U.S. feared USSR would collapse into civil war says former diplomat

The United States had a real fear that the USSR could collapse into civil war along national lines in a Yugoslavia-style conflict, Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor under President George H. W. Bush, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

August 19, 2011, marks twenty years since the unsuccessful coup that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union.

On the anniversary of the coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Scowcroft said that President Bush’s famous “Chicken Kiev” speech was a direct appeal to avoid nationalist conflict.

“There were two primary motivations for the speech,” Scowcroft said. “First, what was going on in Yugoslavia, and second, what was going on in Ukraine between the Eastern and Western parts. The core idea of the speech was: ‘Be careful, do not let this nationalism destroy what you have, and think about of what you are going to do.’”

Scowcroft said the United States wanted to keep backing Gorbachev and feared the narrow nationalistic aspirations of some leaders.

“It was a fear of the irrationality, if you want, that led the Yugoslavs to take a small state and break it into six,” he said. “It was ignoring the benefits of larger political entities. Ukraine historically had been a very troubled region; those were the kinds of things the President was warning about; namely, don’t let narrow nationalism blind you as you’re developing your own political entity.”

Bush’s appeals were in vain, however.

“Soon after Ukraine did vote for independence. Probably, Gorbachev was underestimating the strength of local nationalism.”

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