Foreign policy

By Zubeida Mustafa

August has been an eventful month for the Soviet Union — perhaps no less eventful than October 1917 which brought the Bolsheviks to power. The coup that toppled Mr Mikhail Gorbachev — though temporarily — his return to power, the rise of his arch-rival, Mr Boris Yeltsin, as the champion of the anti-coup forces and the danger of the unravelling of the Soviet federation have come at a breathtaking pace.

Most importantly, the coup and its aftermath have transformed the situation in the USSR.

Seemingly the three eventful days in August were like an interlude when the Soviet Union’s fledgling democracy was put on hold. However, what emerged later was not the status quo ante but a new power structure in the Kremlin which will change the course of international relations in the months to come.

At the time of writing, three contradictions have come to the fore which have profound implications for the USSR’s standing in global politics.

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For one thing, it has become clear that the long-held apprehension of a conservative Communist backlash can actually materialise with all its dire consequences for the West. In the present geopolitical context, when one superpower is virtually falling apart, there is no possibility of a return to the posture of military confrontation that was a constant threat of the cold war years. But the prospect of destabilisation and a reversal of the policy of detente is a potential factor in Soviet foreign policy today, which no world statesman worth his salt would disregard.

For another, the victory of the pro-democracy forces which led to the collapse of the coup has strengthened perestroika and glasnost giving an impetus to the pro- Western liberal thrust in the Soviet Union’s external relations. Continue reading “Foreign policy”