USSR and Russia through the eyes of the creator of the Singapore Miracle
These days, the Singapore media have written a lot about the fact that Lee Kuan Yew, the 91-year-old creator of the “Singapore Miracle” and the first Prime Minister of independent Singapore, who ruled this island nation for over 30 years, is in critical condition. Singaporeans hang banners with wishes of health to their former leader, light candles, make patterns of hearts. Many gather at the Central Hospital and leave their wishes there. Newspapers report that the 20-year-old artist painted a large portrait of Lee Kuan Yew, consisting of the name of the former prime minister, painted more than 18 thousand times. Lee Xianlong, Singapore's premier and eldest son Lee Kuan Yew, publishes on his Facebook account historical photos about the life of his father and writes that he is deeply touched by the sincere wishes of Singaporeans. On March 21, the Prime Minister’s office published a message consisting of just one phrase: “Lee Kuan Yew’s condition has worsened.”
Historians will argue for a long time about the role of Lee Kuan Yew in the development of Singapore. This debate is already quite difficult. Firstly, because mythology about the “Singapore miracle” has already become commonplace, the former prime minister of this island state himself played a significant role in the creation of his (Singapore History became the desktop and canonical for many fans of Lee Kuan Yew, and besides this book about the development of Singapore, they read little). And secondly, because history does not tolerate the subjunctive mood and it is already impossible to answer the question - what would happen to Singapore if not for Lee Kuan Yu.
Nevertheless, not everyone is inclined to be overly enthusiastic about Lee Kuan Yew. Many researchers convincingly prove that if any other educated person were in his place, the results of his activities would hardly be very different from the Singaporean reality that the Singapore patriarch was so proud of. The geographical position of Singapore at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca as a transshipment base and logistics center was too beneficial, after which the establishment of political stability simply had to make massive investments.
The argument that Lee Kuan Yew, at the time of coming to power, had a impoverished village with an uncivilized population could not stand up to criticism. By the time independence was gained, Singapore’s reference books were already described as the largest trading hub and port of Southeast Asia with a developed infrastructure and a railway going to the mainland, which also had large tin smelters, machine-building and ship repair enterprises, and a rather significant among the population a part were educated Chinese, who received excellent education in those days in both Chinese and English. That is, it must be admitted that Lee Kuan Yew received in his management not a pretty advanced village. However, some also cast doubt on many of Singapore’s current successes, skilfully concealing “dependent and underdeveloped economies” behind the front windows (the words of the author of one of the books, the Australian R. King). Other researchers, comparing Hong Kong and Singapore on many formal indicators, point out the similarity of both the starting conditions and the level achieved as a result, but they note that for some reason the “Hong Kong miracle” did not need to have its well-known “ founding father. "
That is, according to this point of view, praising Lee Kuan Yew is about the same thing as being touched by the genius of the Moscow mayor, in which the capital of Russia amazes with its glittering buildings, and at the same time marvel at the inefficiency and stupidity of the rest of the Russian governors, who lack the intelligence and talent to achieve the same impressive results in their regions.
Undoubtedly, Lee Kuan Yew skillfully and effectively used the advantages of Singapore. But when everything is in front of you or it goes into your hands itself - you need to be a very stupid person to not take advantage of all this. Therefore, the question of where the enormous natural advantages of Singapore end and where the truly outstanding organizational talent and strength of character, Lee Kuan Yew, who was able to turn them to the benefit of this state, remains controversial. As Deng Xiaoping told him at the meeting, "if I had one Shanghai, I would also be able to quickly change it."
About Lee Kuan Yew is said to be a “non-ideological pragmatist” —that is, they liken Deng Xiaoping with his words that it doesn’t matter what color the cat is — only if it catches mice. At the same time, few people pay attention to the fact that this leader was characterized by a strong dislike for the Soviet Union. Moreover, it was not a “rational dislike” when its reasons can be explained by one or another action of the USSR. Although, maybe, the conversation with the Soviet Prime Minister A.N. Kosygin, from which he made a rather bold conclusion that Moscow is not interested in the existence of Singapore as an independent state, as well as the activity of the “communist” USSR in Southeast Asia. Still, Lee's dislike for the Soviet Union is more like a kind of irrational feeling when someone just does not like it because he does not like it. And this could not affect some of his decisions.
This is described in some detail in the book Singapore History, so it is worthwhile to dwell on at least some points.
Lee Kuan Yew describes his stay in the Soviet Union as follows: "In Moscow, I felt a threat in the air, but it was probably a figment of my imagination." He says that in January 1969, the Soviet authorities actually forced to stop the Scandinavian Airlines aircraft, on which he flew to Copenhagen, in Moscow instead of Tashkent (there was supposedly bad weather) - and all that, according to Lee Kuan Yu, “hit me with the size, power and capabilities of the country” and arrange a meeting with the newly appointed Soviet ambassador in this country, I.I. Safronov. Exceptionally, to hit ...
This sensation from the Soviet Union as something huge and frightening passes through the entire text of Lee Kuan Yew, devoted to the development of bilateral relations. In September 1970, he made the first official visit to the USSR. He was greeted by an honor guard of high Russian guardsmen, lit by searchlights. “They moved like robots and, when I was asked to greet them in Russian, answered in unison. The inspection of the guard of honor ended with a march that was an impressive demonstration of aggressiveness and strength. It was all meant to make an impression, and I was really impressed. ” He describes the Russians as "brave, tough and enduring people" and writes that he was struck by a giant war memorial in Volgograd. Plus, the then Soviet leaders in every way showed him confidence that "the future belonged to them." And later, characterizing MS Gorbachev, he wrote: "I was surprised that such a worthy man could achieve the highest position in such an ominous system."
Even the desire for his son to learn Russian was dictated not by warm feelings towards Russia, but by purely pragmatic considerations. “I thought that Russia would have a great influence on the lives of my children,” explained Lee Kuan Y.
Moreover, he saw the guarantor of his own freedom of the hands exclusively in the United States: “It was because the Americans were determined and well prepared to fight against the communists that Nehru, Nasser and Sukarno could afford to play the role of leaders of non-aligned countries. It was very convenient for them and I also took up a similar position, at first without even realizing that such neutrality is a luxury that the Americans paid for. " Judging from the book, Lee Kuan Yew did not even admit that this phrase could be turned up to the exact opposite, and that it was thanks to the existence of the Soviet Union that the Americans were forced to shut their eyes to many features of the then Singapore regime and the eccentricities of its leader They did not fit in with ideas not only about Western democracy, but about any democracy in general.
However, Lee Kuan Yew later makes a reservation: “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Americans became the same dogmatists and evangelists as the communists used to be. They wanted to implant the concept of democracy and human rights everywhere ... ”By the way, it’s hard to imagine what would have happened with Singapore if the USA had become such“ dogmatists and evangelists ”much earlier - when it was still just becoming independent and unsure of itself tiny state . Moreover, Lee Kuan Yew mentions how he used the standoff of the two superpowers for Singapore’s benefit, informing the Americans about A.N.’s proposal. Kosygin, that the USSR used the empty docks of the former British military base in Singapore - “the interest shown by the Russians to the base gave me cards that I could play.” With whom would Lee Kuan Yew play these games and with whom would he cut the coupons if it were not for the Soviet Union?
At the same time, it is significant that Lee Kuan Yew had a completely different attitude towards China with its tough communist regime — that is, its negative attitude toward the USSR was not at all determined solely by the fact that the Communists ruled there. Yes, he did not like the foreign policy of China, he was obstructed by the obsessive and stupid Chinese propaganda, he was amazed at the poverty of the then inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom. But for some reason nothing scared him, and his attitude to the processes taking place in China was more philosophical than condemning (“Mao wanted to erase old China in order to create a new one”). He was inclined to view the Chinese regime, with its horrors of a "cultural revolution" and mass repressions, as something much more vegetarian than the "sinister" Soviet Union. Speaking about the massacre of a student demonstration in Beijing on Tiananmen Square in 1989, Lee said: "I did not condemn the Chinese government, because I did not consider it a repressive Soviet-type communist regime." At the same time, he stressed that Deng Xiaoping did everything right: "As a veteran of wars and revolutions, he saw in student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square a dangerous process that threatened to plunge China for another 100 years into chaos and anarchy." And this is not to mention the fact that, as follows from the book by Lee Kuan Yew, he was ready to accept the existence of the cannibal regime of China supported by China, Pol Pot in Kampuchea, if only the Vietnamese did not come there, behind whom stood the USSR
That is why, recognizing the undoubted great merits of Lee Kuan Yew in building the current Singapore, however, one should objectively assess the extent of these merits, as well as an unbiased attitude to the personality of this statesman. And at the same time approach his heritage and his experience, following his example, from a purely pragmatic position of “utility-uselessness” and without unnecessary emotions. By the way, some circles in Russia tried to use it several years ago when the talk about “authoritarian modernization” was fashionable — they were hard pressed to Russia to “give advice”, while being made an honorary doctor of MGIMO and trying to attach its popular brand to the project Skolkovo.
“Anyone who believes that the Russians are finished as a great nation should recall their scientists working in the space and atomic fields, chess grandmasters, and Olympic champions whom they brought up, despite all the damage caused by the central planning system to the country. Unlike the communist system, Russians are not the kind of people who can be thrown into the dustbin of history, ”Lee Kuan Yew wrote in his book.
Today, these words sound as relevant. Only they are unlike the expression of warm feelings towards Russia. Rather, if we recall the attitude of Lee Kuan Yew towards the USSR, they look like a warning.