Jack Matlock Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of the Cold War: A Diplomat Looks Back; Conversation with Jack Matlock, 2/13/97 by Harry Kreisler

Photo by L. Carper

Page 8 of 10

The Weimar Analogy

What about the Weimar analogy, that is, that the wrong kinds of policies on our part could create internal instability in Russia analogous to what happened in Weimar Germany after World War I?

I don't see the emergence of an effective sort of fascist, right wing movement. By the way, I don't see much difference between a communist regime and a fascist regime. In fact, I think one of the greatest intellectual confusions that many have had over these decades is the whole right and left thing -- fascists are on the right, communists are on the left. Nonsense! They come together and overlap, and we're seeing this in Russia today where the allies are the nationalistic chauvinists and the communists. They are natural allies because they are authoritarians by nature. And more than authoritarians, they tend to be totalitarians, which means that they tend to destroy all of the elements of the civil society. To me that's much more important than whether you're philosophically right or left. You know, are you willing to create and live in a civil society, in an open society, or not? That to me is the basic issue. I think that the totalitarians, and there are plenty of them there, if they unfortunately should get power, they're going to destroy the country. I don't think you can "establish" a totalitarian dictatorship.

Having said that, however, there is no question that if we move in the wrong fashion we can encourage these tendencies rather than discourage them. Mishandling NATO expansion is one way you encourage chauvinistic tendencies and create greater insecurity, in effect, around Russia's borders. Second: setting too-high standards for them to come into international organizations. I think there should be standards and they should be willing to abide by the rules. You don't stretch the rules for them. The name of the game, if you're going to help their democratic forces create a civil society and democratic institutions, is to bring them into international organizations under the condition that they act responsibly. But if you say, "You're out until you can prove that you're like us," well, they're never going to be exactly like us. Or, "We're going to expand NATO regardless of what you think, of course this is not directed at you," when everybody knows that what is bringing East Europeans in is their fear of Russia. You can't have it both ways. The impact on Russia is "We're not threatening these countries, why are they cutting us out? Is our security of no value? If it is, why don't they say so?" I don't know why we don't say that Russia's security is also important to us.

We need to work with Russia to bring them into a European system. Meanwhile, NATO has an important role, let's try to work out something with Russia. If Russia ever threatens other countries then we're going to have to consider expanding NATO, but until they do our priority is bringing them into the world system under terms that they will be responsible. By the way, this would also be a great leverage to keep Russian policy responsible. Because if it looks as if we're going to act regardless of what they think about things regarding their security ultimately, they are going to become, I would say, much more of a loose cannon, looking for alliances with Iran and maybe with China, and these are not going to work either. But the fact is that they bring about much greater instability and, again, a lot of psychological feelings of hostility when there's no need for it.

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