CRISIS Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev
February 1, 2002
Mikhail Gorbachev was the final president of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 to 1991. His policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) led to the end of communism in the USSR and the birth of a new, democratic Russia.
Currently, he heads the Gorbachev Foundation, an international think tank. He sat down with Deal W. Hudson in his office in Moscow, underneath a large portrait of his late, beloved wife, Raisa.
Deal W. Hudson:
The United States and its allies are now at war with terrorism. How do you see that proceeding?
Even as we're witnessing a new euphoria from the victory over the Taliban, we have to state firmly that resorting to bombing of entire countries and peoples each time we battle with terrorism is absolutely unacceptable. We need to decide this on a case-by-case basis. There are economic, financial, and other means to go about combating this threat....
I understand you met with former President Clinton recently?Mikhail Gorbachev:
Yes, I met President Clinton in Madrid. My relationship with President Clinton was quite strained, if not downright tense. Of course, it was not because of Monica Lewinsky. I was highly critical of his foreign policy. He is guilty for the fact that the U.S. has wasted those ten years following the end of the Cold War.
What should he have done? How did he waste those years? Do you mean against terrorism?Mikhail Gorbachev:
I think he missed out on opportunities to develop a new world order. I discussed this at length with the president of the United States, George W. Bush. I think [the United States and Russia] should have worked more on the NATO issues and the issues of European security. Following the end of the Cold War, little had been done. I think Mr. Clinton, as a freshman in foreign politics, was spending too much time on the little details, and as a result, none of us was ready for the challenges of globalization.So [Mr. Clinton and I] were the two principal speakers at the Madrid conference, and Mr. Clinton delivered a very interesting address. Put bluntly, he was rather self-critical....
How do you see your legacy? What will the history books say about your leadership of the Soviet Union?
There was a very interesting poll conducted by the All-Russian Poll Center. The results of this poll were wonderful. Everyone is for reform now, but they're arguing about whether we ever needed to start perestroika at all. Forty-two percent of the people think that we needed to start perestroika and 45 percent say we shouldn't have. This 45 percent who say that we shouldn't have are mainly senior citizens. So the most active, young, middle-class part of the population say that it was worthwhile.
Another peculiar feature was that even those respondents who said that it wasn't worth starting perestroika at all say that they are for pluralism-pluralism of ideas, pluralism of parties, pluralism of ideology, and religious confession. So even if they didn't think perestroika was a great idea, 60 to 80 percent say they're happy with the changes it brought. Even those who voted against perestroika in this poll-they say that those benefits are good. They support those benefits.I'm especially encouraged by the fact that 80 to 82 percent of all those respondents, when asked what kind of Russia they'd like to see in the future, say that they want a free, democratic country. So I think I'll live to see that day. Mine is the usual fate of reformers: Either we get killed or our contribution is acknowledged only 50 years later.
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