21 August 1991

Coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev collapses.

1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt

1991 Soviet coup attempt
August Coup/August Putsch
Part of the Revolutions of 1989, the Cold War,
and the dissolution of the Soviet Union
August Coup montage.png
Date19 – 22 August 1991 (3 days)
Location
Caused by
Goals
  • Gorbachev's resignation
  • Abolish the New Union treaty proposal
  • Stop political reforms
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Casualties

Minister of Interior Boris Pugo committed suicide

Military advisor to Gorbachev Sergey Akhromeyev committed suicide

Administrator of Affairs of the Central Committee Nikolay Kruchina committed suicide[8][9]
3 civilians killed on 21 August 1991
^a Placed under house arrest by GKChP at Foros, Crimea.

The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, also known as the August Coup (Russian: Августовский путч, tr. Avgustovskiy Putch "August Putsch"), was an attempt made by members of the government of the USSR to take control of the country from Soviet President and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The coup leaders were hard-line members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) who were opposed to Gorbachev's reform program and the new union treaty that he had negotiated which decentralized much of the central government's power to the republics. They were opposed, mainly in Moscow, by a short but effective campaign of civil resistance[10] led by Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who had been both an ally and critic of Gorbachev. Although the coup collapsed in only two days and Gorbachev returned to power, the event destabilized the USSR and is widely considered to have contributed to both the demise of the CPSU and the dissolution of the USSR.

After the capitulation of the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP), popularly referred to as the "Gang of Eight", both the Supreme Court of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev described their actions as a coup attempt.

Background

Since assuming power as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, Gorbachev had embarked on an ambitious program of reform, embodied in the twin concepts of perestroika and glasnost, meaning economic/political restructuring and openness, respectively.[11] These moves prompted resistance and suspicion on the part of hardline members of the nomenklatura. The reforms also unleashed some forces and movements that Gorbachev did not expect.[citation needed] Specifically, nationalist agitation on the part of the Soviet Union's non-Russian minorities grew, and there were fears that some or all of the union republics might secede. In 1991, the Soviet Union was in a severe economic and political crisis. Scarcity of food, medicine, and other consumables was widespread,[12] people had to stand in long lines to buy even essential goods[13], fuel stocks were up to 50% less than the estimated need for the approaching winter, and inflation was over 300% per year, with factories lacking in cash needed to pay salaries.[14] In 1990, Estonia,[15] Latvia,[16] Lithuania,[17] Armenia and Georgia had already declared the restoration of their independence from the Soviet Union. In January 1991, there was an attempt to return Lithuania to the Soviet Union by force. About a week later, there was a similar attempt by local pro-Soviet forces to overthrow the Latvian authorities. There were continuing armed ethnic conflicts in Nagorno Karabakh and South Ossetia.[citation needed]

Russia declared its sovereignty on 12 June 1990 and thereafter limited the application of Soviet laws, in particular the laws concerning finance and the economy, on Russian territory. The Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR adopted laws which contradicted Soviet laws (the so-called War of Laws).

In the unionwide referendum on 17 March 1991, boycotted by the Baltic states, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova, the majority of the residents of the rest of the republics expressed the desire to retain the renewed Soviet Union. Following negotiations, eight of the nine republics (except Ukraine) approved the New Union Treaty with some conditions. The treaty would make the Soviet Union a federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy, and military. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan were to sign the Treaty in Moscow on 20 August 1991.

Preparation

On 11 December 1990, KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, made a "call for order" over Central television in Moscow.[18] That day, he asked two KGB officers[19] to prepare a plan of measures that could be taken in case a state of emergency was declared in the USSR. Later, Kryuchkov brought Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, Internal Affairs Minister Boris Pugo, Premier Valentin Pavlov, Vice-President Gennady Yanayev, Soviet Defense Council deputy chief Oleg Baklanov, Gorbachev secretariat head Valery Boldin [ru], and CPSU Central Committee Secretary Oleg Shenin into the conspiracy.[20][21]

The members of the GKChP hoped that Gorbachev could be persuaded to declare the state of emergency and to "restore order".

On 23 July 1991, a number of party functionaries and literati published in the hardline newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya a piece entitled A Word to the People which called for decisive action to prevent disastrous calamity.

Six days later, Gorbachev, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed the possibility of replacing such hardliners as Pavlov, Yazov, Kryuchkov and Pugo with more liberal figures. Kryuchkov, who had placed Gorbachev under close surveillance as Subject 110 several months earlier, eventually got wind of the conversation.[22][23][24]

On 4 August, Gorbachev went on holiday to his dacha in Foros, Crimea. He planned to return to Moscow in time for the New Union Treaty signing on 20 August.

On 17 August, the members of the GKChP met at a KGB guesthouse in Moscow and studied the treaty document. They believed the pact would pave the way to the Soviet Union's breakup, and decided that it was time to act. The next day, Baklanov, Boldin, Shenin, and USSR Deputy Defense Minister General Valentin Varennikov flew to Crimea for a meeting with Gorbachev. They demanded that Gorbachev either declare a state of emergency or resign and name Yanayev as acting president to allow the members of the GKChP "to restore order" in the country.[21][25][26]

Gorbachev has always claimed that he refused point blank to accept the ultimatum.[25][27] Varennikov has insisted that Gorbachev said: "Damn you. Do what you want. But report my opinion!"[28] However, those present at the dacha at the time testified that Baklanov, Boldin, Shenin, and Varennikov had been clearly disappointed and nervous after the meeting with Gorbachev.[25] With Gorbachev's refusal, the conspirators ordered that he remain confined to the Foros dacha; at the same time the dacha's communication lines (which were controlled by the KGB) were shut down. Additional KGB security guards were placed at the dacha gates with orders to stop anybody from leaving.

The members of the GKChP ordered 250,000 pairs of handcuffs from a factory in Pskov to be sent to Moscow[29] and 300,000 arrest forms. Kryuchkov doubled the pay of all KGB personnel, called them back from holiday, and placed them on alert. The Lefortovo Prison was emptied to receive prisoners.[23]

The coup chronology

The members of the GKChP met in the Kremlin after Baklanov, Boldin, Shenin and Varennikov returned from Crimea. Yanayev, Pavlov and Baklanov signed the so-called "Declaration of the Soviet Leadership" in which they declared the state of emergency in all of the USSR and announced that the State Committee on the State of Emergency (Государственный Комитет по Чрезвычайному Положению, ГКЧП, or Gosudarstvenniy Komitet po Chrezvichaynomu Polozheniyu, GKChP) had been created "to manage the country and to effectively maintain the regime of the state of emergency". The GKChP included the following members:

Yanayev signed the decree naming himself as acting USSR president on the pretext of Gorbachev's inability to perform presidential duties due to "illness".[30] These eight collectively became known as the "Gang of Eight".

The GKChP banned all newspapers in Moscow, except for nine Party-controlled newspapers.[30] The GKChP also issued a populist declaration which stated that "the honour and dignity of the Soviet man must be restored."[30]

19 August

All of the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) documents were broadcast over the state radio and television starting from 7 a.m. The Russian SFSR-controlled Radio Rossii and Televidenie Rossii, plus "Ekho Moskvy", the only independent political radio station, were cut off the air.[31] Armour units of the Tamanskaya Division and the Kantemirovskaya tank division rolled into Moscow along with paratroops. Four Russian SFSR people's deputies (who were considered the most "dangerous") were detained by the KGB at an army base near Moscow.[20] The conspirators considered detaining Russian SFSR President Boris Yeltsin upon his arrival from a visit to Kazakhstan on 17 August, or after that when he was at his dacha near Moscow, but for an undisclosed reason did not do so. The failure to arrest Yeltsin proved fatal to their plans.[20][32][33]

U.S. map of Moscow with 1980s street names

Yeltsin arrived at the White House, Russia's parliament building, at 9 am on Monday 19 August. Together with Russian SFSR Prime Minister Ivan Silayev and Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, Yeltsin issued a declaration that condemned the GkChP's actions as a reactionary anti-constitutional coup. The military was urged not to take part in the coup. The declaration called for a general strike with the demand to let Gorbachev address the people.[34] This declaration was distributed around Moscow in the form of flyers.

In the afternoon, the citizens of Moscow began to gather around the White House and to erect barricades around it.[34] In response, Gennady Yanayev declared the state of emergency in Moscow at 16:00.[26][30] Yanayev declared at the press conference at 17:00 that Gorbachev was "resting". He said: "Over these years he has got very tired and needs some time to get his health back."[26]

Meanwhile, Major Evdokimov, chief of staff of a tank battalion of the Tamanskaya Division guarding the White House, declared his loyalty to the leadership of the Russian SFSR.[34][35] Yeltsin climbed one of the tanks and addressed the crowd. Unexpectedly, this episode was included in the state media's evening news.[36]

20 August

Tanks at the Red Square

At noon, Moscow military district commander General Kalinin, whom Yanayev appointed as military commandant of Moscow, declared a curfew in Moscow from 23:00 to 5:00, effective from 20 August.[21][31][34] This was understood as the sign that the attack on the White House was imminent.

The defenders of the White House prepared themselves, most of them being unarmed. Evdokimov's tanks were moved from the White House in the evening.[26][37] The makeshift White House defense headquarters was headed by General Konstantin Kobets, a Russian SFSR people's deputy.[37][38]

In the afternoon, Kryuchkov, Yazov and Pugo finally decided to attack the White House. This decision was supported by other GKChP members. Kryuchkov and Yazov's deputies, KGB general Ageyev and Army general Vladislav Achalov, respectively, planned the assault, codenamed "Operation Grom" (Thunder), which would gather elements of the Alpha and Vympel elite special force units, with the support of the paratroopers, Moscow OMON, the Internal Troops of the Dzerzhinsky division, three tank companies and a helicopter squadron. Alpha Group commander General Viktor Karpukhin and other senior officers of the unit together with Airborne Troops deputy commander Gen. Alexander Lebed mingled with the crowds near the White House and assessed the possibility of such an operation. After that, Karpukhin and Vympel commander Colonel Beskov tried to convince Ageyev that the operation would result in bloodshed and should be canceled.[20][21][22][39] Lebed, with the consent of his immediate superior, Pavel Grachev, returned to the White House and secretly informed the defense headquarters that the attack would begin at 2:00.[22][39]

While the events were unfolding in the capital, Estonia's Supreme Council declared at 23:03 the full reinstatement of the independent status of the Republic of Estonia after 41 years.

21 August

At about 1:00, not far from the White House, trolleybuses and street cleaning machines barricaded a tunnel against oncoming Taman Guards infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). Three men were killed in the incident, Dmitry Komar, Vladimir Usov, and Ilya Krichevsky, while several others were wounded. Komar, a 22 year old veteran from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, was shot and crushed trying to cover a moving IFV's observation slit. Usov, a 37 year old economist, was killed by a stray bullet whilst coming to Komar's aid. The crowd set fire to an IFV and Krichevsky, a 28 year old architect, was shot dead as the troops escaped.[40][26][38][41] According to Sergey Parkhomenko, a journalist and democracy campaigner who was in the crowd defending the White House, “Those deaths played a crucial role: Both sides were so horrified that it brought a halt to everything.”[42] Alpha Group and Vympel did not move to the White House as had been planned and Yazov ordered the troops to pull out from Moscow.

The troops began to move from Moscow at 8:00. The GKChP members met in the Defence Ministry and, not knowing what to do, decided to send Kryuchkov, Yazov, Baklanov, Tizyakov, Anatoly Lukyanov, and Deputy CPSU General Secretary Vladimir Ivashko to Crimea to meet Gorbachev, who refused to meet them when they arrived. With the dacha's communications to Moscow restored, Gorbachev declared all the GKChP's decisions void and dismissed its members from their state offices. The USSR General Prosecutors Office started the investigation of the coup.[22][34]

During that period, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia declared its sovereignty officially completed with a law passed by its deputies, confirming the independence restoration act of 4 May as an official act.[43] In Tallinn, just a day after the resitution of independence, the Tallinn TV Tower was taken over by the Airborne Troops, while the television broadcast was cut off for a while, the radio signal was strong as a handful of Estonian Defence League (the unified paramilitary armed forces of Estonia) members barricaded the entry into signal rooms.[44] In the evening, as news of the failure of the coup reached the republic, the paratroopers departed from the tower and left the capital.

22 August

Gorbachev and the GKChP delegation flew to Moscow, where Kryuchkov, Yazov, and Tizyakov were arrested upon arrival in the early hours. Pugo committed suicide along with his wife the next day. Pavlov, Vasily Starodubtsev, Baklanov, Boldin, and Shenin would be in custody within the next 48 hours.[22]

Aftermath

Since several heads of the regional executive committees supported the GKChP, on 21 August the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR adopted Decision No. 1626-1, which authorized Russian President Boris Yeltsin to appoint heads of regional administrations, although the Russian constitution did not empower the president with such authority.[45] It passed another decision the next day which declared the old imperial colors as Russia's national flag.[45] It eventually replaced the Russian SFSR flag two months later.

On the night of 24 August, the Felix Dzerzhinsky statue in front of the KGB building at Dzerzhinskiy Square (Lubianka) was dismantled, while thousands of Moscow citizens took part in the funeral of Dmitry Komar, Vladimir Usov and Ilya Krichevsky, the three citizens who died in the tunnel incident. Gorbachev posthumously awarded them with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin asked their relatives to forgive him for not being able to prevent their deaths.[22]

End of the CPSU

Gorbachev resigned as CPSU General Secretary on 24 August.[22] Vladimir Ivashko replaced him as acting General Secretary but resigned on 29 August when the Supreme Soviet terminated all Party activities in Soviet territory. Around the same time, Yeltsin decreed the transfer of the CPSU archives to the state archive authorities, as well as nationalizing all CPSU assets in the Russian SFSR (which included not only the headquarters of party committees but also educational institutions, hotels, etc.).[45] Yeltsin decreed the termination and banning of all Party activities on Russian soil as well as the closure of the Central Committee building in Staraya Square.[45]

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

On 24 August, Mikhail Gorbachev created the so-called "Committee for the Operational Management of the Soviet Economy" (Комитет по оперативному управлению народным хозяйством СССР), to replace the USSR Cabinet of Ministers headed by Valentin Pavlov, a GKChP member. Russian prime minister Ivan Silayev headed this committee. On the same day the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine and called for a referendum on support of the Declaration of Independence. The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the third most powerful republic in the union, also declared its independence the next day on 25 August which then established the Republic of Belarus.[46]

On 5 September, the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union adopted Soviet Law No. 2392-1 "On the Authorities of the Soviet Union in the Transitional Period" under which the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union had replaced Congress of People's Deputies and was reformed. Two new legislative chambers—the Soviet of the Union (Совет Союза) and the Soviet of Republics (Совет Республик)—replaced the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities (both elected by the USSR Congress of Peoples Deputies). The Soviet of the Union was to be formed by the popularly elected USSR people's deputies. The Soviet of Republics was to include 20 deputies from each union republic plus one deputy to represent each autonomous region of each union republic (both USSR people's deputies and republican people's deputies) delegated by the legislatures of the union republic. Russia was an exception with 52 deputies. However, the delegation of each union republic was to have only one vote in the Soviet of Republics. The laws were to be first adopted by the Soviet of the Union and then by the Soviet of Republics.

Also created was the Soviet State Council (Государственный совет СССР), which included the Soviet President and the presidents of union republics. The "Committee for the Operational Management of the Soviet Economy" was replaced by the USSR Inter-republican Economic Committee (Межреспубликанский экономический комитет СССР), also headed by Ivan Silayev.[47]

On 27 August, the first state became independent, when the Supreme Soviet of Moldova declared the independence of Moldova from the Soviet Union. The Supreme Soviets of Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan did the same on 30 and 31 August respectively. Afterwards, on 6 September the newly created Soviet State Council recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.[48] Estonia had declared re-independence on 20 August, Latvia on the following day, while Lithuania had done so already on 11 March 1990. Three days later, on 9 September the Supreme Soviet of Tajikistan declared the independence of Tajikistan from the Soviet Union. Furthermore, in September over 99% percent of voters in Armenia voted for a referendum approving the Republic's commitment to independence. The immediate aftermath of that vote was the Armenian Supreme Soviet's declaration of independence, issued on 21 September. By 27 October the Supreme Soviet of Turkmenistan declared the independence of Turkmenistan from the Soviet Union. On 1 December Ukraine held a referendum, in which more than 90% of residents supported the Act of Independence of Ukraine.

By November, the only Soviet Republics that had not declared independence were Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. That same month, seven republics (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan) agreed to a new union treaty that would form a confederation called the Union of Sovereign States. However, this confederation never materialized.

On 8 December Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislav Shushkevich—respectively leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (which adopted that name in August 1991)—as well as the prime ministers of the republics met in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where they signed the Belavezha Accords. This document declared that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist "as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality." It repudiated the 1922 union treaty that established the Soviet Union, and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the Union's place. On 12 December, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR ratified the accords and recalled the Russian deputies from the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Although this has been interpreted as the moment that Russia seceded from the Union, in fact Russia took the line that it was not possible to secede from a state that no longer existed. The lower chamber of the Supreme Soviet, the Council of the Union, was forced to halt its operations, as the departure of the Russian deputies left it without a quorum.

Doubts remained about the legitimacy of the signing that took place on 8 December, since only three republics took part. Thus, on 21 December in Alma-Ata on 21 December, the Alma-Ata Protocol expanded the CIS to include Armenia, Azerbaijan and the five republics of Central Asia. They also pre-emptively accepted Gorbachev's resignation. With 11 of the 12 remaining republics (all except Georgia) having agreed that the Union no longer existed, Gorbachev bowed to the inevitable and said he would resign as soon as the CIS became a reality (Georgia joined the CIS in 1993, only to withdraw in 2008 after conflict between Georgia and Russia; the three Baltic states never joined instead going on to join the European Union and NATO in 2004.)

On 24 December 1991, the Russian SFSR—now renamed the Russian Federation—with the concurrence of the other republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States, informed the United Nations that it would inherit the Soviet Union's membership in the UN—including the Soviet Union's permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.[49] No member state of the UN formally objected to this step. The legitimacy of this act has been questioned by some legal scholars as the Soviet Union itself was not constitutionally succeeded by the Russian Federation, but merely dissolved. Others argued that the international community had already established the precedent of recognizing the Soviet Union as the legal successor of the Russian Empire, and so recognizing the Russian Federation as the Soviet Union's successor state was valid.

On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev announced his resignation as Soviet president. The red hammer and sickle flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Senate building in the Kremlin and replaced with the tricolor flag of Russia. The next day, 26 December 1991, the Council of Republics, the upper chamber of the Supreme Soviet, formally voted the Soviet Union out of existence (the lower chamber, the Council of the Union, had been left without a quorum after the Russian deputies withdrew), thus ending the life of the world's first and oldest socialist state. All former Soviet embassies became Russian embassies while Russia received the nuclear weapons from the other former republics by 1996. A constitutional crisis occurred in 1993 had been escalated into violence and the new constitution adopted officially abolished the entire Soviet government.

Beginning of radical economic reforms in Russia

On 1 November 1991, the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies issued Decision No. 1831-1 On the Legal Support of the Economic Reform whereby the Russian president (Boris Yeltsin) was granted the right to issue decrees required for the economic reform even if they contravened the laws. Such decrees entered into force if they were not repealed within 7 days by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR or its Presidium.[45] Five days later, Boris Yeltsin, in addition to the duties of the President, assumed the duties of the prime minister. Yegor Gaidar became deputy prime minister and simultaneously economic and finance minister. On 15 November 1991 Boris Yeltsin issued Decree No. 213 On the Liberalization of Foreign Economic Activity on the Territory of the RSFSR whereby all Russian companies were allowed to import and to export goods and to acquire foreign currency (previously all foreign trade had been tightly controlled by the state).[45] Following the issuing of Decree No. 213, on 3 December 1991 Boris Yeltsin issued Decree No. 297 On the Measures to Liberalize Prices whereby from 2 January 1992 most previously existing price controls were abolished.[45]

Trial of the members of the GKChP

The GKChP members and their accomplices were charged with treason in the form of a conspiracy aimed at capturing power. However, by the end of 1992 they were all released from custody pending trial. The trial in the Military Chamber of the Russian Supreme Court began on 14 April 1993.[50] On 23 February 1994 the State Duma declared amnesty for all GKChP members and their accomplices, along with the participants of the October 1993 crisis.[45] They all accepted the amnesty, except for General Varennikov, who demanded the continuation of the trial and was finally acquitted on 11 August 1994.[22]

Commemoration of the civilians killed

Russian stamps commemorating Ilya Krichevsky, Dmitry Komar and Vladimir Usov respectively.

Thousands of people attended the funeral of Dmitry Komar, Ilya Krichevsky and Vladimir Usov on the 24 August 1991. Gorbachev made the three men posthumous Heroes of the Soviet Union, for their bravery "blocking the way to those who wanted to strangle democracy.".[51]

Parliamentary commission

In 1991 the Parliamentary Commission for Investigating Causes and Reasons of the coup attempt was established under Lev Ponomaryov, but in 1992 it was dissolved at Ruslan Khasbulatov's insistence.

International reactions

 United States

George H.W. Bush, left, is seen with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. Bush condemned the coup and the actions of the "Gang of Eight".

During his vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine, the President of the United States, George H.W. Bush made a blunt demand for Gorbachev's restoration to power and said the United States did not accept the legitimacy of the self-proclaimed new Soviet Government. He returned to the White House after rushing from his vacation home. Bush then issued a strongly-worded statement that followed a day of consultations with other leaders of the Western alliance and a concerted effort to squeeze the new Soviet leadership by freezing economic aid programs. He decried the coup as a "misguided and illegitimate effort" that "bypasses both Soviet law and the will of the Soviet peoples." President Bush called the overthrow "very disturbing," and he put a hold on U.S. aid to the Soviet Union until the coup was ended.[6][52]

The Bush statement, drafted after a series of meetings with top aides at the White House, was much more forceful than the President's initial reaction that morning in Maine. It was in keeping with a unified Western effort to apply both diplomatic and economic pressure to the group of Soviet officials seeking to gain control of the country.

Former President Ronald Reagan had said:

"I can't believe that the Soviet people will allow a reversal in the progress that they have recently made toward economic and political freedom. Based on my extensive meetings and conversations with him, I am convinced that President Gorbachev had the best interest of the Soviet people in mind. I have always felt that his opposition came from the communist bureaucracy, and I can only hope that enough progress was made that a movement toward democracy will be unstoppable."[6]

On September 2, 1991, the United States re-recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania when Bush delivered the press conference in Kennebunkport.[53]

 United Kingdom

The British Prime Minister John Major had expressed feelings in a 1991 interview on behalf of the UK about the coup and said "I think there are many reasons why it failed and a great deal of time and trouble will be spent on analysing that later. There were, I think, a number of things that were significant. I don't think it was terribly well-handled from the point of view of those organising the coup. I think the enormous and unanimous condemnation of the rest of the world publicly of the coup was of immense encouragement to the people resisting it. That is not just my view; that is the view that has been expressed to me by Mr. Shevardnadze, Mr. Yakovlev, President Yeltsin and many others as well to whom I have spoken to the last 48 hours. The moral pressure from the West and the fact that we were prepared to state unequivocally that the coup was illegal and that we wanted the legal government restored, was of immense help in the Soviet Union. I think that did play a part."[54]

Major met with his cabinet that same day on 19 August to deal with the crisis. He added, "There seems little doubt that President Gorbachev has been removed from power by an unconstitutional seizure of power. There are constitutional ways of removing the president of the Soviet Union; they have not been used. I believe that the whole world has a very serious stake in the events currently taking place in the Soviet Union. The reform process there is of vital importance to the world and of most vital importance of course to the Soviet people themselves and I hope that is fully clear. There is a great deal of information we don't yet have, but I would like to make clear above all that we would expect the Soviet Union to respect and honor all the commitments that President Gorbachev has made on its behalf, he said, echoing sentiments from a litany of other Western leaders."[6]

However, the British Government had frozen $80 million in economic aid to Moscow, and the European Community scheduled an emergency meeting in which it was expected to suspend a $1.5 billion aid program.[52]

Other sovereign states

  •  Australia: Prime Minister Bob Hawke said "The developments in the Soviet Union ... raise the question as to whether the purpose is to reverse the political and economic reforms which have been taking place. Australia does not want to see repression, persecution or vindictive actions against Gorbachev or those associated with him."[6]
  •  Bulgaria: President Zhelyu Zhelev has stated "Such anti-democratic methods can never lead to anything good neither for the Soviet Union, nor for Eastern Europe, nor for the democratic developments in the world."[6]
  •  Canada: Several reactions to coup quickly happened such as the Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney had huddled with his top advisers discussed the toppling of Mikhail Gorbachev, but his officials said the Prime Minister will likely react cautiously to the stunning development. Mulroney condemned the coup and suspended food aid and other assurances with the Soviet Union.[55] External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall suggested on August 20, 1991 that "Canada could work with any Soviet junta that promises to carry on Gorbachev's legacy, Lloyd Axworthy and Liberal Leader Jean Chretien said Canada must join with other Western governments to back Russian President Boris Yeltsin, former Soviet foreign minister and Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze and others fighting for Soviet democracy." McDougall met with the chargé d'affaires of the Soviet embassy, Vasily Sredin.[56]
  •  China: The Chinese government appeared tacitly to support the coup when it issued a statement saying the move was an internal affair of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China released no immediate comment. Confidential Chinese documents have indicated that China's hardline leaders strongly disapprove of Gorbachev's program of political liberalization, blaming him for "the loss of Eastern Europe to capitalism." Several Chinese people said that a key difference between the Soviet coup leaders' failed attempts to use tanks to crush dissent in Moscow and the hard-line Chinese leaders' successful use of tank-led forces to smash the 1989 protest movement was that the Soviet people had a powerful leader like Russian President Boris Yeltsin to rally around, whereas the Chinese protesters did not. The Soviet coup collapsed in three days without any major violence by the Soviet army against civilians; in June 1989, the People's Liberation Army killed hundreds of people to crush the democracy movement. "People all over Beijing are celebrating the failure of the coup tonight," said a young intellectual reached in Beijing today after word of the coup's collapse spread through the Chinese capital, mostly by way of foreign radio broadcasts. "I personally know of some Communist Party members who are also celebrating."[6][57]
  • Czechoslovakia: Vaclav Havel, the Czechoslovak president, warned his nation could face a possible "wave of refugees" crossing its border with the Ukrainian SSR. However, Havel said "It is not possible to reverse the changes that have already happened in the Soviet Union. We believe democracy will eventually prevail in the Soviet Union."[6] Interior Ministry spokesman Martin Fendrych said an unspecified number of additional troops had been moved to reinforce the Czechoslovak border with the Soviet Union.[6]
  •  Denmark: Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said the process of change in the Soviet Union could not be reversed. In a statement he said, "So much has happened and so many people have been involved in the changes in Soviet Union that I cannot see a total reversal."[6]
  •  France: President François Mitterrand called on the new rulers of the Soviet Union to guarantee the life and liberty of Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who was "Gorbachev's rival in the changing Soviet Union." Mitterrand added, "France attaches a high price to the life and liberty of Messrs. Gorbachev and Yeltsin being guaranteed by the new Moscow leaders. These will be judged by their acts, especially on the fashion in which the two high personalities in question will be treated."[6]
  •  Germany: Chancellor Helmut Kohl cut his vacation short in Austria and returned to Bonn for an emergency meeting. Kohl had said he was sure Moscow would withdraw its remaining 272,000 troops from the former East Germany on schedule.[58] Björn Engholm, leader of Germany's opposition Social Democratic Party, urged member states of the European Community "to speak with one voice" on the situation and said "the West should not exclude the possibility of imposing economic and political sanctions on the Soviet Union to avoid a jolt to the right," in Moscow."[6]
  •  Greece: Greece described the situation in the Soviet Union as "alarming". The Communist-led Alliance of the Left and former Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou both issued statements condemning the coup.[6]
  •  Hungary: Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mátyás Szűrös said the coup increased the risk of a civil war in the Soviet Union. "Undoubtedly, the Soviet economy has collapsed but this has not been the result of Gorbachev's policy but of the paralyzing influence of conservatives" Szűrös said. "Suddenly, the likelihood of a civil war in the Soviet Union has increased."[6]
  •  Iraq: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a close ally of the Soviet Union until it condemned Baghdad during the Gulf War. One Iraqi spokesman quoted by the official Iraqi News Agency: "It is natural that we welcome such change like the states and people who were affected by the policies of the former regime." [6]
  •  Israel: Israeli officials said they hoped Gorbachev's attempted removal had not derailed the conference held in Madrid or a slower Soviet Jewish immigration. The quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, which has coordinated the massive flow of Jews arriving from the Soviet Union, called an emergency meeting to assess how the coup would affect Jewish immigration. "We are closely following what is happening in the Soviet Union with concern," Foreign Minister David Levy said. "One might say that this is an internal issue of the Soviet Union, but in the Soviet Union ... everything internal has an influence for the entire world."[6]
  •  Italy: Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti released a statement and said "I'm surprised, embittered and worried. We all know the difficulties that Gorbachev encountered. But I don't know how a new president, who, at least for now, doesn't have (Gorbachev's) prestige and international connections, can overcome the obstacles." Achille Occhetto, the head of the Democratic Party of the Left, direct heir of the Italian Communist Party, called the ouster of Gorbachev "a most dramatic event of world proportions (which) will have immense repercussions on international life. I am personally and strongly struck, not only for the incalculable burden of this event, but also for the fate of comrade Gorbachev."[6]
  •  Japan: Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu ordered the Foreign Ministry to analyze the developments. "I strongly hope that the leadership change will not influence the positive policies of perestroika and new thinking diplomacy." said Chief Cabinet Secretary .[6] In addition, Soviet aid and technical loans from Japan was frozen.[7]
  •  South Korea: President Roh Tae-woo welcomed the coup's collapse as a symbolic victory for the Soviet people. He quoted "It was a triumph of the courage and resolve of the Soviet citizens towards freedom and democracy."[7]
  •  Philippines: Philippine President Corazon Aquino expressed "grave concern" and said "We hope that the progress toward world peace... achieved under the leadership of President Gorbachev will continue to be preserved and enhanced further."[6]
  •  Poland: In a statement released by the President Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity union helped prompt the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, appealed for calm. "May unity and responsibility for our state gain the upper hand." Walesa said in a statement read on Polish radio by spokesman Andrzej Drzycimski, "The situation in the U.S.S.R. is significant for our country, It can affect our bilateral relations. We want then to be friendly." But he emphasized Poland kept its hard-won sovereignty while it pursued its economic and political reforms.[6]
  •  South Africa: Foreign Minister Pik Botha said: "I very much hope that (developments in the Soviet Union) will neither give rise to large-scale turbulence within the Soviet Union itself or more widely in Europe, nor jeopardize the era of hard-won international cooperation upon which the world has embarked."[6]
  •  Yugoslavia: The country, consumed by its own internal dissent, followed the coup closely. "I am afraid that conservatives in Yugoslavia may now try to grab power in our country, when they see how conservatives removed Gorbachev," a 51-year-old schoolteacher said. "Gorbachev has done the most to bring a sort of democracy to both Eastern European countries and to the Soviet Union." Dragan Radic, 57, an economist, had said: "Gorbachev has done a lot for world peace and helped replace hard-line communist regimes in the past few years. Yet, the West failed to support Gorbachev financially and economically and he was forced to step down because he could not feed the Soviet people."[6]

Supranational bodies and organizations

  •  NATO: The alliance held an emergency meeting in Brussels condemning the Soviet coup. "If indeed this coup did fail, it will be a great victory for the courageous Soviet people who have tasted freedom and who are not prepared to have it taken away from them." the United States Secretary of State James A. Baker III said "It will also, to some extent, be a victory, too, for the international community and for all those governments who reacted strongly to these events." NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner also said, "We should see how the situation in the Soviet Union develops. Our own plans will take into account what happens there."[6][59]
  •  Palestine Liberation Organization – The Palestinian Liberation Organization was dissatisfied with the coup. , who was a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said he hoped the putsch "will permit resolution in the best interests of the Palestinians of the problem of Soviet Jews in Israel."[6]

Further fate of GKChP members

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a party led by the nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovskyhttp://www.lenta.ru/lib/14159799/full.htm. Accessed 13 September 2009. Archived 16 September 2009-.
  2. ^ a b Ольга Васильева, «Республики во время путча» в сб.статей: «Путч. Хроника тревожных дней». // Издательство «Прогресс», 1991. (in Russian). Accessed 14 June 2009. Archived 17 June 2009.
  3. ^ Solving Transnistria: Any Optimists Left? by Cristian Urse. p. 58. Available at http://se2.isn.ch/serviceengine/Files/RESSpecNet/57339/ichaptersection_singledocument/7EE8018C-AD17-44B6-8BC2-8171256A7790/en/Chapter_4.pdf
  4. ^ a b "Би-би-си - Россия - Хроника путча. Часть II". news.bbc.co.uk.
  5. ^ Р. Г. Апресян. Народное сопротивление августовскому путчу (recuperato il 27 novembre 2010 tramite Internet Archive)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Isherwood, Julian M. (19 August 1991). "World reacts with shock to Gorbachev ouster". United Press International. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b c R.C. Gupta. (1997) Collapse of the Soviet Union. p. 57. ISBN 9788185842813,
  8. ^ https://www.upi.com/Archives/1991/08/26/Third-Soviet-official-commits-suicide/5619683179200/ . Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  9. ^ https://www.deseretnews.com/article/179916/THE-CENTRAL-COMMITTEE-CHIEF-OF-ADMINISTRATION-KILLS-HIMSELF.html . Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  10. ^ Mark Kramer, "The Dialectics of Empire: Soviet Leaders and the Challenge of Civil Resistance in East-Central Europe, 1968–91", in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford University Press, 2009 pp. 108–09.
  11. ^ "Gorbachev and Perestroika. Professor Gerhard Rempel, Department of History, Western New England College, 1996-02-02, accessed 2008-07-12". Mars.wnec.edu. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  12. ^ Sarker, Sunil Kumar (1994). The rise and fall of communism. New Delhi: Atlantic publishers and distributors. p. 94. ISBN 978-8171565153. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  13. ^ "USSR: The food supply situation" (PDF). CIA.gov.
  14. ^ Gupta, R.C. (1997). Collapse of the Soviet Union. India: Krishna Prakashan Media. p. 62. ISBN 978-8185842813. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  15. ^ Ziemele (2005). p. 30.
  16. ^ Ziemele (2005). p. 35.
  17. ^ Ziemele (2005). pp. 38–40.
  18. ^ Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia – Past, Present, and Future. 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5, pages 276-293.
  19. ^ KGB Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Zhizhin and KGB Col. Alexei Yegorov, The State Within a State, p. 276–277.
  20. ^ a b c d (in Russian) September 1991 internal KGB report on the involvement of KGB in the coup
  21. ^ a b c d (in Russian) "Novaya Gazeta" No. 51 of 23 July 2001 (extracts from the indictment of the conspirators)
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h (in Russian) Timeline of the events Archived 27 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, by Artem Krechnikov, Moscow BBC correspondent
  23. ^ a b Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7, pages 513–514.
  24. ^ The KGB surveillance logbook included every move of Gorbachev and his wife Raisa Gorbacheva, Subject 111, such as "18:30. 111 is in the bathtub."The State Within a State, page 276–277
  25. ^ a b c (in Russian) Novaya Gazeta No. 59 of 20 August 2001 (extracts from the indictment of the conspirators)
  26. ^ a b c d e f Kommersant, 18 August 2006 (in Russian)
  27. ^ Gorbachev's interview to the Russian Service of BBC of 16 August 2001 (in Russian)[1]
  28. ^ "Варенников Валентин Иванович/Неповторимое/Книга 6/Часть 9/Глава 2 — Таинственная Страна". www.mysteriouscountry.ru.
  29. ^ Revolutionary Passage by Marc Garcelon p. 159
  30. ^ a b c d e (in Russian) GKChP documents
  31. ^ a b (in Russian) another "Kommersant" article, 18 August 2006
  32. ^ (in Russian) "Novaya Gazeta" No. 55 of 6 August 2001 (extracts from the indictment of the conspirators)
  33. ^ (in Russian) "Novaya Gazeta" No. 57 of 13 August 2001 (extracts from the indictment of the conspirators)
  34. ^ a b c d e "Путч. Хроника тревожных дней". old.russ.ru.
  35. ^ "Izvestia", 18 August 2006 (in Russian)[2]
  36. ^ "Moskovskie Novosty", 2001, No.33 "Archived copy" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 26 June 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ a b (in Russian) "Nezavisimoe Voiennoye Obozrenie", 18 August 2006
  38. ^ a b "Усов Владимир Александрович". www.warheroes.ru.
  39. ^ a b "Argumenty i Facty"[permanent dead link], 15 August 2001
  40. ^ "Calls for recognition of 1991 Soviet coup martyrs on 20th anniversary". The Guardian Online. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  41. ^ A Russian site on Ilya Krichevsky "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Accessed 15 August 2009. Archived 17 August 2009.
  42. ^ "Russia's Brightest Moment: The 1991 Coup That Failed". The Moscow Times. 19 August 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  43. ^ Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR (21 August 1991). "Constitutional law On statehood of the Republic of Latvia" (in Latvian). Latvijas Vēstnesis. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
  44. ^ http://www.estonica.org/en/The_August_coup_and_Estonian_independence_1991/
  45. ^ a b c d e f g h Konsultant+ (Russian legal database)[full citation needed]
  46. ^ Fedor, Helen (1995). "Belarus – Prelude to Independence". Belarus: A Country Study. Library of Congress. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  47. ^ "Закон СССР от 05.09.1991 N 2392-1 об органах государственной". pravo.levonevsky.org. Archived from the original on 13 July 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  48. ^ "6 сентября". 5 September 2005.
  49. ^ Letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations from the President of the Russian Federation
  50. ^ "Vzgliad", 18 August 2006 (in Russian)[3] Archived 7 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ "SOVIET TURMOIL; Moscow Mourns And Exalts Men Killed by Coup". The New York Times. 25 August 1991. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  52. ^ a b Rosenthal, Andrew (20 August 1991). "THE SOVIET CRISIS; Bush Condemns Soviet Coup And Calls For Its Reversal". The New York Times.
  53. ^ "SOVIET TURMOIL; Excerpts From Bush's Conference: 'Strong Support' for Baltic Independence". The New York Times. 3 September 1991.
  54. ^ "Mr Major's Comments on the Soviet Coup - 21st August 1991". www.johnmajor.co.uk.
  55. ^ Farnsworth, Clyde H. (25 August 1991). "Canadian Is Attacked for Remarks on Soviet Coup". The New York Times.
  56. ^ "archives". thestar.com.
  57. ^ Southerl, Daniel; Southerl, Daniel (23 August 1991). "CHINESE DISSIDENTS HAIL MOSCOW EVENTS" – via washingtonpost.com.
  58. ^ "archives". thestar.com.
  59. ^ "Nato's Response Covers All Bases".
  60. ^ "Gennady Yanayev". 12 October 2010.
  61. ^ [4]"LA Times", March 2015
  62. ^ Simon Saradzhyan Coup Leader May Join Defense Team, "The Moscow Times", March 2015
  63. ^ [5]"Find A Grave", March 2015
  64. ^ Rupert Cornwell [6]"Vasily Starodubtsev: Politician who tried to topple Gorbachev in 1991", March 2015
  65. ^ Vladimir Socor [7]"The Jamestown Foundation", March 2015

Bibliography

  • Ziemele, Ineta (2005). State Continuity and Nationality: The Baltic States and Russia. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 90-04-14295-9.

External links

19 May 1991

Croatians vote for independence in a referendum.

Croatia held an independence referendum on 19 May 1991, following the Croatian parliamentary elections of 1990 and the rise of ethnic tensions that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. With 83 percent turnout, voters approved the referendum, with 93 percent in favor of independence. Subsequently, Croatia declared independence and the dissolution of its association with Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991, but it introduced a three-month moratorium on the decision when urged to do so by the European Community and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe through the Brioni Agreement. The war in Croatia escalated during the moratorium, and on 8 October 1991, the Croatian Parliament severed all remaining ties with Yugoslavia. In 1992, the countries of the European Economic Community granted Croatia diplomatic recognition and Croatia was admitted to the United Nations.

28 February 1991

The first Gulf War ends.

In what may well be remembered as the high-water mark of the projection of American power and prestige, it was at Midnight on February 28, 1991 that President George H.W. Bush announced the suspension of combat operations, and an end of Operation Desert Storm. Gulf War One had come to a close.

This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of that day.

To illustrate how far into the depth of national self-loathing and doubt we have descended, I would invite you, dear reader, to imagine Barack Obama standing humbly, yet resolutely and proud, in the Well of the House of Representatives, as President George Bush the Elder did one week later, on March 7th, and announce to the nation:

…We watched over our sons and daughters with pride, watched over them with prayer. As Commander in Chief, I can report to you that our Armed Forces fought with Honor and Valor, and as President, I can report to the nation that aggression is defeated, the war is over.”

It is difficult for me to ever imagine our first Post-Constitutional, Post-American president delivering a public utterance like this; one that mentioned Pride, Prayer, Honor and Valor in the context of victory over aggression. Oh, he might use the words , in a string of vacuous, empty and platitudinous homilies, in his ever-expansive desire to redound to himself the reflected glory of the hard toil and sacrifice of others, but Barack Obama would never, ever praise the stunning efforts of our military armed forces, and the iron willed strength of our warriors that lead, arrow-straight, to victory.

“Victory”, said President Barack Obama “is not a concept I’m comfortable with”.

Oh, what a winding and dark road we’ve trod these last twenty years, that have lead us to this, the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.

The twenty-year journey began on August 2nd, 1990. It is interesting to note that the magnificent, common-sense approach to both energy policy and military strength under the exemplary leadership of Ronald Reagan lead both to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and our thunderous victory over Saddam Hussein. Because Reagan deregulated the domestic energy industry, prices for OPEC oil plummeted thoughout most of his presidency, to the point that the cost of oil on the day of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a little over $20 a barrel.

Throughout the early stanzas of the Iran/Iraq war, during a period of intense domestic U.S. oil price controls and industry regulation, the price of oil was trading in the $30-$50 per barrel region, and this wealth kept the Hussein Kelptocracy propped up and able to function. But, by the end of the Reagan presidency, the price dropped into the low $20’s, where it remained stuck until the end of the 1980’s.

Saddam, bereft of his oil revenues, needed cash. He was in hock to everybody, most notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. So, he did what any self-respecting bully would do: He attacked his neighbors to whom he owned the most money in the summer of 1990.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that Sad-em wouldn’t stop in Kuwait, and would turn left, and pounce on Saudi Arabia. At the time King Fahd supplied about 35% of our imported oil. So, under the leadership of the elder Bush, a massive coalition military force, consisting at it’s height of nearly one-million men, was assembled as a defensive shield in the sands of Araby.

After the usual multi-national United Nations hi-jinx, in which the Arab beligerents insisted on linking the Iraqi-Kuwaiti question to the age-old whipping boy Israel, along with the last dying gasps of Gorbachev’s USSR as it tried desperately to remain relevant, the air campaign began in earnest on January 16th, 1991. By February 28th, after a one-hundred hour ground offensive, the war was over. Saddam was driven out of Kuwait. On the streets of Kuwait City, there were riotous celebrations, with the celebrants chanting “George Boosh! George Boosh!” In these scenes alone were the stock footage for the victorious re-election campaign for President Bush, that was certain to be waged in only eighteen months.

Somewhere along the way, though, a small recession intervened, a heretofore unknown and insignificant southern Governor name Bill Clinton intervened in these plans, calling it “the worst economy in 50 years”. The rest, they say, is history.

But what of this history?

What IF we’d never bothered to check the gates of Fahd’s kingdom, and thus allowed Saddam to have his way with the Saudi Arabian oil fields? This, at the very least, would have cut off the source of immense wealth that was just beginning to pour into the radicalized Wahhabist movement, and would have likely killed it in the cradle.

Also, it wouldn’t have given the anti-Western fig-leaf to the likes of Osama bin Laden; remember, his only brief with the US was our parking of our AWACS and our F-16’s on Saudi Holy Ground, and allowing our female military to prance around without burkas. Such was the hatred-germ in the fevered mind of Mr. bin Laden.

Would a Saddam-controlled Saudi Arabia been better, or worse, for American interests in the world? Looking through the long lens of twenty years, who’s to say? We never would have wound up fighting a second Gulf War, bin Laden would be just some unknown Middle-eastern trust-funder trying to figure out how to keep his garments so sparkling white in his filthy cave. There would have been no 9/11. There would have been no Howard Dean. And thus, there would have been no Barack Obama.

Also, I think it is unlikely we would have witnessed the explosive growth of radicalized political Islam. Yes, a wealthy and powerful Saddam Hussein would have offered his own set of special and horrendous difficulties and trials, but don’t forget: One of his proposals for backing out of Kuwait was his insistence that other nations should leave other occupied areas including Syria’s removal from Lebanon . It is hard to imagine a middle-eastern dictator with even a tiny smidgen of realpolitik pragmatism, but, there it is. My, how things have changed…

Now we have a Mid East hurling headlong into the 9th century, and any of that age-old and thread-bare “stability” is gone with the wind. Which brings us back to where we are today: February 28th, 2011.

The only reason any of this is germane is because we categorically, and generationally, refuse to get our domestic energy policy in order. We insist that third-world basket-case nations shoulder the burden of our energy exploration, extraction and refining demands. Thus, we send our valorous Armed Forces hither and yon to protect oil fields. We have, up to this point, been rich enough to pay others to put up with this dirty business or energy extraction. But, this house of cards is crashing down around our ears.

We went to King Fahd’s defense only because the stable and predictable supply of world wide petroleum was in our best national interests. If all the man had in his backyard was sand, we wouldn’t have lifted a finger Or, conversely, we wouldn’t have lifted a finger to defend the Saudi Royal Family if we had all the oil and coal and natural gas and oil shale and nuclear power we needed right here in the United States for the next ten generations, thank you. Deal with Saddam yourself, Mr. Fahd.

In the mid-1940’s, we departed down the path of overt obsequiousness to the Soviet game-plan of world-wide communist domination. This lead to a 50-year arms race that created a Total-State in America with which we are still dealing, and for which we are still paying. It also, not unimportantly, nearly wiped out civilization on a number of occasions during that time. We can thank the left for this.

Similarly, we are today well down the path of overt obsequiousness to radical environmentalism, and our inability to show these people the door in our public policy discourse. There simply is no room for their radical ideology, and their false science, in a world where far too much of our energy comes from places it shouldn’t,–when we can obtain all the energy we need right here at home.

Twenty years ago tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of the most stunning victories ever achieved by the Armed Forces of the United States. As George Herbert Walker Bush so beautifully and movingly observed at the time, they did so with great honor, and with great valor. Their sacrifice and power stands to this day as an exemplary light to our nation.

The sad fact is, though, we usually extend these military risks only as a response to great folly on the part of the political Left, in tandem with the inability of the Right to stand against it. If we’d stood up with Whittaker Chambers and insisted that our most valuable atomic secrets were already in the hands of the Soviets, perhaps things would have been different in 20th century America. Perhaps if we’d stood four-square against the Jane Fondas and Robert F. Kennedy Jrs, and insisted on a rational energy policy in this nation, we wouldn’t have run afoul of Saddam Hussein and his oil-lust on the Arabian peninsula twenty years ago.

This is a lesson we still have time to learn. But just barely. Learning this lesson NOW, TODAY would be a fine and fitting tribute to those magnificent warriors I recall here tonight, twenty years on. It is a lesson, once learned, will help insure we don’t have to fight another war like theirs.

25 February 1991

The Warsaw Pact is abolished.

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland among the Soviet Union and seven Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Warsaw Pact was established as a balance of power or counterweight to NATO; there was no direct confrontation between them. Instead, the conflict was fought on an ideological basis and in proxy wars. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact led to the expansion of military forces and their integration into the respective blocs. Its largest military engagement was the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which, in part, resulted in Albania withdrawing from the pact less than a month later. The Pact began to unravel in its entirety with the spread of the Counter-Revolutions of 1989 through the Eastern Bloc, beginning with the Solidarity movement in Poland and its electoral success in June 1989.

East Germany withdrew from the Pact following reunification with West Germany in 1990. On 25 February 1991, the Pact was declared at an end at a meeting of defence and foreign ministers from the six remaining member states in Hungary. The USSR itself was dissolved in December 1991, although most of the former Soviet republics formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization shortly thereafter. Throughout the following 20 years, the seven Warsaw Pact countries outside the USSR each joined NATO, as did the three Baltic states that had been part of the Soviet Union.

28 February 1991

The first Gulf War ends.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, its tiny oil-rich neighbor, and within hours had occupied most strategic positions in the country. One week later, Operation Shield, the American defense of Saudi Arabia, began as U.S. forces massed in the Persian Gulf. Three months later, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq if it failed to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991.

At 4:30 p.m. EST on January 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm, a massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, began as the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere.

Operation Desert Storm was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, encountering little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force. Iraqi ground forces were also helpless during this stage of the war, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel, and thus other Arab nations, to enter the conflict; however, at the request of the United States, Israel remained out of the war.

On February 24, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. By the end of the day, the Iraqi army had effectively folded, 10,000 of its troops were held as prisoners, and a U.S. air base had been established deep inside Iraq. After less than four days, Kuwait was liberated, and a majority of Iraq’s armed forces had either been destroyed or had surrendered or retreated to Iraq. On February 28, U.S. President George Bush declared a cease-fire, and Iraq pledged to honor future coalition and U.N. peace terms. One hundred and twenty-five American soldiers were killed in the Persian Gulf War, with another 21 regarded as missing in action.

25 February 1991

The Warsaw Pact is abolished.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a long and complex process due to economic, social, and political reasons. Therefore, when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved on February 25, 1991, the Soviet Union did not go out with a loud bang, but the feeble pop of a balloon.

The Warsaw Pact was drawn up in May 1955. The signers of the Pact included the “USSR, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.” The formation of the pact came after the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO. In the introduction to the Pact, the document states that Western Germany’s acceptance into NATO was a threat “to the national security of peaceable states.” Therefore it was the duty of the signers of the pact to “take necessary measures to safeguard their security and in the interests of preserving peace in Europe.” The pact seems to show the fear many communist countries had that West Germany’s involvement with NATO would lead to another war. The Warsaw Pact appeared to be for the good of Europe. However, this pact was likely an attempt by the USSR to have military control in Eastern and Central Europe. For example, in Article 4 of the Pact, it states that if an armed event should occur against one of the Parties to the Pact, each of the countries who signed should “come to the assistance of the state or states attacked with all such means as it deems necessary, including armed force.” However, this pact became void before it was officially dissolved as many of the countries involved experienced upheaval in 1989-1991 as their Communist governments were toppled.

“Atop the Berlin Wall”

There were many reasons that the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and the Soviet Union fell. Mikhail Gorbachev played a key role in the fall. As Gorbachev climbed the ladder of the Communist Party and gained a great deal of power by the 1980’s, his policies and reforms for the Soviet Union inadvertently ended the Union. Two of Gorbachev’s policies were known as glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost called for openness in the government in the Soviet Union. Perestroika represented the restructuring of the Soviet Union, specifically the political and economic system. Perestroika “unleashed force and expectations even as it failed to satisfy minimal requirements”. Gorbachev’s policies were an attempt to restructure the Soviet Union to follow the West’s “model of democracy and free markets”. This development led to difficult times for the Soviet Union as the economy suffered. Glasnost allowed for the press to undermine Gorbachev’s authority and that of the regime . Perestroika gave way to more demand for freedom and autonomy within the Soviet Union. It also sparked nationalism and even calls for independence. As tension and nationalist movements increased in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall “marked the end of the Soviet bloc”. The Warsaw Pact was already a moot point by this time.

12 November 1991

Indonesian forces open fire on a crowd of student protesters in Dili, East Timor.

0719

The Santa Cruz massacre was the shooting of at least 250 East Timorese pro-independence demonstrators in the Santa Cruz cemetery in the capital, Dili, on 12 November 1991, during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and is part of the East Timorese genocide.

During a brief confrontation between Indonesian troops and protesters, a number of protesters and a Major, Geerhan Lantara were stabbed. Stahl claimed Lantara had attacked a group of protesters including a girl carrying the flag of East Timor, and FRETILIN activist Constâncio Pinto reported eyewitness accounts of beatings from Indonesian soldiers and police. When the procession entered the cemetery some continued their protests before the cemetery wall. Around 200 more Indonesian soldiers arrived and advanced on the gathering, weapons drawn. Indonesian troops advanced on the gathering enclosed in the graveyard, and opened fire on hundreds of unarmed civilians.

The massacre was witnessed by the two American journalists—Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn—and caught on videotape by Max Stahl, who was filming undercover for Yorkshire Television. As Stahl filmed the massacre, Goodman and Nairn tried to “serve as a shield for the Timorese” by standing between them and the Indonesian soldiers. The soldiers began beating Goodman, and when Nairn moved to protect her, they beat him with their weapons, fracturing his skull. The camera crew managed to smuggle the video footage to Australia.

22 September 1991

The Dead Sea Scrolls are made available to the public.

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On this day in 1991, California’s Huntington Library released microfilm of the Dead Sea Scrolls, providing independent researchers with access to a cache of immensely important ancient manuscripts that had hitherto been confined to a small group of scholars.

The Dead Sea Scrolls date from about two thousand years ago. They were found in caves above the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake which is not only the world’s saltiest, but also the deepest, and at the lowest elevation, 400 metres below sea level. It is located between Israel and Jordan, where the climate is arid and conducive to the preservation of ancient manuscripts.

The first group of scrolls was discovered in 1947 by a young Bedouin shepherd in search of a lost goat. In a cave, he found jars filled with ancient scrolls and fragments of texts. During the next decade, archaeologists and Bedouins discovered ten additional caves containing ancient manuscripts. Most of the manuscripts were of leather and papyrus. They include all but one of the books of the Old Testament, some almost complete, as well as other fragments in languages including Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. As to the people who hid the scrolls in the caves, one likely theory is that refugees from Jerusalem deposited the scrolls during the Jewish-Roman war.

Many of the longer scrolls were deciphered, published and translated soon after their discovery. However, the more fragmentarily preserved manuscripts were in the hands of an official group of editors who had been assigned to do this work by the governments of Jordan and Israel. Unfortunately, the pace was slow, and access to the manuscripts was limited to the editorial team.

21 August 1991

A coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev fails.

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Just three days after it began, the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev collapses. Despite his success in avoiding removal from office, Gorbachev’s days in power were numbered. The Soviet Union would soon cease to exist as a nation and as a Cold War threat to the United States.

The coup against Gorbachev began on August 18, led by hard-line communist elements of the Soviet government and military. The attempt was poorly planned and disorganized, however. The leaders of the coup seemed to spend as much time bickering among themselves–and, according to some reports, drinking heavily–as they did on trying to win popular support for their action. Nevertheless, they did manage to put Gorbachev under house arrest and demand that he resign from leadership of the Soviet Union.

Many commentators in the West believed that the administration of President George Bush would come to the rescue, but were somewhat surprised at the restrained response of the U.S. government. These commentators did not know that at the time a serious debate was going on among Bush officials as to whether Gorbachev’s days were numbered and whether the United States should shift its support to Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Yeltsin’s stock rose sharply as he publicly denounced the coup and organized strikes and street protests by the Russian people. The leaders of the coup, seeing that most of the Soviet military did not support their action, called off the attempt and it collapsed on August 21.

The collapse of the coup brought a temporary reprieve to the Gorbachev regime, but among U.S. officials he was starting to be seen as damaged goods. Once a darling of the U.S. press and public, Gorbachev increasingly was viewed as incompetent and a failure. U.S. officials began to discuss the post-Gorbachev situation in the Soviet Union. Based on what had transpired during the August 1991 coup, they began a slow but steady tilt toward Yeltsin. In retrospect, this policy seemed extremely prudent, given that Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Despite the turmoil around him, Yeltsin continued to serve as president of the largest and most powerful of the former soviet socialist republics, Russia.