Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan / Photo: Joe Marquette, Reuters
Reagan: The Man Who Scared the Empire to Death
Created: 08.06.2004 16:54 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 18:38 MSK
Georgy Bovt, editor-in-chief, Izvestia
It seems it is possible to make history without even paying much heed to what you are doing, without even being aware of the implications and without taking any pride in what has been achieved, as if everything that happens does so naturally.
And yet, the late Ronald Reagan was the man to whom the Soviet Union owes its demise, and Eastern Europe for the end of what it called “the Soviet occupation” and its accession to quite a different Europe.
For a start, the Soviet people owe him for the introduction of a bastardized version of the “prohibition act”, and then, after what seemed to be an endless sequence of both major and minor problems and mishaps that befell the empire, the emergence of the great reformer Boris Yeltsin, whose rule brought about the advent of the great stabilizer Vladimir Putin and life as we know it today.
Of course, Ronald Reagan was no Nostradamus and during the reign of Yuri Andropov in the USSR could never have foreseen the advent of Vladimir Putin. And yet there is something symbolic about the fact that Ronald Reagan died a natural death at the age of 93 in his bed surrounded by his loved ones. He died at a time when Vladimir Putin rules Russia, after the Russian president had just been sworn in for his second term in office.
I am deeply convinced that none other than Ronald Reagan — the former Hollywood actor who wiped out bandits and swindlers in the Wild West’s outhouses, to paraphrase Putin, and did exactly the same with the left-wingers and communists among his colleagues, who later became president and whose mental faculties were openly derided by the best commentators both in the Soviet Union and in the States — was the one who triggered all the changes that befell the Soviet Union and, subsequently, Russia.
For the ’sovok’, as the Soviet people used to contemptuously refer to their homeland, Reagan was a kind of American Ivan the Simpleton from Russian folk tales, who either inadvertently or by some ingenious intent — God knows which — pushed the first domino in a long row of dominoes, and the empire collapsed, ushering in the changes. And all that happened because Ronald Reagan was a very simple person who, in spite of his simplicity, was so ingenious that he was destined to succeed in fulfilling his most complicated task.
“They are all dying on me,” he joked as the Soviet Union buried Chernenko, the third decrepit Soviet ruler after Brezhnev and Andropov to die while Reagan was in office.
He defeated and outwitted them all by inventing — especially for the old Kremlin dotards — an exciting and terrifying fairy-tale, the horror story entitled ’Star Wars’. They had almost all certainly watched George Lucas’s ’Star Wars’ at closed performances organized for them in great secrecy.
And the secrecy surrounding those screenings inevitably intensified the impact of a film on those who were deemed by themselves as men of genius. And since many others had not seen those films and had not known what was going on in the Soviet leaders’ heads, the Kremlin movie-goers had no one to consult with.
The Kremlin dotards were scared of the prospect of Star Wars. The first time they had really got scared was when they gunned down a South Korean jet killing dozens of passengers on board. They seriously geared up for war with the States then.
And upon hearing the horror tale about Star Wars they suddenly realized that the country they ruled was underdeveloped both technologically and militarily. So scared, in fact, they opted for the young Gorbachev. He came to office, like all of his predecessors, with no clear-cut agenda and no definite plans.
But to the Kremlin elders he seemed tough enough to modernize the country, although the concept of modernization was somewhat unclear in their brains. No one in this country, neither the people on the whole nor the establishment sincerely sought radical changes or reforms. Gorbachev was not the only one to have no plan of action. Nobody had a plan.
They daydreamed, harboring illusions and believing it was possible to ’improve’ the Communist Party, to build socialism with a human face; they believed that the planned economy could be efficient provided the planning was done more thoroughly; they believed the friendship between the brotherly Soviet peoples would last forever, that eradicating alcoholism and boosting labor productivity was possible by forcing a Russian worker to abstain from drinking before two in the afternoon. And only today does everyone realize how absurd all those ideas were!
After hearing too much about Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars tales, the Kremlin geriatrics panicked. Today many of the steps taken then, in the mid-80s, seem to some to be the first steps aimed at steering clear of the legacy of Soviet-era idiocy.
But the real tragedy for the country is that by embarking on the road of change our leaders were never guided by their own sincere convictions, or a true awareness that something needed to be changed, that the Russian people deserve a better, happier life. They did so because they were scared.
They were forced to take those steps, at first out of the fear that Reagan’s West was stronger militarily, and then upon realizing they had lost the historic race against another super-power that had proven to be more powerful. Nonetheless, the Soviet leaders never felt guilty for what they had done; no, they claimed they had done everything right, but the other side was pushing harder and our allies had walked out on us.
They were scared to death! By Ronald Reagan. Now that the man is dead we will have to wait for another Reagan to come and scare us into new, more or less decisive changes. And that is the way we live — from one scare to another.
08.06.2004 14:02 MSK, MOSNEWS.COM
07.06.2004 13:14 MSK, MOSNEWS.COM