Interview With Boris Nemtsov On August 1991 Putsch: ‘We Were Romantic…We Were Very Naive’

RFE/RL: Do you think that during the 1990s there were opportunities for the West to exert a stronger influence on developments in Russian democracy. Or was Russia’s failure to develop a democracy partly a failure of the Western attitude toward Russia?

Nemtsov: I want to tell you that the West didn’t play a huge role in the history of Russia, in particular in the 1990s. The Westerners really supported democracy in Russia, that’s true. But as far as economic support in concerned, I believe that it was absolutely limited and it was not enough to be successful. Just one example: There were huge talks between the West and Russia about the Soviet debt. And the Westerners insisted that Yeltsin pay the Soviet debt and the Soviet debt at the time was huge, it was $100 billion. But anyway, the West didn’t pay any attention to the economic situation of the country and the country was under Soviet Union bankruptcy. And the oil prices were very small, the price was about maybe between $10 and $15 per barrel, not like now. But the Westerners didn’t pay any attention. [They said,] “If you are the successor, you must pay.”

That’s why the economy was in terrible shape. And the economic situation was very difficult. There was a huge inflation and disintegration, but anyway they pressed us very much to pay. I think that it was the biggest mistake of the West. The economic situation was very difficult and the Russian people found themselves in big trouble. And now millions of Russians believe that August 1991 was the beginning of the huge difficulties.

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