Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Victor Chernomyrdin Goes Home

The article in the Jamestown Foundation Blog regarding Victor Chernomyrdin's recall to Moscow from his long-held post of ambassador to Ukraine contains interesting background on his previous career which I never completely knew, particularly about the report to then V.P. Al Gore by the CIA. It is surprising that Gore dismissed the report given what was known about the state of business ethics in Russia at the time (and now, actually). I met Chernomyrdin at a reception at the US ambassador's home together with Al Gore when the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission was active. At the time I knew little about him and my connection with the Russian Federation was over a short time later as my job changed. What I do remember is that he was really, really short - or maybe that V.P. Gore was so tall. Whatever.

My next involvement with Chernomyrdin came at a small meeting in Kyiv among European ambassadors and Ukrainian officials discussing WTO and other economic issues in 2002.

At that meeting what struck me most was his amazingly dismissive and condescending attitude toward fairly important Ukrainian officials and Ukraine in general. This was pre-Orange Revolution of course, and he pointedly suggested that Ukraine simply allow Russia to lead the way and not try to attempt WTO or EU membership on its own. Of course, in 2008 WTO accession was granted to Ukraine. Russia is still not a member.

Victor Chernomyrdin's replacement will, I assume, be more diplomatic in his remarks and overall attitude.

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