Gorbachev's fall

August 19, 1991

The stunning ouster of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by a hardline troika in a quasi-military coup presents the West with an exceedingly difficult dilemma: Whether to support the new regime, or to leave the Soviet Union to stew in its own juices. As distasteful as it may be, it's likely the West will simply have to swallow hard, and deal with the new "emergency committee."

Why? Because there is a worse alternative to authoritarian rule in Russia, and that is the rapid, uncontrolled descent into chaos and civil war. Better to have a known authoritarian hand in control of the 30,000 nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union than to have a thousand unknown hands in control.

If there is a ray of hope to be found in this ominous turn of events, it is that Gorbachev's successors will have the good sense to recognize that there can be no return to the past, and will use the emergency powers now exerted in order to achieve the political and economic reforms embodied in the vision and the courage of Mikhail Gorbachev. We can only fervently hope that this development represents a pause, not an abandonment, of the historic reforms Gorbachev introduced.

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