Former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev has criticized the West for its reaction during the 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While many in the West view Gorbachev as a hero, the former leader of the Soviet Union himself feels rather betrayed by the reactions of the West following the fall of the Wall and the end of the Cold War. He singled out the United States in particular as having a “victory complex” since then, and he believes that the present crisis in Ukraine provided the US with an excuse to demonize Russia. He felt that while the West often praised Russia with words, the reality was that Russia far too often was not taken seriously by the West.
Gorbachev feels that the United States has not taken Russia seriously in the post-Cold War years. He reminds people that Russia is a great country rich in history, and with great contributions in science, literature, and music. Gorbachev suggested that while there was an element of rivalry between the West and the Soviet Union, there was also a partnership that existed between them as well. However, he feels that this spirit of working together to help build a new world in the first few years after the end of the Cold War was essentially undermined when Americans and NATO went right back to scheming towards spheres of influence, with the aim of isolating Russia. Ultimately, he feels, the emphasis on spheres of influence led to a spirit of resentment and a feeling of competition, from which tensions were bound to arise.
After the Soviet Union dissolved and the Warsaw Pact was no more, Gorbachev felt that new possibilities existed for Europe. However, these possibilities were undermined when the United States and NATO began to exert their influence, with what he suspects were deliberate attempts to undermine and isolate Russia. The first time that this occurred was when NATO was brought in to the former Yugoslavia, which he felt was designed to undermine Russia. He cited the more recent invasion of Iraq, as well as military actions in Libya and Syria, as other examples, and pointed out that a few of those military operations never received permission or even consultation from the United Nations. He also cited the continued attempts to get a missile defense system in place as fueling the feelings of mistrust and hostility. Also, NATO just kept getting bigger over time, and the anti-Russian tone began to escalate tensions once again.
Now, Gorbachev is criticizing the West for what he feels was a narrow-minded and counterproductive reaction in the 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He suggested that the West felt triumphant after the Cold War ended, and took advantage of the struggles that Russia was going through to claim a monopoly on leadership around the world. He feels that the results of all this were detrimental. A quarter century since those momentous events in eastern Europe in the autumn of 1989, the world is on the cusp of yet another Cold War between the West and Russia. He also criticized Europe and suggested that its influence and status as a superpower was declining to the point that it was threatened with the prospect of becoming largely irrelevant.
Yet, Mikhail Gorbachev also feels hope that the situation is not irreversible. The West and Russia still have enough common ground to work things out, so long as they do not fall back exclusively on pointing fingers and exchanging accusations. In this, he feels that Russia has already responded in a more positive fashion by not responding to the most recent batch of sanctions placed upon it by western nations. Now, he feels it is up to the West to return the favor. He reiterated that strong and effective communication is key in improving relations between the two sides, and feels that mutual threats faced by both should help to bring the two sides closer together. During his visit to Berlin to mark the 25 year anniversary of the fall of the Wall, he stressed in particular the significance of good relations between Germany and Russia, declaring that when those two nations have friendly relations, there has generally been peace in Europe.
The former Soviet leader was one of the few world leaders to be invited to the ceremonies to be held in Berlin later today. Indeed, Gorbachev has been voicing his criticisms of the West for its reaction since the end of the Cold War, and he has specifically been using the ceremonies in Berlin celebrating 25 years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in order to do so.
By Charles Bordeau
Image courtesy of Veni – Flickr License