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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kozyrev Should Not Be Sacrificed

Exit a humanist and voice of reason, enter the unknown. The near-certain departure of Andrei Kozyrev as foreign minister of Russia is an event to be mourned. That Boris Yeltsin should have to make some sacrifices in the current political context is understandable. But his inclusion of Kozyrev among the outcasts can only be deeply regretted.


Kozyrev, 41, has been with the Yeltsin team since 1990. As foreign minister, he has carried on the tradition of "new thinking" begun in the mid-1980s, by Eduard Shevardnadze. This enlightened approach to Russia's role broke with decades of antagonism toward the West. It said goodbye to the arms race; stopped supporting dictatorial regimes; ended the Afghan war;


allowed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and, ultimately, of the Soviet empire.


This is precisely what has enraged Yeltsin's opponents, who long for a return to old ways. For them, the Cold War years were a time of Soviet strength that they nostalgically hope to regain.


How dangerous this is was remarked on by Kozyrev himself only a few days ago. Given developments at the Congress, it is poignant now to look back at his words.


Kozyrev began his address with an appeal to the West to help prevent Russia's return to the past. He spoke of the Russian government's determination not to allow revanchism, but warned that the country now stood at a crossroads.


The government, Kozyrev said, was facing a basic choice: It intended to pursue a "postimperial policy", although Russia was witnessing an attempt by opponents of this policy to take power. The proposals of the "national-patriotic" opposition, he said, created a risk of instability intolerable in a nuclear power. Kozyrev warned of what he called "the Yugoslav variant", saying that if a similar breakup of Russia occurred "it would make Yugoslavia look like kindergarten in comparison".


Russia's government, Kozyrev said, stood for a different approach to the world: "the fight against totalitarianism, the defense of human rights". Russia will use its armed forces not Yugoslav style, he said, but tis peacekeeping troops.


For those who remember foreign policy in the Soviet era, those are strong words well worth our attention. Will the next Russian foreign minister be as steadfast? Will he honor the principles that Kozyrev pledged he would uphold?


"I dream of the day", Kozyrev said, "when Russia will sing in the chorus of progressive nations".


Yeltsin's decision makes that dream less likely to be realized soon. and that is a sad thought indeed.