By Paul Goble
A massive Russian invasion of Ukraine “would mean the end of today’s Russian regime, and the likelihood of such an outcome is much greater than were the risks of the fall of the House of Romanovs by the Russian Empire’s entrance into World War I,” Vladislav Inozemtsev says.
But Vladimir Putin is “too careful” to take that step both because of the impact of the human losses Russia would suffer as a result and the international isolation and sanctions that such a move would involve, the Russian commentator continues (znak.com/2021-12-25/zhiznesposobna_li_imperiya_putina_i_spasut_li_ee_ot_uchasti_sssr_intervyu_s_inozemcevym).
And while Putin very much wants to join Belarus to Russia, steps in that direction, Inozemtsev argues, will lead to a social explosion in Belarus that “will be much more massive and decisive than the ones in August of last year” concerning the presidential election Alyaksandr Lukashenka stole.
In the course of an extensive interview, Inozemtsev makes a number of other observations about the reasons behind the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the prospects for Russia if it does not cease to be an empire.
Observations Of Inozemtsev
If Stalin’s autonomization plan had been adopted instead of Lenin’s federalist program, “’the divorce’ of Russia with other republics in the early 1990s would have been fuller of conflicts and wars along our borders would have been more numerous. As a result, the territory of Russia would have turned out to be smaller than it is.”
By the 1970s, the Soviet leadership faced the choice of doing nothing or carrying out radical reforms. If it had done the first, it would have lasted longer because while the USSR was ineffective, it was sufficiently strong to hold on.
Mikhail Gorbachev made “two fundamental mistakes.” He assumed that the Soviet Union was “an ordinary state with a legal system.” It wasn’t. And he was “convinced that ‘the nationality question’ did not exist in the USSR. He didn’t even suspect that inter-ethnic conflicts were possible there.”
If Moscow had taken seriously the December 1986 protests in Kazakhstan, it could have moved to decentralize and create a federal system that would have lasted far longer. But the Kremlin didn’t, and five years later the USSR disintegrated.
The Baltic countries could not have been kept within any Soviet Union, but their exit could have been managed in a way that would have limited their influence on the rest of the country. They could have been allowed to become socialist democracies like those in Eastern Europe and then allowed to become genuine ones integrated into the West in 1989.
Separatist threats do exist in the Russian Federation, but they should not be exaggerated. “The normal demands to recognize the official status of national languages and permit instruction in them, to allow the leaders of the subjects to call themselves presidents and so on have nothing to do with separatism.” But opposing them can spark separatism.