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Lessons from Gorbachev

At 88 Gorbachev remains sharp and engaging on foreign affairs

Mikhail Gorbachev needs no introduction in the area of U.S.-Russian relations.  He weighs in on the evolving situation since the days when he and American President Ronald Reagan found common ground to end the Cold War.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union. He was General Secretary of the Communist Party since 1985 when he launched reforms perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”) as the second principle of his program.

At the time Ronald Reagan was President of the United States (1981-1989). In 1987 Reagan, speaking of the Berlin Wall, challenged Gorbachev with his famous lines, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear that wall down.” And it happened in 1989. Somehow they managed to cut through Cold War rhetoric and make real changes towards better relations and peace.

Interview by Steve Rosenberg with former President Gorbachev, Nov. 2019

Reagan and Gorbachev both spoke of a time when nuclear weapons could be eliminated and a more permanent peace among all nations could be won. Now 30 years later we seem to be confronting some of the same issues again.

In the West Gorbachev was regarded as a great leader who moved the Soviet Union towards open and normal relations.

Now Gorbachev says so long as there are WMD, nuclear weapons, the danger is colossal.

In Russia he represented the Soviet system and he moved too slow to reform the country. They had waited too long to gain democratic freedoms. In August, 1991, he resigned and the Soviet Union broke up.

On June 12, 1991 Boris Yeltsin was elected as the first President of the Russian Federation and served during difficult times. On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin announced his resignation, leaving the presidency in the hands of his chosen successor, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The 30 years of Democracy in Russia have not always moved as easily as Russians or Americans would like, but it continues.

In 2018 Gorbachev talked to Americans on U.S.-Russian relations. A group of American citizens, as part of a Center for Citizen Initiatives delegation, met with President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Gorbachev Foundation, September 2018, Part 1:

Center for Citizen Initiatives delegation meets with President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Gorbachev Foundation, September 2018, Part II:

“Gorbachev succeeded in destroying what was left of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union; he brought freedom of speech, of assembly, and of conscience to people who had never known it, except perhaps for a few chaotic months in 1917. By introducing free elections and creating parliamentary institutions, he laid the groundwork for democracy. It is more the fault of the raw material he worked with than of his own real shortcomings and mistakes that Russian democracy will take much longer to build than he thought.”

— Gorbachev biographer William Taubman, 2017

For a detailed chronicle of Mikhail Gorbachev: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Gorbachev

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Thoughts, news and analysis from an American point of view on things Russian.

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