December 10, 2021 10:26 am
To understand the tensions around Ukraine it is useful to take a step back in time, and precisely to thirty years ago, to December 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union took place. In a precious book-testimony Andrej Gracev, the last spokesman for Michail Gorbachev in those crazy days of December, tells about “the day the USSR disappeared” (it is also the title of the book), drawing some lessons that are absolutely pertinent in a time when Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian border.
Gracev, who now lives in France, returns to some forgotten or little known scenes, such as the meeting of the three presidents of the Slavic republics – the Russian Boris Yeltsin, the Ukrainian Leonid Kravčuk and the Belarusian Stanislaŭ Shuškevič – in an isolated dacha, where between one sauna and the other decided to liquidate the Soviet Union.
“At one point, when there was talk of the delimitation of borders, Kravčuk as a precaution asked Yeltsin the following question: ‘What do we do with Crimea, Boris Nikolaevich?’. Yeltsin, in a good mood and determined to reward Ukraine for its invaluable contribution to the realization of his dream, the liberation from the forced alliance with Gorbachev, replied magnanimously: ‘Take it!’ ”.
We know how it turned out. In 2014, when Ukraine experienced the Maidan revolution, Vladimir Putin occupied and annexed Crimea, resulting in Western sanctions and the start of a period of conflict in eastern Ukraine that continues to this day. a phrase with which in 2005 Putin defined the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”, adding that “those who do not regret the Soviet Union have no heart, but those who want to rebuild it have no head”.
However, as Gracev points out, Putin later followed a policy that led to Russia occupying Russian-speaking territories in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, sending its blue helmets between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and generally showing a great deal of activism. of the former Soviet empire.
The former Kremlin adviser reveals that in the new world disorder “the specter of the defunct Soviet Union returns to the spirit and political practice of post-Communist Russia”. Gracev adds that Putin, coming from the KGB school, knows very well that “Russia is listened to and understood” by Westerners “only when it is scary”. This is the case at the present time.
Echoing this analysis, a Western official engaged in recent days’ negotiations on Ukraine confesses that “Putin believes that Ukraine belongs to him”. Thirty years after the death of the USSR that Gorbachev failed to save, Putin has put history back on track, and will continue until someone stops him.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)