Excerpts from CRISIS interview with
February 1, 2002
[Highlights by The M+G+R
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?
Mikhail Gorbachev: 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....
DWH: I understand you met with former President Clinton
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.
DWH: What should he have done? How did he waste those years?
Do you mean against terrorism?
I think he missed
out on opportunities to develop a new
world order. I discussed this at length with the
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....
DWH: 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
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.