War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink

By Peter Vincent Pry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20
Rutskoy

General Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rutskoy, vice president of Russia, heard in the words of the "Black Colonel" the voice of reason. Rutskoy, like the communists and ultranationalists, saw the CIA behind Russia's decline, and as a clear and present danger to Russia's survival. Although the central pillar of President Boris Yeltsin's foreign policy was to build a strategic partnership with the United States, his own vice president did not hesitate to demonize the United States, sharing his CIA conspiracy theory with Pravda correspondent Boris Slavin on May 18, 1993:

SLAVIN: Might some people have an interest in the collapse of both the [Soviet] Union and the Russian economy?

VICE PRESIDENT RUTSKOY: There is nothing accidental in this world. In 1991 CIA Director Gates wrote that the breaking away of the republics from Russia would only be the start of the process. Subsequently the Army would have to be dismantled and work done to ensure that the population became impoverished.

In Aleksandr Rutskoy's view, the United States was well on its way to delivering the final blow to Russia: "We are incapable of ensuring the country's defense; the Army has collapsed completely."

A youthful and energetic forty-seven in 1993, Vice President Rutskoy was a dynamo who worked eighteen-hour days and, during his leisure hours, played tennis and lifted weights. Rutskoy was a popular figure in his own right, a war hero born in Russia's heartland city of Kursk to a family with a military tradition. Upon graduating from the Gagarin Air Force Academy in 1980, Rutskoy became the third generation of his house to join the officer corps. In Afghanistan, he flew over four hundred ground- attack missions between 1985 and 1988, missions that had been made extremely hazardous by Stinger missiles supplied to the Afghan rebels by the United States. Shot down twice, Rutskoy survived to tell the tale.

The second time down, he was taken prisoner by Mujahedin warriors and held for several months. Although slowly starving at the hands of his brutal captors, he still refused Western offers to defect and emigrate to Canada. Ultimately exchanged in return for a captured Pakistani spy, Rutskoy had withered from his normal weight of 220 pounds to a mere 110. Proclaimed a Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest Soviet military honor, Aleksandr Rutskoy became a nationally respected figure overnight. His cou-

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