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Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
— Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”
There are many modern myths. One of them is about the events of 1989 as being the culmination of a grand historical struggle for freedom and liberty.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
For years prior to 1989 the West through a combination of both legal business and criminal activity had interpenetrated the Communist elites with lucrative deals and promises of all kinds.
This situation was even more pronounced in “non-aligned” Yugoslavia who for years had maintained CIA and American and West European business contacts.
In effect, the “cold war” witnessed a rapid convergence between the economic and power interests of both Western and Communist elites.
The “Communists” (in name only of course) quickly realized the economic benefits available to them through at times open at times clandestine cooperation with Western business/criminal interests.
Eventually, Communist elites realized that they had an unprecedented economic opportunity on their hands: state privatization made possible, in part, with active Western participation.
For them, “Freedom” meant the freedom to get rich beyond their wildest dreams.
And the 1990’s were just that. A paradise for thieving on an unimaginable scale all under the rubric of the rebirth of “capitalism and freedom”.
The true outcome of that decade was that the old communist elites not only retained their social and political power behind the scenes; they also were able to enrich themselves beyond anything the communist dictatorships could ever hope to offer them in the past.
Yes, the price was to give up imperial, national, and ideological ambitions. But it was a very small price to pay; since the East European elites had ceased to believe in any of those things years earlier.
The only firm belief they still held was the economic betterment of themselves and their families through the acquisition by any means of as many asset classes as possible. In effect, they became the mirror image of their “enemy” the “imperialist capitalist West”.
This was not a case of historical dialectics but historical convergence. What appeared as a world divided was actually a world waiting to be made whole through the basest of criminal business activity.
But being clever thieves they knew how to hide themselves and their doings behind superficially morally impeccable figures such as Vaclav Havel and Lech Wałęsa, to name just a few. These “dissidents” would be the faces they would use to make a good part of the world believe that 1989 was a narrative of freedom and not outright pubic theft which it was.
Yes, people in the east, even in Russia, are freer now than they were. But it should never be forgotten that the events of 1989/1990 were not even remotely about those revolutionary dreams.
It was about something much more mundane and sordid. It was about greed. It was about the maintenance of power. And finally it was about money.
How deep has the Western nexus of power and wealth gone into the heart of the East? So far indeed that one can easily question to what extent a country like Russia is truly a “national” state anymore and rather just a territory open to exploitation by both local and global elites.
For that matter, we can ask the same question about the USA.
Today, and for a long time, the USA and Russia are two sides of the same criminal corporate coin.
That Trump and Putin are seemingly almost interchangeable on an aesthetic level should not be a jarring surprise to anyone.
We have totally converged.