Russia and Western Values: How the East Was Lost to Capitalist Opportunism | Letters

Readers should applaud Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (Western values? They enthroned the monster bombarding Ukrainians today, March 17). The West’s failure to support Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms and defend reality led to the cataclysmic implosion of the Soviet Union and prevented the more gradual constitutional changes that would have provided stability.

The United States, supported by the British government, rushed to push the door of Russia and other Soviet republics in order to allow the capitalists to feast on the Russian economy, and in particular its natural resources, so that a sort of Marshall plan was needed to support the ruble and to help develop civil society.

The consequences of this failure became apparent as early as 1990, when I was asked in Moscow to advise on the immediate establishment of businesses to make hay while the sun was shining. This was even more evident in 1996, when the oligarchs showed great contempt for the presidential election taking place that year. They told me that for them the result did not matter, such was their financial influence.

This capitalist opportunism led to the collapse of the ruble in 1998, causing even more poverty among the Russian people. With Boris Yeltsin unable to stabilize the country, they inevitably sought a strong nationalist leader. Vladimir Putin was ready behind the scenes, and the rest is the sad story that culminated in today’s Ukrainian horror.

It is vital that we separate Putin and his regime from the Russian people, who are rightly very proud of their cultural heritage. The West must understand and respect this legacy, and make it clear that our future relationship after Putin may be very different.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

Gordon Brown and John Major called for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to try Vladimir Putin and his associates for war crimes in Ukraine (March 19). The defendants will not voluntarily appear before such a tribunal, and the West has no way of arresting and compelling them to do so, so the appeal could be dismissed as futile. In fact, it’s worse than that – it’s positively counterproductive, since such arrests could only take place after Russia’s defeat and subjugation.

This allows Putin to assert that these are the real goals of Western policy and that supporting Ukraine is only the means to achieve them. Such an argument will rally the support of patriotic Russians, even those worried about war.

Appealing to a tribunal is another example of a Western policy with what might seem to us to have laudable goals, but without paying attention to how it might be understood by the other party.
Anthony Matthew
Leicester

Aditya Chakrabortty’s article recalls Mahatma Gandhi’s wise response to a journalist when asked what he thought of Western civilization: “I think that would be a very good idea.
tony savage
Galle, Sri Lanka

Many of your articles marked 2014 as the start of Putin’s criminal campaign to re-vassalize Ukraine. You should remind your readers that presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin in September 2004.
Oscar Clark
London

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