Former dissident convinced that for democracy to align itself with the freedom fighters â€“ not only moral, but also useful
In February 1986, Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky, accompanied by American diplomats Glinicki crossed the bridge connecting East and West Berlin. So he ended nine years of labor camps in Siberia and the dark cold chambers in Moscow.
“Thirteen years after I asked that I was deprived of Soviet citizenship, I finally was deprived of his Soviet citizenship,” he said.
Sharansky emigrated to Israel, where he held several Ministerial positions including Deputy Prime Minister. In an interview with “Voice of America” on the sidelines of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Sharansky recalls his struggle with the KGB and calling for the leaders of the free world to take the relay begun by such visionaries as US President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to continue the legacy of democracy.
“By the sun, I determined that we move to the West”
“They took me somewhere and didn’t tell you where. According to the sun, I determined that we move to the West. After three or four hours, it became clear that we had crossed the border of the Soviet Union. I demanded to be told what’s going on. Is it a kidnapping?”.
In the end, one of the officers accompanying him, the KGB said that the Soviet authorities decided that my actions “unworthy of a Soviet citizen” and that I was expelled.
“So I realized that was free,” Sharansky told the correspondent of “voice of America”.
The release of Anatoly Sharansky became a result of negotiations and was made together with the exchange of spies between the USA and the USSR. The Soviet authorities wanted to keep a political activist under his control until the very last moment, while the Americans tried to extract concessions.
The American side insisted that Sharansky crossed the bridge half an hour before the exchange of spies, implying that the accusation of “spying on Americans”, presented Sharansky, was unfounded â€“ he was a human rights activist as in the day when I listened to a sentence and the day when was released.
Sharansky told the “voice of America” that when he later met with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he complained to him: “Of all the people you thanked, you first mentioned Ronald Reagan, the then [Soviet dissident Andrei] Sakharov and only in the third place of me. Despite the fact that I freed you!”
Sharansky insisted then and still insists today, that the merit is in the fact that the Soviet Union, like any authoritarian regime, has failed, primarily belongs to such dissidents as Andrei Sakharov, who at that time “kept the spark of freedom.”
“I know it’s very difficult, it takes a lot of courage and in many cases ends in tragedy,” he says.
In the second place, he believes that they should be grateful for leaders like Reagan and Thatcher, “who saw the real nature of the regime and understood that it was the evil Empire, which to resist and to link human rights issue with international politics.”
“In the interests of detente, peace and stability”
Sharansky admits that not all the leaders of democratic societies with equal enthusiasm to the task of supporting democratic movements in totalitarian regimes.
At the time of Reagan and Thatcher international politics, for the most part, dictated by Realpolitik, which was a concern of providing the power advantages, not moral purpose.
“Although it was absolutely wrong from a moral point of view, although it is in the interests of peace and stability of Western society then basically practiced a policy of laissez faire or minimal intervention in the field of human rights,” says Sharansky.
Today, according to him, there is also belief that perhaps it is better not to demand change from dictatorial regimes, which, it seems, can not convince, at least from the outside. As an example, he cites China, which is “strong or looks strong.”
The “terrible human rights violations, but the world doesn’t ask questions, because they don’t have the courage to change policy,” he says.
Governments developed the habit to make lists of “interests” or issues that “need to solve in the first place” to discuss human rights issues that are often presented as “abstract values.” This approach, according to Sharansky, which references and on own experience, absolutely wrong, but, nevertheless, “very typical”.
The representative of China “wasn’t shocked” by the question about political prisoners
In 1997, when Sharansky was appointed Minister of industry and trade of Israel, he met with arrived in the country by the Chinese delegation.
“I said, “Mr. Vice President, I spent many years in political prison. I know how important was the interest of the outside world to my fate, so I ask you, what is the fate of Chinese political prisoners?”” says Sharansky.
“He (the Vice-President of China) didn’t seem shocked by this question, but our representatives, employees of our Ministry of foreign Affairs, was absolutely shocked. I think after that there was some instruction that I no longer had meetings with Chinese delegations: they tried to prevent me to again ask questions,” says a former Soviet dissident.
In the end, he said, Israel’s ability to influence the behavior of the Chinese government are limited, “but it is very important that the American President and European leaders for meetings with Chinese leaders asked this question of the fate of dissidents, and that it was at the top of their agenda”.
“I know that today it is more not happening than happening,” Sharansky regrets.
The legacy of Reagan and Thatcher
Former Soviet political prisoner so generalizes the legacy of Reagan and Thatcher and their role in the fall of the Soviet regime: “Your solidarity with the people fighting for freedom, is not only your moral principle that is consistent with your core interests.”
But his message to a new generation of leaders: “the more you understand it, and the more your policy reflects this, the more influence you can have on the world.”
The reluctance to confront authoritarian regimes Sharansky explains the lack of understanding â€“ because of the deceptive appearance â€“ what goes on inside these regimes.
Sovietologists were wrong
In 1970, Soviet dissident Andrei Amalric wrote a book: “USSR Survive until 1984?”. He said he first wanted to use the title of the book in 1980-th year, but stopped in 1984, as a token of appreciation to the epochal novel by British writer George Orwell’s “1984”, which describes the horrors of life under totalitarianism.
Unlike Amalrik “Sovietologists even a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union wrote and spoke about the strength of the Soviet system,” says Sharansky. He believes that the same can be said of other dictatorships.