“For me, the clearest moment was the shelling of parliament in ‘93,” recalled Moscow journalist Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor. Weir’s reporting is some of the most clear-eyed in hindsight, often depicting the downside of the capitalist transition, and pulling no punches in his criticisms of Yeltsin.

    “Most of my colleagues sympathized with Yeltsin,” Weir continued. “They took a cheerleading role, following the verdict of the Clinton administration. Secretary of State Warren Christopher came over here and gave a speech at Moscow University in which he said—and these aren’t the exact words—the US doesn’t usually support the overthrow of elected governments, but in this case it was the last battle against Communism. Media depicted these parliamentarians as Communist hardliners. I totally disagreed with that.”

    Christopher’s exact words were, “[t]he United States does not easily support the suspension of parliaments. But these are extraordinary times.”


Bit of a stretch to blame the kleptocracy of '90s Russia on Western press, innit? I mean, it's not like the Russians were sitting around reading the Wall Street Journal wondering what to do.

Western foreign policy? Absolutely. I mean, this is Fukuyama time, an era when of course Communism lost, it was preordained by God. Now that those wily Russkis had learned their lesson, let's go buy them. What's that? We don't know anyone? Well, I know a guy and he only wants his cut. Oh, wait. And it turns out he can have us killed. Wait. Now our factory belongs to a guy with KGB connections. Oh, right. FSB. My bad. Either way, it's a write-off and I never liked it here anyway. Back to Georgetown...

The West had a choice in Russia: colonize it and hope things worked out, or throw money at it and hope things worked out. "Throwing money at it" was what we'd done for the previous 40 years; US agriculture is heavily focused on corn, wheat, rice and potatoes because those first three? We ship 'em around the world as soft power. Colonize it? That led to the breakup of the Mongol Empire.

There could have been a "Marshall Plan II" that might have achieved a lasting democracy in Russia. There wasn't. That's a tragedy. But it has nothing to do with Western journalism.

posted by johan: 355 days ago