Russia did not become the country we see now overnight. For decades, the entire civilized world has been watching the Russian Federation turning into another reincarnation of the “prison of nations”. However, only the war has forced the international community to rethink some things that previously they were afraid to think about, lest they bring trouble. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Western policy toward Russia is changing dramatically. And mostly, it happens according to the “better late than never” principle. This is what the world-renowned Israeli and British virtuoso pianist of Russian origin, Evgeny Kisin, said in an interview with Canadian magazine Stir.
If the sanctions currently applied to Putin’s regime had been applied eight years ago, after the annexation of Crimea, there would be no war in Ukraine. I’ll tell you even more: had the West imposed such sanctions in 2008, in response to Putin’s invasion of Georgia and de facto annexation of South Ossetia, Putin would not have annexed Crimea five and a half years later – and he might not even have been in power by then. Moreover, if the West had imposed similar sanctions in 1999-2000 in response to the genocide in Chechnya, there certainly would not have been an invasion of Georgia and Ukraine.
In his speech, which was broadcast on Russian television just before the invasion of Ukraine, Putin said that the West had been very unfair to Russia “even with Russia’s extreme openness in the 1990s.” This statement does not surprise me, because I know very well who Putin is and what we should expect from him. But I am very surprised that there are people in the West, people of strong democratic convictions, who share this point of view, namely, that the West had behaved in vain as the victor in the Cold War. In my friends’ and my personal opinion, the opposite is obvious: the West did NOT behave like a Cold War victor – and that is why we have all these problems and tragedies now. Why, after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, did Russia inherit a seat on the UN Security Council? I understand that after World War II it was probably difficult to avoid handing the place over to the Soviet Union – but why did it go to Russia after the collapse of the Evil Empire? It should have been given to a worthier democracy, such as Canada, Australia, or Japan. And now we can all see the problems caused by that step.
After the fall of communism, the West should have done to Russia what it did to Germany after the fall of Nazism: the communist leaders should have been tried by an international tribunal. The West should have forced Russia to outlaw Communist ideology, literature and symbols, build dozens of memorials to Communism victims, repent continuously and pay reparations to numerous victims of the Kremlin’s thugs: Jews, Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Georgians, Poles, Czechs and many others. The fifth columns in Ukraine and the Baltic states should have been handed over to Russia, just as the Sudeten and Silesian Germans had been handed over to Germany after World War II.
Yet, the West did nothing and post-Communist Russia, led by former CPSU Obkom Secretary Boris Yeltsin, immediately began to pursue a foreign policy opposite to that of the West, supporting Milosevic. Less than a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Russia was in ruins, its Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev (considered to be a great liberal) had the audacity to say in an interview with Frankfurter Rundschau that the “moralizing language is inappropriate when talking to Moscow” – and the West had no objections. Then “democratic” Russia conducted ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia, took Abkhazia away from Georgia – and the West allowed Yeltsin to do all this and continued supporting him. Even after the first war in Chechnya, in which eighty thousand people were killed, the West did not go beyond verbal criticism or apply any sanctions against Russia. These are the facts – sad and shameful facts.