The West's Response to Perestroika and Post-Soviet Russia

by Arnold L. Horelick

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Ten years after the birth of perestroika, the West has still not come to grips, either intellectually or in policy terms, with the revolutions perestroika unleashed. Initially, perestroika met with considerable Western skepticism, but that skepticism quickly gave way to unanimous acclaim. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Clinton Administration proclaimed America's backing for Yeltsin, but the U.S. focused support almost exclusively on promoting Russia's economic transition to a market economy and disregarded the failure of the Russian leadership to institutionalize democratic political reform. Dimming confidence in Russia's prospects for a successful democratic transition has contributed to a recent shift in Western thinking regarding NATO expansion to East Central Europe. The West's recent decision to ratchet up the NATO expansion process conveys a message about its enduring beliefs regarding Russia's place in the world that does not tally with its continuing support for Russia's Westernizing reform. It demonstrates that the Western world has still not sorted out its interests and priorities and risks squandering an opportunity to help shape a healthy future for Russia.

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