Local Engagement

Stanislav Kucher talks about the confrontation between Russia and the U.S.

On Dec. 1, 1989, top-level negotiations started between the leader of the USSR and U.S. President George H. W. Bush. The Malta Summit left its mark in history primarily because that is where the leaders of the superpowers technically declared the end of the Cold War. Kucher, commentator on Kommersant FM, considers this date an excellent occasion to talk about the current state of Russian-American relations.*

Of course, at the Malta Summit 28 years ago, no one signed any official document announcing the end of the Cold War, simply because no one ever declared that war. Nevertheless, both leaders made these historical statements, and as a result, the observers at that time called the Malta Summit the most important summit after the legendary Yalta Conference of 1945, where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to share spheres of influence in the world after World War II.

“The world is leaving one epoch and entering another,” said Mikhail Gorbachev. “We are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle should all be things of the past.”

I intentionally provided an exact quote of Gorbachev, so my peers and those who are older will try to remember, and those who are younger will try to imagine how grand and literally crucial to the development of human history this meeting seemed then to everyone who cared at least a little bit about relations between the USSR and the U.S. Up until the end of the 80s, billions of people, to one degree or another, were concerned about the possibility of the Cold War escalating into World War III. The year 1989 marked a peak of happiness on both sides of the ocean – such euphoria, mutual hopes and advances had never occurred before or ever occurred after that in the history of Russian-American relations.

Forget about this mildly incorrect and quite idiotic term “new cold war.” If we start calling what’s happening between Russia and the U.S. in recent years the new cold war, then we devalue almost half a century of the heritage of the bipolar world, and we belittle the significance of the grand confrontation of two ideologies, comparable in terms of the conventional power of government machines and military-industrial complexes. As one of my favorite songs of Boris Grebenshchikov goes, “Rock and roll is dead, but we are not.”** A real Cold War that was fraught with a nuclear explosion actually died and was buried then, in the late 1980s. The USSR lost this war, the U.S. won it; wording does not change the result.

Everything that we witness today – the so-called anti-Russian campaigns in the United States, anti-Western rhetoric in Russia, the monotonous “asymmetric measures” and “mirror responses” – all of that are just the nostalgic games of the generals who survived that war, “first line soldiers” who did not fight enough, and their cynical, hysterical or simply naive descendants.

The energy of that Cold War was directed, first of all, to the outside world: Whole continents became the zone of its military operations, and numerous nations and states became participants and victims of it. The most unpleasant episodes of the current confrontation are, in fact, battles of local significance, whose purpose is not so much to harm the enemy as to solve each country’s own domestic political problems, be it a struggle for influence in Washington or a behind-the-scenes fight for a piece of a budget pie in Moscow.

The current Russian-American confrontation does not have an ideological foundation. All this talk about different values and different national identities is just claptrap. In reality, allegedly combative political establishments and real politicians are actually made of the same blood and have the same worldview. They have much more in common than communists and capitalists of the second half of the 20th century.

The second thesis, which I wanted to recall, sounds very simple: All things must pass. By the degree of euphoria and glow of positivity, 1989 was much more intense than the glow of negativity of all of the quarrels in the recent years of Russian-American relations combined. Thus, less than a generation from now, someone exactly like this will talk about today’s much less fateful troubles – on air, at our station – as though they are something that has been almost forgotten.

*Editor’s note: Kommersant FM is a Russian news-radio station.

**Translator’s note: Boris Grebenshchikov is regarded as one of the “founding fathers” of Russian rock music.

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