Mikhail Gorbachev believes his achievements as Soviet leader have not only been reversed but “distorted, violated, and destroyed.”
And he had harsh words for current Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who, he said, understands the country’s problems but is looking in the wrong direction for a way out.
“We need to restore a real democratic system. People need to be involved. We won’t solve the problems of developing the country and strengthening it so that people can really feel [they are] their own masters, if we push the people out of politics,” Gorbachev said.
He added that during the last election, the country was “overtaken by a mood of protest.”
“I think [Putin] understands what the last election showed. He understands. But he’s looking for a way out in the wrong direction,” Gorbachev said, referring to Putin’s harsh treatment toward critics of the regime.
Gorbachev, 82, was speaking in a landmark interview with Vogue
magazine. He said he believes he will most be remembered for ending the Cold War.
Interviewer Evgeny Lebedev asked him if he believed his achievements during his six years in power from 1985-1991 had been put into reverse. “‘They have not just been reversed,’ he insists, but ‘distorted or completely violated, destroyed,’” Lebedev wrote.
The former general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party said that his proudest achievement was ending the nuclear-arms race when he surprised the West with an offer to scrap all ballistic nuclear weapons within a decade at the Reykjavik summit in 1986.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Gorbachev said about his role at the summit. “We were proposing to give up trying to achieve superiority over each other in conventional weapons, too. In other words, to completely change the situation — to demilitarize the world.”
Gorbachev is a controversial figure in Russia, especially among the older generation that accuses him of destroying the USSR. Putin once declared that the end of the Soviet empire was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the last century.”
Still, Gorbachev is resolute that he will be remembered for his significant achievements and that his legacy will be defined “on the basis of the fact that I ended the Cold War. . . . That I opened up the opportunity for Germany to be unified. And because of that, the Germans today are our friends.
“And, of course, I think they’ll remember the great merits of glasnost and perestroika,” he said, referring to his policies of openness and reform.
He added, “And also, the fact that I was an OK kind of guy.”
Gorbachev, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, noted that his recent ailing health prompted him to give the interview. “In the last five years I’ve had four operations. Major operations. It’s why we’re here now. I’ve come to speak openly and honestly.”
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