Sunday 22 July 2018

To Putin, we in the West are hypocrites who disrespect Russia

While we cannot reason with the Kremlin, we can tighten our security and impede its adventurism, writes Charles Moore

HARD MAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking to supporters on election day last week. Photo: Alex Zemlianichenko/PA
HARD MAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking to supporters on election day last week. Photo: Alex Zemlianichenko/PA

Charles Moore

In late August 1991, there were two coups in Moscow in three days. On a Monday, hardline Communists overthrew the reformist President Gorbachev. On the Wednesday, Boris Yeltsin, the elected President of the Russian Federation, overthrew them. He restored Gorbachev, but effectively transferred power to himself.

I wanted to see whether the Soviet Union truly was falling apart, so that week I flew to Moscow without a visa. If the Soviet system still worked, I reckoned, my lack of visa would cause me to be briefly detained, then sent straight back home. At Moscow airport, I was duly stopped and made to retrace my steps, escorted. Realising that I was about to be shoved on to a plane to London, I sat down and refused to move. After some argument, the officials took me back to an office, muttered for a bit, then gave me a transit visa to let me into Moscow, plus the permission I sought to fly on to Russia's unwilling vassal, Lithuania, which was struggling to gets its independence fully recognised.

It thus became clear to me that the Soviet Union no longer meant business. A regime based, since 1917, on fear, had lost the power to terrify. It had therefore lost power, full stop.

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