Russia President Vladimir Putin has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago as the demise of what he called “historical Russia” and said the economic crisis that followed was so bad he was forced to moonlight as a taxi driver.
A Reuters report from Moscow said:
Putin’s comments, released by state TV on Sunday, are likely to further fuel speculation about his foreign policy intentions among critics, who accuse him of planning to recreate the Soviet Union and of contemplating an attack on Ukraine, a notion the Kremlin has dismissed as fear-mongering.
“It was a disintegration of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union,” Putin said of the 1991 breakup, in comments aired on Sunday as part of a documentary film called “Russia. New History”, the RIA state news agency reported.
A Major Humanitarian Tragedy
“We turned into a completely different country. And what had been built up over 1,000 years was largely lost,” said Putin, saying 25 million Russian people in newly independent countries suddenly found themselves cut off from Russia, part of what he called “a major humanitarian tragedy”.
Putin also described for the first time how he was affected personally by the tough economic times that followed the Soviet collapse, when Russia suffered double-digit inflation.
A Taxi Driver
“Sometimes [I] had to moonlight and drive a taxi. It is unpleasant to talk about this but, unfortunately, this also took place,” the president said.
Greatest Geopolitical Catastrophe
Putin, who served in the Soviet-era KGB, has previously called the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, but his new comments show how he viewed it specifically as a setback for Russian power.
Ukraine was one of 15 Soviet republics and Putin used a lengthy article published on the Kremlin website this year to set out why he believed Russia’s southern neighbor and its people were an integral part of Russian history and culture.
CIA Employees Worked In Russian Government In Mid-1990s
A Journal of People report (https://journalworker.wordpress.com/2021/12/12/cia-employees-worked-in-russian-government-in-mid-1990s/) said:
Russian President Vladimir Putin shed some light on the methods that foreign states used to influence the Russian Federation in mid-1990s.
Putin underscored that he thwarted such actions in the early 2000s. “For instance: mid-1990s-early 2000s; in the early 2000s, I’ve cleaned all of them out, but in mid-1990s, we had Central Intelligence Agency employees as advisors and even official employees of the government of the Russian Federation, as we learned later,” Putin said at the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights meeting Thursday.
“Later, they were brought to responsibility in the US for, while being CIA employees and working in Russia, they violated the US law and took part in the privatization,” the President underscored.
According to Putin, “this is only one example” of attempted interference in Russia’s internal affairs. “In reality, they are much more numerous,” Putin said.
According to Putin, “certain countries had some degree of control via this channel.”
“There were American specialists sitting at our nuclear weapons complex sites, they went to work there, from morning to late night – they had a table and an American flag. They lived there and worked there. They did not need any fine instruments to interfere in our life, because they had control over everything already,” Putin said.
Putin underscored that “of course, the situation has changed, the country became different, it became more independent, more sovereign; its armed forces’ capabilities are growing and the attitude towards Russia began to change.”
“As soon as Russia started claiming its interests, started to raise its sovereignty, economy and armed forces’ capability, new instruments of influence on our internal political life became needed, including rather fine instruments via various organizations, funded from abroad,” the Russian leader believes.
He underscored that Russia has not become hostile to anyone.
“This is simply not true. Russia has not become hostile to any part of the world at all. A certain part of the world considers us their adversaries,” Putin noted. “Did we declare anyone as our adversary in any strategic documents? No. It is us who were declared,” Putin explained.
USSR’s Death Blow Was Struck 30 Years Ago In A Hunting Lodge
On December 8, 2021, an AP report said:
“When the leaders of the Soviet Union’s three Slavic republics met at a secluded hunting lodge on Dec. 8, 1991, the fate of the vast country hung in the balance. With a stroke of their pens, they delivered a death blow to the USSR, triggering shockwaves that are still reverberating three decades later in the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
“The agreement they signed at the dacha in Viskuli, in the Belavezha forest near the border with Poland, declared that ‘the USSR ceases to exist as a subject of international law and as a geopolitical reality.’ It also created the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of ex-Soviet republics that still exists but carries little meaning.
“Two weeks later, eight other Soviet republics joined the alliance, effectively terminating the authority of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who stepped down on Dec. 25, 1991, with the hammer and sickle flag lowered over the Kremlin.
“Stanislav Shushkevich, the head of the republic of Byelorussia, as Belarus was called at the time, spoke about the signing of the agreement with pride. The accord reached with Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, marked a ‘diplomatic masterpiece,’ he said.
“‘A great empire, a nuclear superpower, split into independent countries that could cooperate with each other as closely as they wanted, and not a single drop of blood was shed,’ added Shushkevich, 86, in an interview with The Associated Press.”
The AP report said:
“In his memoirs, Gorbachev expressed bitterness about the 1991 agreement, which doomed his desperate attempt to save the USSR from collapse by trying to negotiate a new ‘union treaty’ among the republics, an effort he had begun months earlier.
“‘What they so hastily and stealthily did in Belavezha was like a plot to kill an injured but still living person by dismembering it,’ wrote Gorbachev, now 90. ‘The striving for power and personal interests prevailed over any legal arguments or doubts.’
“For Shushkevich, however, ‘It wasn’t a tragedy at all!’”
The report said:
“Shushkevich argued that he and the other leaders saw no point in Gorbachev’s efforts to keep the remaining 12 Soviet republics together. The Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia already had seceded and the failed August coup against Gorbachev by hard-line members of the Communist Party had eroded his authority and encouraged other republics to seek independence.
“‘All versions of the union treaty boiled down to the restoration of the old ways or to Gorbachev’s proposal of a new structure where he still would be the boss,’ Shushkevich said.
“Shushkevich, Yeltsin and Kravchuk had arrived at the Viskuli lodge near the border with Poland accompanied by a few senior aides on Dec. 7. Participants later described the atmosphere as tense — everyone realized that the stakes were high and they all faced the risk of being arrested on treason charges, if Gorbachev wanted.
“Shushkevich noted that Eduard Shirkovsky, the head of the republic’s KGB who was at the hunting lodge, had assured him there was no threat. Years later, however, the hard-line Shirkovsky voiced regret that he didn’t order their arrest.
“In the AP interview, Shushkevich said he did not expect Gorbachev, whose power was waning rapidly, to try to arrest them.
“‘I don’t think there was such a threat, given Gorbachev’s cowardice; at least I didn’t feel it,’ he said.
“Gorbachev said he decided against it for fear of provoking bloodshed in a volatile situation when the loyalties of the Soviet army and law enforcement were split.
“‘If I decided to rely on some armed structures, it would have inevitably resulted in an acute political conflict fraught with bloodshed,’ he wrote.
“Gorbachev blamed Yeltsin, his archrival, for spearheading the Soviet collapse in a bid to take over the Kremlin. Yeltsin, who died in 2007 at the age of 76, had defended his action by saying the USSR was doomed. The Belovezha agreement, he said, was the only way to avoid a conflict between the central government and the independence-minded republics.
“Some participants in the historic meeting pointed to Ukraine’s Kravchuk as playing the pivotal role in the demise of the Soviet Union.
“Ukraine had declared its sovereignty after the August coup that dramatically weakened Gorbachev’s authority. A week before the Belovezha agreement, Kravchuk was elected president of Ukraine in a vote that also overwhelmingly approved its independence from Moscow.
“In the talks at the hunting lodge, Kravchuk took a forceful stand, rejecting any kind of revamped version of the Soviet Union.
“‘Kravchuk was focused on Ukraine’s independence,’ Shushkevich said. ‘He was proud that Ukraine declared its independence in a referendum and he was elected president on Dec. 1, 1991.’
“Sergei Shakhrai, a top Yeltsin aide, also said Ukraine’s vote played a decisive role.
“‘The Ukrainian independence referendum and the subsequent decision by the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet to disavow the 1922 Treaty on creation of the USSR put a political and legal completion to the process of disintegration,’ Shakhrai said. ‘Yeltsin and Shushkevich first tried to persuade Kravchuk to maintain some form of union, but after the referendum, he would not even like to hear that word.’
“After signing the agreement, Yeltsin and Kravchuk asked Shushkevich to tell Gorbachev about the deal. Yeltsin also called Soviet Defense Minister Yevgeny Shaposhnikov to discourage him from using any force if Gorbachev ordered him to do so, and later called then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
“Shushkevich recalled that Gorbachev was livid at the news declaring the Soviet Union dead.
“‘Gorbachev told me in a mentor tone: “Do you know what the international community would say?”’ Shushkevich said. ‘And I responded that I do know. By that time, the conversation with Bush already started and I was hearing it. I said that Yeltsin was telling Bush about it and he (Bush) was reacting in a positive way.’
“While they focused on unseating Gorbachev, the three leaders put aside disputes among themselves, but those rifts resurfaced later.
“Putin, who described the collapse of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,’ has continuously alleged that Ukraine unfairly inherited historic parts of Russia in the demise of the USSR.”
The AP report said:
“‘Modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era,’ Putin said in an article published in July. ‘We know and remember well that it was shaped — for a significant part — on the lands of historical Russia. It is crystal clear that Russia was effectively robbed.’”