real preconditions for such things. And here I would say - look at the real political picture. Russia is giving very clear signals that it is prepared for that. All of a sudden Putin saw a problem with military bases in Cuba and Vietnam. He was not even asked about this issue. It was a clear message. Then there was a very reserved and limited reaction from the President of Russia on the steps to be taken by the United States on withdrawing from the 1972 ABM treaty. Then the president of United States declared that Latvia would join NATO. There was no hysteria in Moscow, there were no tough words, there was a very limited reaction. Putin said publicly that we oppose this move, but this is not a big deal. And he said privately that he saw no problem. We saw what happened in September. More members in NATO, more mess. Don't worry. Next step, next step. United States declared that it would store nuclear warheads, and not destroy them. In plain Russian language that means that Russia is an enemy, as only Russia needs as many warheads as the United States. Okay. There was a very muted reaction from Moscow: Moscow said - this is intellectually wrong. We are going to discuss this issue and will involve our partners in finding the solutions required in this area. It will be far too dangerous for everybody if we store all our nuclear warheads. Isn't that clear? Let us turn to Georgia. The Russian political elite became almost hysterical about the Georgian issue, when America said - we are going to be in Georgia to train Georgians and so. Once again, this is a very reasonable and smart reaction of the president who said that this would be helpful, adding that if they are ready to fight the terrorists there, we are happy with this. No problem with this. And finally, let me repeat again that a year ago, in other words half a year before 11 September, Mr. Putin presented Mr. Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO, with Russian proposals on creating a Russian-European, Russian-European tactical anti-ballistic defence system. So, he offered in his proposals the possibility of using Russian territory, Russian military technologies and Russian military abilities. Step by step Russia is providing such signals. The question is: are any politicians listening? How long can we continue in this direction? And what should the response be? Over recent months we can see some response: the statement by Mr. Powell that United States is ready to sign a mandatory treaty on nuclear warheads and a statement from his deputy in Moscow, about the possibility of a strategic partnership with Russia. The last step from the United States was a very friendly step: that Radio Liberty would not make presentations or programs in Chechen, which was very, very sensitive issue. They were prepared - you may not even know this fact - Radio Liberty, the radio of America's Congress - they were prepared to make programs in Chechen. That was extremely sensitive in Moscow. For many reasons, there is a big question - what can you explain in this language, but this is a different matter, it was a symbolic issue. Two weeks ago, America stated that would do this now. So, just take a look. Two very big countries are moving to meet each other and there is still a possibility. Why am I talking about this right now? I am speaking about this owing to the visit of Mr. Bush. As we are talking about the consequences of 11 September, there will be a visit at the end of May to Moscow. And the question is whether the two presidents will be ready to do anything substantial. Whether they are prepared to sign a treaty, which would at the very least open the way to create a political and military new kind of quality, a qualitatively new international institution in this area, not NATO and not simply counting the nukes. This will be something that is slightly different. Certainly, it would be difficult, because it is very complicated for Western countries to assume such risks. It is very complicated to provide such guarantees to Russia. But this is a challenge. This is a difficult challenge, as there are new challenges in general, there are new challenges for the United States and new challenges for Russia. I think that the main challenge to the United States at present is that the United States is so strong. It is extremely strong, it is number one, number two, number three, number four and number ten, and maybe number eleven in all areas. And all the others come next. In military, political and economic terms, it is very difficult not to be arrogant in such a situation. And it is very difficult to create a new framework for operations internationally, when you feel that you are the senior partner. It is also a big challenge for Russia: if the arrogance of power is a problem for the United States, unpredictability is the big problem for Russia. As you know, we also find domestic policy to be quite a challenge. And the Russian political elite find it a big problem to be a junior partner, maybe for the first time in many centuries. It is not easy. So it is necessary to establish a new framework, which would be based not only on security issues, but also on values. And this is a very important moment. I also want to say that in terms of personality problems, if you look and compare the two presidents, the President of Russia and President of the United States, you will see a lot of similarities. Both of them are based on an idea of security and order. Both of them use war as a way of consolidating society. Both of them never expected to be a president from the very outset. Both of them prefer to avoid real solutions to the major problems through consolidation and securities issues. So there are some different difficulties. In Russia newspapers sometimes joke that Bush and Putin were brought to office by their families, Mr. Bush by his own family, Mr. Putin by the political family of Mr. Yeltsin. So it will prove difficult to hold a discussion in such a situation owing to reactions of the Russian and American political elites. But look at the world map and the world of politics. We have a lot of problems, which will never be solved without this alliance. Let me name some of them. Balkans, Middle East, India/Pakistan, Taiwan, Poland, the situation in Central Asia, Caucasus, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, non-proliferation, ecology, drug traffic, crimes. Without cooperation none of these problems can be resolved, whether we are a difficult partner or easy partner, whether the presidents are prepared or not. So this is the challenge of recent politics. Tomorrow I will share some of my views with you. I will make a speech tomorrow on European policy in this context. However, today I will talk on only these two major issues. In my opinion one major issue is related to our discussions here half a year ago and now. Let me give you a formula, which I believe in 100% - the stronger Russia is, less potential there is for terrorism in the world. The weaker Russia is, the more terrorism in the world. This is simply a law. It happens. So we are the weakest chain and are squeezing terroristic forces from all other countries: they may all be collected in our country, as we are weakest chain and have everything they want. So all these factors make me feel that we will face an extremely difficult situation, if the presidents simply count the nuclear warheads, speak about minor matters or make a declaration about a new era and new age, but there is no real cooperation. Let me make two final observations. This represents one of the main opportunities for Russia to come back to real reforms. I am not only speaking about these opportunities as they are very important for the world. That goes without saying. I am referring to the energy which can come from Russia. The Russian internal situation would change radically, if my political opponent, Mr. Putin were to shake the West's hand. Let me make one final observation. The role of Europe in this process can be extremely important, especially, the role of Great Britain and Germany. And I think this is one of the important issues for discussion and for the possibilities of the Bertelsmann Foundation in the near future. Thank you very much.

See also:

Bertelsmann Foundation 25th Anniversary Symposium Transforming Our World - Building Democracy
March 11, 2002

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