By William Markiewicz

Russia's troubles today are the ongoing result of Bush's coldness and shortsightedness. Contrary to his inspired predecessors of 45 years ago who initiated the Marshall Plan, Bush pursued the 'red herring' of Communism and ended up holding sacks of potatoes.

The objective observer of those years would say Gorbachev wanted to join the modern world by getting rid of Communism and the Russian empire. Gorbachev was simply too smart to act otherwise. The Russians understood, a little later than Westerners, that it is more profitable to trade with their ex-colonies than to use army, bureaucracy and prisons, to keep them tamed. They knew that they would be much better off as Russia alone and they would have enough on their hands trying to keep the Chinese out of Siberia in the future. Any outside pressure aimed at accelerating the natural process of getting rid of the Communist empire was equivalent to boiling an egg so that the chick would hatch sooner.

But his enemies didn't give him the necessary time and he was fighting, not for possessions, but simply for survival. In this fight he was really alone. Almost everybody who wasn't Russian was either an enemy or a distant uninvolved observer like the West, for instance. As to his own Russian population, it felt betrayed and remained lethargic, apathetic, without faith. In this frame of spirit, could they have won the war against the Nazis?

Still, Gorbachev should have had allies in the West, at least in Europe, because Russia is a natural buffer between the biggest European power, Germany, in the west, Asian power in the east, and the growing Muslim power in the south. If Russia, for instance, loses its political and territorial importance, those three strongly nationalistic giants may fill the vacuum and establish new alliances that may shock the world.

The only explanation is that the USA has no defined foreign policy, it never had one. America is a democracy governed by lobbies and if the lobby system is an excellent way to handle internal policy, it's worth nothing on foreign matters because it always plays somebody else's game. Also, the lobbies are lead by businessmen with an immediate gain in mind but no far reaching political vision.

After World War Two, the lobbies were rather weakened to the advantage of politicians and the military, and thanks to this the Marshall Plan could be carried out. Time showed that this political vision was right. The division into "winners" and "defeated" was swept away to the advantage of free competition among equal partners, which became the basis of the present flourishing international economy.

The Marshall Plan was the typical Western mixture of moral commitment and well understood self-interest. Misery has to be eliminated wherever it is because the poor are not producers, not consumers, and remain a latent danger. Therefore, after victory the defeated enemy must be helped to get back on his feet.

That such a plan could have been born is not only due to political and moral considerations but also to a favourable psychological climate; "the mood was in the air," meaning that this kind of decision depends also on a subliminal momentum. The post-war world was swept by feelings of euphoria and stress. In such circumstances many decisions are taken and carried out under intuitive and emotional bias. Everybody felt too tense and pressured to be inclined to reflection or hesitation. The collective outburst of adrenalin saved the planet -- until now.

The West, a winner in the cold war, was too slow to realise that the East is a fallen enemy that needs help before the situation degenerates into something with incalculable consequences. Long-seated prosperity and peace have made the West in general and North America in particular dull, shortsighted and soulless. The Western World had not one single visionary in power who is able to shake our consciousness and radically change the atmosphere.

The Europeans woke up first. Therefore when Bush proposed an international conference to help the post-communist world, he got an acid rebuff: "Europeans didn't wait for the Americans before beginning to offer help" -- which was quite true. Unfortunately Europe doesn't have the potential to support a venture as ambitious as the Marshall Plan. Despite Gorbachev's denial (what else could he do?) the whole world knew that the Americans betrayed Gorbachev whose greatness will forever overshadow Bush's memory.

What Gorbachev didn't succeed at, the Spanish King Juan Carlos did in his own country. Both are similar in personality; strong character under a mild appearance. Shortly before his death, General Franco said: "I left everything tied and well-tied." We don't know if he meant he left a dictatorship or smooth passage to democracy. Juan Carlos succeeded with a smooth and acrobatic passage to total democracy and he also had to face an unsuccessful putsch. Juan Carlos had an easier task than Gorbachev because Franco left a prosperous Spain and a much smaller, on a human scale, country. Therefore, he depended less on foreign help.

Late help is always more expensive and less efficient. Just as a drowning man will grasp at a straw, so some Russians support demagogues who have nothing to offer except empty slogans and a boot in the snout as in the good old days. A strange mixture supports the conservatives: Communists and Fascists. Yeltsin's defeat would mean that those two collaborating groups would end by jumping at each other's throats with unknown consequences for Russia and its neighbours.

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