Shultz began by lecturing Gorbachev, as early as 1985, on the impossibility of a closed society being a prosperous society: “People must be free to express themselves, move around emigrate and travel if they want to . . . Otherwise they can’t take advantage of the opportunities available. The Soviet economy will have to be radically changed to adapt to the new era.” “You should take over the planning office here in Moscow,” Gorbachev joked, “Because you have more ideas than they have.” In a way, this is what Shultz did. Over the next several years, he used his trips to that city to run tutorials for Gorbachev and his advisers, even bringing pie charts to the Kremlin to Illustrate his argument that as long as it regained a command economy, the Soviet Union would fall further and further behind the rest of the developed world.
Gorbachev was surprisingly receptive. He echoed some of Shultz’s thinking in his 1987 book, Perestroika: “How can the economy advance,” he asked, “if it creates preferential conditions for backward enterprises and penalizes the foremost ones?”
Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. P. 233. New York: The Penguin Press, 2005.
Ah, were those not the days?
Times changed and perhaps in ways the West would not have anticipated nor intended.
Call this a bonus quote from another book listed in the “Russian Section” of this blog:
Khodorkovskiy moved to establish links with the West, but those financial circles recall that when they first met him and his team, the Russians didn’t how to use a credit card, they didn’t know how to write a check, and they didn’t have money enough to stay even in a hostel. They were quick learners, but as Anton Surkov, an independent security expert who had previously served in Soviet military intelligence and who knew Khodorkovskiy and those like him in the late 1980s, stated, “It was impossible to work in the black market without KGB connections and without protection from the KGB. Without them, no shadow business was possible. . . . The creation of the oligarchs was a revolution engineered by the KGB, but then they lost control.” As to whether Khodorkovskiy’s Bank Menatep was indeed one of the many vehicles used to launder CPSU money, as the legend goes, one of the five major initial shareholders, Mikhayl Brudno, who fled to Israel when Khodorkovskiy was arrested under Putin in 2003, simply said, “It can’t be ruled out that some companies that belonged somehow to the Communist Party were clients, but we were not able to identify them as such.”
Posted to YouTube by the Woodrow Wilson Center, October 23, 2014.
Referenced: Dawisha, Karen. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
While Karen Dawisha’s book covers the development of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle from seemingly earliest acquaintance, BackChannels would have to re-read old and read “unreads” from the “Russian Section” of this blog’s library to note and gather together the hints of transition planning in the five to ten year span preceding the official dissolving of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.