Yeltsin Was Just As Much An Imperialist As Putin But Lacked Resources To Act On His Views – OpEd


The recently declassified records of conversations between Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton in the 1990s show many things, but perhaps the most important is that the first post-Soviet president was just as committed an imperialist as his chosen successor, Vladimir Putin, according to Igor Eidman.

The only difference is that Yeltsin in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union had fewer resources at his disposal to pursue his imperialist dreams, the Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle says, and could only hope that allies like Clinton would give him what he could not achieve on his own (

In fact, Eidman says, “Yeltsin was just as much a crazy imperialist as have been practically all other Russian rulers over the last several centuries,” keeping alive “an insane dream about dominance in Europe.” That required them to push the Americans out of Europe and both Soviet and Russian leaders have pursued that end.

Thus, “everything Putin is doing today is hardly new. His technology of hybrid war has been applied by the Kremlin for many decades. Deniable agents from Russia under Stalin fought in Spain, Korea and China; under Brezhnev, they were in the Middle East, Vietnam and Africa; and under Yeltsin in Abkhazia, Transdniestria and Chechnya.”

Yeltsin to be sure “was not too aggressive in the international arena,” Eidman continues; but only because “he simply did not have the economic resources for carrying out an imperial policy at the international level. But judging from his conversations with Clinton, he like his predecessors very much wanted to be master of half of the world.”

Moreover, Eidman continues, “many ‘liberals’ in Yeltsin’s entourage were in essence imperialists in the same way. Chubais, for example, said with satisfaction that the Russian army had been reborn in Chechnya … and even dreamed about ‘a liberal empire.” Such attitudes, of course, killed off any chance for the emergence of democracy in Russia.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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