On April 25, Boris N. Yeltsin, Russia’s first postcommunist leader, was buried in Moscow.  Many foreign dignitaries attended the funeral, praising the late president’s achievements.  U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also bid farewell to their partner in dismantling the Soviet Union.

Yeltsin’s death, seven years after his resignation at the dawn of the new millennium, underscores the striking difference between U.S.-Russian relations then and now.

To put into perspective how a great number of Russians regard their first president and his policies, imagine the governor of Illinois striking a deal with the leaders of New Mexico, Texas, and California and offering them support for their independence in order to oust his personal rival, the president, from the White House and take over the rump United States.  Imagine, in addition, that he dissolves the U.S. Congress by sending in tanks, resulting in the deaths of over 150 citizens.  These patriotic activities then lead to hyperinflation, wiping out the citizens’ personal savings.  The economy is now in shambles, and high-tech gives way to raw-material extraction.  Silicon Valley infogeeks are escaping to China, Europe, and Brazil.  Lucrative businesses are “privatized” and handed over to the president’s cronies.  His reformist economists attempt to fix the economy by not paying wages—for years.  Law enforcement virtually disappears, and U.S. cities became the battlefields of endless gang wars.  The life expectancy of men falls to 57 years.

Meanwhile, U.S. foreign policy becomes subservient to China, and American troops abroad are withdrawn in a matter of months and settled in the Mojave Desert.  Washington renounces any interest in Americans abroad, so the Anglos of Phoenix and San Diego are forced to flee the newly independent states, penniless.

Replace the United States with Russia, and you’ll have a moderate description of life under Yeltsin.

When communism was falling in the former Soviet Union, Russians were very positive toward the United States.  Soviet anti-American propaganda was crushed by American pop culture.  By the late 1990’s, anti-Americanism was again on the rise, thanks to the bitter disappointment engendered during the Yeltsin epoch.  In those troubled years, instead of suggesting a Marshall Plan for Russia, Washington encouraged Russian liberals to destroy the country’s economy by adopting enlightened Harvard theories.

At the same time, Washington was constantly hailing the Moscow regime, and foreign support helped Yeltsin stay in power.  So the Russian public got the message, loud and clear: Americans like Yeltsin because America enjoys seeing the Russians suffer.  That is the joint legacy of Boris Yeltsin and his Beltway buddies.