This week in history: April 2-8
2 April 2018
25 years ago: Clinton-Yeltsin summit works out plan for selloff of Russian economy
In an April 4, 1993 summit held in Vancouver, US President Bill Clinton offered strong political support to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, as well as more than $1 billion in aid in exchange for the guarantees on the plunder of what remained of the social wealth of the Soviet Union.
Clinton sought to prop up Yeltsin, whose government was threatened by a faction of the ex-Stalinist bureaucracy that opposed Kremlin efforts to finish off the liquidation of Soviet industry and to totally subordinate Russia to western imperialism. Matters had come to a head in preceding weeks, when Yeltsin had moved to usurp dictatorial powers, circumventing the Russian constitution and broadly threatening a coup d’etat.
All of this made him, from the perspective of Yeltsin’s western cheerleaders, like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, a “democratic reformer.” More, however, was expected of Yeltsin in exchange for Clinton’s backing, which would include, in Friedman’s words, “loans for Russian entrepreneurs [and] funds to help the Russian government sell state-owned industries … to help promote free market skills.”
Considerable efforts were made to obscure the pecuniary nature of the “summit”—to avoid making “this meeting appear to be what it is,” according to Friedman, a groveling performance by a “Russian leader coming to the West with tin cup in hand.” Even Yeltsin admitted that if he was handed too much money “this also could be bad. It can be used … The opposition will say that we are shackled by the West.”