History Podcasts

Mikhail Gorbachev Arrives in U.S.

Mikhail Gorbachev Arrives in U.S.

In December 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev traveled to New York City to deliver his now-famous United Nations speech announcing unilateral arms cuts. Upon his arrival, Gorbachev speaks to the press about his upcoming plans to address the U.N. and to meet with outgoing President Ronald Reagan and President-elect George Bush.

‘I Do Not Want Red Square to Look Like Tiananmen Square’

A specter still haunts autocrats in China and Russia: the specter of Tiananmen. Twenty-five years after the bloody crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing, and in spite of the Chinese government’s efforts to blot out memories of what happened, Tiananmen lives on as a symbol of selfless protest against government corruption and autocratic misrule. The world has learned a lot about Tiananmen since 1989, and the tragedy is relived each year through the writings of its victims and the deafening silence of the Party authorities.

The international angle, however, is persistently overlooked. The 1989 student protests in Beijing didn’t happen in a vacuum in fact, they coincided with an epoch-changing shift in international politics. After decades of confrontation, Beijing and Moscow had mended fences, embarking on a road that by the mid-1990s would take them towards "strategic partnership." The high point of this rapprochement was then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing in May 1989, just days before the June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square.

On June 4, 2014, the Wilson Center’s Digital Archive released a new set of documents that show how the crisis looked from the vantage point of a fellow reforming state, the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev arrived in a city gripped by political unrest. In April, university students in Beijing and across the country had taken to the streets to protest growing social inequality, nepotism, and corruption. Tiananmen Square was aflutter with banners calling for freedom and democracy, some even contrasting Soviet political reforms with the Chinese Communist Party’s unwillingness to countenance democratic change.

Gorbachev’s visit offered the young, idealistic protesters in Tiananmen an opportunity to take their case over the head of the Chinese authorities directly to the man who, in their minds, personified a new era of reforms and openness. Students even submitted a petition to the Soviet Embassy asking for a meeting with their hero. (Despite prodding from radicals in his circle, Gorbachev declined the invitation.)

The Soviet delegation was stunned by the scale of the protests. "This is a revolution," concluded Gorbachev’s confidant Yevgeny Primakov, who had been a prominent advocate of rapprochement with Beijing. "Could it not be," wondered Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze, an official at the Soviet Foreign Ministry, "that we normalized relations with political dead men?"

Gorbachev himself was worried and relieved in equal measure — worried because he had found himself in the epicenter of a national upheaval, and relieved because at least it was not his nation. "Some of those present here," he told members of his delegation on May 15, "have promoted the idea of taking the Chinese road. We saw today where this road leads. I do not want Red Square to look like Tiananmen Square."

Gorbachev left China on May 19, a fortnight before the Chinese Communist Party unleashed the People’s Liberation Army against unarmed protesters. While the West was appalled by the killings and swiftly announced economic sanctions against China, Moscow did not go beyond a general expression of "regret." The human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov, then a deputy in the newly elected Soviet Duma, rose to the podium on June 10 to demand the recall of the Soviet Ambassador to China, but Gorbachev switched off his microphone.

Gorbachev had become heavily invested in the success of normalizing relations with China — it was the only major accomplishment of his Asia policy — and he simply could not afford to criticize Beijing for killing hundreds of students. He believed that China’s international isolation and Western sanctions after Tiananmen offered an excellent opportunity for forging closer links with the Chinese and bringing them into a "strategic triangle" with India and the USSR.

This triangle idea was Gorbachev’s longstanding dream — a means of claiming Soviet leadership in Asia at the expense of the United States. But it never seemed to work.

Tiananmen gave Gorbachev hope. On July 15, he told Rajiv Gandhi, then-prime minister of India: "I think China will not distance itself from us and from you as a consequence of the latest events. They were grateful for our measured response, and, perhaps now they will value more their relations with us and with you…. Do you remember how we talked about a ‘triangle?’" Gorbachev followed these comments with criticism of the George H. W. Bush administration, which, he said, wished them all — Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi — something "even worse" than Tiananmen.

"Something even worse" was already happening in Eastern Europe — Communist regimes were folding one after another. Solidarity had won elections in Poland, large-scale protests had erupted in Czechoslovakia, political dialogue had led to democratization in Hungary, and East Germany and Romania were headed towards collapse.

In this context, Gorbachev began to change his views of Tiananmen. It was not an atrocity of a struggling regime but a necessary cost of maintaining stability. On Oct. 4, 1989, reacting to a report by Politburo member Anatoly Lukyanov that deaths at Tiananmen topped 3,000, the Soviet leader appeared unperturbed. "We must be realists," he said. "They, like us, have to hold on. Three thousand…. So what?"

In the end, the Chinese Communists were among the few who were able to "hold on." On Nov. 9, the Wall fell in Berlin. In December, Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled in Romania despite eleventh-hour counseling by China’s then-security czar, Qiao Shi, on how to manage public protests. Images of Ceausescu’s bullet-riddled corpse made headlines in the international media and left an indelible impression on China’s leaders, who spent years thinking that the crackdown at Tiananmen had saved them from a similar fate.

In the weeks and months that followed, the Chinese continued to offer their political, and even economic, support to the crumbling USSR, despite their anger with Gorbachev, whom they perceived as a dangerous revisionist unable to cope with bourgeois subversion. Whatever his perceived faults, Gorbachev represented an alternative to a U.S.-led world order, drawing Washington’s attention to Europe and thereby increasing China’s breathing space. As then-Premier Li Peng, one of the Tiananmen hard-liners, wrote in his diary in February 1990: "After taking Eastern Europe in its hands, the West can put China under greater pressure."

The Chinese leaders thus went to great lengths to prevent Soviet disintegration in order to maintain it as a "pole" in a multipolar world, as then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had put it. Deng, who had previously referr

ed to the Soviet Union as a "polar bear" and railed against its expansionist impulses, now thought better of Moscow, because at the very least the Soviets preoccupied the United States, giving China a freer hand.

For the Chinese Communist Party, survival of communist rule in the USSR — in any form — bolstered its waning legitimacy. Unsurprisingly, Beijing welcomed the August 1991 attempted coup against Gorbachev by the dysfunctional alliance of communist reactionaries in the form of the KGB, the Ministry of Defense, and some members of Gorbachev’s inner circle. There is tantalizing new evidence, based on declassified Russian internal reports, that Beijing had been forewarned about the coup, and maintained secret contacts with its organizers.

The attempted coup dealt a fatal blow to Gorbachev’s political authority and hastened the fragmentation of the USSR. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union was no more, and Gorbachev was gone from the stage. The Chinese hurried to establish rapport with his successor Boris Yeltsin, even though they had previously derided him as counterrevolutionary scum and a traitor to Marxism. Beijing instinctively sensed that good relations with a strong and robust Russia would guarantee that China would never again be isolated as it was after Tiananmen. This feeling was fully shared by the ardent anti-communist Yeltsin, who quickly turned from his Tiananmen-days calls for cutting relations to bearhugging Chinese leaders in the name of a strategic partnership.

This partnership has since evolved into a quasi-alliance, underpinned by shared resentment of what both states perceive as U.S. sabotage of a "just and rational world order." But there is also another common denominator: the Chinese and the Russian ruling elites’ fear of the ghosts of Tiananmen. Twenty-five years later, the fear remains that a small Chinese protest could become another Tiananmen that Red Square could become another Tiananmen that no matter what road China or Russia take, it can only lead to the doom of authoritarian rule.

It is through this prism that China perceives the events in Kiev and Russia’s entanglements in Ukraine. Yes, Russia’s annexation of Crimea was hard to justify. Yes, China often proclaims its policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states. Yes, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for ethnic separatism in Crimea and East Ukraine rubs salt into China’s own wounds in Xinjiang and Tibet.

It is now China’s turn to say: "So what?" They, like us, have to hold on.

Camaraderie in Sino-Russian relations was on full display in Shanghai in mid-May. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to present a united front in the face of perceived foreign subversion and signed a key gas deal that demonstrated that China will stand by Russia in its hour of need. If Xi has given Putin a helping hand, it is because he sees danger in what is happening in Ukraine — though not in NATO expansion, or Kiev’s closer relations with the European Union. The real fear is that Ukraine, which has just experienced a Tiananmen of its own in Kiev’s Maidan, could destabilize Russia and ultimately China itself. Just as in the 1980s, a spark lit halfway around the world could start a fire closer to home. After all, the fundamental causes of resentment that fueled the protests of 1989 — social inequality, nepotism, and corruption — also caused the protests in Ukraine. And in both China and Russia these inequities are even more pronounced today than 25 years ago.

In 1989, it seemed as if Beijing and Moscow were choosing very different roads. But they have since returned to the starting point: the Russians beaten and bitter, the Chinese brash and self-assured. As in 1989, their fates seem irrevocably intertwined. Beijing and Moscow have closed ranks. Both pursue a confrontational foreign policy, stoke nationalist sentiments, and resort to domestic censorship to try to bury the memory of uprisings. But Tiananmen won’t die. And history is witness that it is precisely such hard-line policies that lead to those dead ends, where the only choice is between massacre and collapse.

A specter still haunts autocrats in China and Russia: the specter of Tiananmen. Twenty-five years after the bloody crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing, and in spite of the Chinese government’s efforts to blot out memories of what happened, Tiananmen lives on as a symbol of selfless protest against government corruption and autocratic misrule. The world has learned a lot about Tiananmen since 1989, and the tragedy is relived each year through the writings of its victims and the deafening silence of the Party authorities.

The international angle, however, is persistently overlooked. The 1989 student protests in Beijing didn’t happen in a vacuum in fact, they coincided with an epoch-changing shift in international politics. After decades of confrontation, Beijing and Moscow had mended fences, embarking on a road that by the mid-1990s would take them towards "strategic partnership." The high point of this rapprochement was then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing in May 1989, just days before the June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square.

On June 4, 2014, the Wilson Center’s Digital Archive released a new set of documents that show how the crisis looked from the vantage point of a fellow reforming state, the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev arrived in a city gripped by political unrest. In April, university students in Beijing and across the country had taken to the streets to protest growing social inequality, nepotism, and corruption. Tiananmen Square was aflutter with banners calling for freedom and democracy, some even contrasting Soviet political reforms with the Chinese Communist Party’s unwillingness to countenance democratic change.

Gorbachev’s visit offered the young, idealistic protesters in Tiananmen an opportunity to take their case over the head of the Chinese authorities directly to the man who, in their minds, personified a new era of reforms and openness. Students even submitted a petition to the Soviet Embassy asking for a meeting with their hero. (Despite prodding from radicals in his circle, Gorbachev declined the invitation.)

The Soviet delegation was stunned by the scale of the protests. "This is a revolution," concluded Gorbachev’s confidant Yevgeny Primakov, who had been a prominent advocate of rapprochement with Beijing. "Could it not be," wondered Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze, an official at the Soviet Foreign Ministry, "that we normalized relations with political dead men?"

Gorbachev himself was worried and relieved in equal measure — worried because he had found himself in the epicenter of a national upheaval, and relieved because at least it was not his nation. "Some of those present here," he told members of his delegation on May 15, "have promoted the idea of taking the Chinese road. We saw today where this road leads. I do not want Red Square to look like Tiananmen Square."

Gorbachev left China on May 19, a fortnight before the Chinese Communist Party unleashed the People’s Liberation Army against unarmed protesters. While the West was appalled by the killings and swiftly announced economic sanctions against China, Moscow did not go beyond a general expression of "regret." The human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov, then a deputy in the newly elected Soviet Duma, rose to the podium on June 10 to demand the recall of the Soviet Ambassador to China, but Gorbachev switched off his microphone.

Gorbachev had become heavily invested in the success of normalizing relations with China — it was the only major accomplishment of his Asia policy — and he simply could not afford to criticize Beijing for killing hundreds of students. He believed that China’s international isolation and Western sanctions after Tiananmen offered an excellent opportunity for forging closer links with the Chinese and bringing them into a "strategic triangle" with India and the USSR.

This triangle idea was Gorbachev’s longstanding dream — a means of claiming Soviet leadership in Asia at the expense of the United States. But it never seemed to work.

Tiananmen gave Gorbachev hope. On July 15, he told Rajiv Gandhi, then-prime minister of India: "I think China will not distance itself from us and from you as a consequence of the latest events. They were grateful for our measured response, and, perhaps now they will value more their relations with us and with you…. Do you remember how we talked about a ‘triangle?’" Gorbachev followed these comments with criticism of the George H. W. Bush administration, which, he said, wished them all — Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi — something "even worse" than Tiananmen.

"Something even worse" was already happening in Eastern Europe — Communist regimes were folding one after another. Solidarity had won elections in Poland, large-scale protests had erupted in Czechoslovakia, political dialogue had led to democratization in Hungary, and East Germany and Romania were headed towards collapse.

In this context, Gorbachev began to change his views of Tiananmen. It was not an atrocity of a struggling regime but a necessary cost of maintaining stability. On Oct. 4, 1989, reacting to a report by Politburo member Anatoly Lukyanov that deaths at Tiananmen topped 3,000, the Soviet leader appeared unperturbed. "We must be realists," he said. "They, like us, have to hold on. Three thousand…. So what?"

In the end, the Chinese Communists were among the few who were able to "hold on." On Nov. 9, the Wall fell in Berlin. In December, Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled in Romania despite eleventh-hour counseling by China’s then-security czar, Qiao Shi, on how to manage public protests. Images of Ceausescu’s bullet-riddled corpse made headlines in the international media and left an indelible impression on China’s leaders, who spent years thinking that the crackdown at Tiananmen had saved them from a similar fate.

In the weeks and months that followed, the Chinese continued to offer their political, and even economic, support to the crumbling USSR, despite their anger with Gorbachev, whom they perceived as a dangerous revisionist unable to cope with bourgeois subversion. Whatever his perceived faults, Gorbachev represented an alternative to a U.S.-led world order, drawing Washington’s attention to Europe and thereby increasing China’s breathing space. As then-Premier Li Peng, one of the Tiananmen hard-liners, wrote in his diary in February 1990: "After taking Eastern Europe in its hands, the West can put China under greater pressure."

The Chinese leaders thus went to great lengths to prevent Soviet disintegration in order to maintain it as a "pole" in a multipolar world, as then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had put it. Deng, who had previously referr
ed to the Soviet Union as a "polar bear" and railed against its expansionist impulses, now thought better of Moscow, because at the very least the Soviets preoccupied the United States, giving China a freer hand.

For the Chinese Communist Party, survival of communist rule in the USSR — in any form — bolstered its waning legitimacy. Unsurprisingly, Beijing welcomed the August 1991 attempted coup against Gorbachev by the dysfunctional alliance of communist reactionaries in the form of the KGB, the Ministry of Defense, and some members of Gorbachev’s inner circle. There is tantalizing new evidence, based on declassified Russian internal reports, that Beijing had been forewarned about the coup, and maintained secret contacts with its organizers.

The attempted coup dealt a fatal blow to Gorbachev’s political authority and hastened the fragmentation of the USSR. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union was no more, and Gorbachev was gone from the stage. The Chinese hurried to establish rapport with his successor Boris Yeltsin, even though they had previously derided him as counterrevolutionary scum and a traitor to Marxism. Beijing instinctively sensed that good relations with a strong and robust Russia would guarantee that China would never again be isolated as it was after Tiananmen. This feeling was fully shared by the ardent anti-communist Yeltsin, who quickly turned from his Tiananmen-days calls for cutting relations to bearhugging Chinese leaders in the name of a strategic partnership.

This partnership has since evolved into a quasi-alliance, underpinned by shared resentment of what both states perceive as U.S. sabotage of a "just and rational world order." But there is also another common denominator: the Chinese and the Russian ruling elites’ fear of the ghosts of Tiananmen. Twenty-five years later, the fear remains that a small Chinese protest could become another Tiananmen that Red Square could become another Tiananmen that no matter what road China or Russia take, it can only lead to the doom of authoritarian rule.

It is through this prism that China perceives the events in Kiev and Russia’s entanglements in Ukraine. Yes, Russia’s annexation of Crimea was hard to justify. Yes, China often proclaims its policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states. Yes, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for ethnic separatism in Crimea and East Ukraine rubs salt into China’s own wounds in Xinjiang and Tibet.

It is now China’s turn to say: "So what?" They, like us, have to hold on.

Camaraderie in Sino-Russian relations was on full display in Shanghai in mid-May. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to present a united front in the face of perceived foreign subversion and signed a key gas deal that demonstrated that China will stand by Russia in its hour of need. If Xi has given Putin a helping hand, it is because he sees danger in what is happening in Ukraine — though not in NATO expansion, or Kiev’s closer relations with the European Union. The real fear is that Ukraine, which has just experienced a Tiananmen of its own in Kiev’s Maidan, could destabilize Russia and ultimately China itself. Just as in the 1980s, a spark lit halfway around the world could start a fire closer to home. After all, the fundamental causes of resentment that fueled the protests of 1989 — social inequality, nepotism, and corruption — also caused the protests in Ukraine. And in both China and Russia these inequities are even more pronounced today than 25 years ago.

In 1989, it seemed as if Beijing and Moscow were choosing very different roads. But they have since returned to the starting point: the Russians beaten and bitter, the Chinese brash and self-assured. As in 1989, their fates seem irrevocably intertwined. Beijing and Moscow have closed ranks. Both pursue a confrontational foreign policy, stoke nationalist sentiments, and resort to domestic censorship to try to bury the memory of uprisings. But Tiananmen won’t die. And history is witness that it is precisely such hard-line policies that lead to those dead ends, where the only choice is between massacre and collapse.

Sergey Radchenko is a professor of international politics and director of research at the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University. He is the author, most recently, of Unwanted Visionaries: The Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War. Twitter: @DrRadchenko

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Gorbachev’s Speech to the U.N., December 7, 1988

On December 7, 1988, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the United Nations General Assembly. After speaking about the recent changes in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev amazed the global community when he announced drastic cuts in the Soviet military presence in Eastern Europe and along the Chinese border — a move that ultimately allowed Soviet satellites to choose their own paths.

Excerpts of Address by Mikhail Gorbachev

43rd U.N. General Assembly Session December 7, 1988

Two great revolutions, the French revolution of 1789 and the Russian revolution of 1917, have exerted a powerful influence on the actual nature of the historical process and radically changed the course of world events. Both of them, each in its own way, have given a gigantic impetus to man’s progress. They are also the ones that have formed in many respects the way of thinking which is still prevailing in the public consciousness.

That is a very great spiritual wealth, but there emerges before us today a different world, for which it is necessary to seek different roads toward the future, to seek — relying, of course, on accumulated experience — but also seeing the radical differences between that which was yesterday and that which is taking place today.

The newness of the tasks, and at the same time their difficulty, are not limited to this. Today we have entered an era when progress will be based on the interests of all mankind. Consciousness of this requires that world policy, too, should be determined by the priority of the values of all mankind.

The history of the past centuries and millennia has been a history of almost ubiquitous wars, and sometimes desperate battles, leading to mutual destruction. They occurred in the clash of social and political interests and national hostility, be it from ideological or religious incompatibility. All that was the case, and even now many still claim that this past — which has not been overcome — is an immutable pattern. However, parallel with the process of wars, hostility, and alienation of peoples and countries, another process, just as objectively conditioned, was in motion and gaining force: The process of the emergence of a mutually connected and integral world.

Further world progress is now possible only through the search for a consensus of all mankind, in movement toward a new world order. We have arrived at a frontier at which controlled spontaneity leads to a dead end. The world community must learn to shape and direct the process in such a way as to preserve civilization, to make it safe for all and more pleasant for normal life. It is a question of cooperation that could be more accurately called “co-creation” and “co-development.” The formula of development “at another’s expense” is becoming outdated. In light of present realities, genuine progress by infringing upon the rights and liberties of man and peoples, or at the expense of nature, is impossible.

The very tackling of global problems requires a new “volume” and “quality” of cooperation by states and sociopolitical currents regardless of ideological and other differences.

Of course, radical and revolutionary changes are taking place and will continue to take place within individual countries and social structures. This has been and will continue to be the case, but our times are making corrections here, too. Internal transformational processes cannot achieve their national objectives merely by taking “course parallel” with others without using the achievements of the surrounding world and the possibilities of equitable cooperation. In these conditions, interference in those internal processes with the aim of altering them according to someone else’s prescription would be all the more destructive for the emergence of a peaceful order. In the past, differences often served as a factor in puling away from one another. Now they are being given the opportunity to be a factor in mutual enrichment and attraction. Behind differences in social structure, in the way of life, and in the preference for certain values, stand interests. There is no getting away from that, but neither is there any getting away from the need to find a balance of interests within an international framework, which has become a condition for survival and progress. As you ponder all this, you come to the conclusion that if we wish to take account of the lessons of the past and the realities of the present, if we must reckon with the objective logic of world development, it is necessary to seek — and the seek jointly — an approach toward improving the international situation and building a new world. If that is so, then it is also worth agreeing on the fundamental and truly universal prerequisites and principles for such activities. It is evident, for example, that force and the threat of force can no longer be, and should not be instruments of foreign policy. […]

The compelling necessity of the principle of freedom of choice is also clear to us. The failure to recognize this, to recognize it, is fraught with very dire consequences, consequences for world peace. Denying that right to the peoples, no matter what the pretext, no matter what the words are used to conceal it, means infringing upon even the unstable balance that is, has been possible to achieve.

Freedom of choice is a universal principle to which there should be no exceptions. We have not come to the conclusion of the immutability of this principle simply through good motives. We have been led to it through impartial analysis of the objective processes of our time. The increasing varieties of social development in different countries are becoming in ever more perceptible feature of these processes. This relates to both the capitalist and socialist systems. The variety of sociopolitical structures which has grown over the last decades from national liberation movements also demonstrates this. This objective fact presupposes respect for other people’s vies and stands, tolerance, a preparedness to see phenomena that are different as not necessarily bad or hostile, and an ability to learn to live side by side while remaining different and not agreeing with one another on every issue.

The de-ideologization of interstate relations has become a demand of the new stage. We are not giving up our convictions, philosophy, or traditions. Neither are we calling on anyone else to give up theirs. Yet we are not going to shut ourselves up within the range of our values. That would lead to spiritual impoverishment, for it would mean renouncing so powerful a source of development as sharing all the original things created independently by each nation. In the course of such sharing, each should prove the advantages of his own system, his own way of life and values, but not through words or propaganda alone, but through real deeds as well. That is, indeed, an honest struggle of ideology, but it must not be carried over into mutual relations between states. Otherwise we simply will not be able to solve a single world problem arrange broad, mutually advantageous and equitable cooperation between peoples manage rationally the achievements of the scientific and technical revolution transform world economic relations protect the environment overcome underdevelopment or put an end to hunger, disease, illiteracy, and other mass ills. Finally, in that case, we will not manage to eliminate the nuclear threat and militarism.

Such are our reflections on the natural order of things in the world on the threshold of the 21st century. We are, of course, far from claiming to have infallible truth, but having subjected the previous realities — realities that have arisen again — to strict analysis, we have come to the conclusion that it is by precisely such approaches that we must search jointly for a way to achieve the supremacy of the common human idea over the countless multiplicity of centrifugal forces, to preserve the vitality of a civilization that is possible that only one in the universe. […]

Our country is undergoing a truly revolutionary upsurge. The process of restructuring is gaining pace We started by elaborating the theoretical concepts of restructuring we had to assess the nature and scope of the problems, to interpret the lessons of the past, and to express this in the form of political conclusions and programs. This was done. The theoretical work, the re-interpretation of what had happened, the final elaboration, enrichment, and correction of political stances have not ended. They continue. However, it was fundamentally important to start from an overall concept, which is already now being confirmed by the experience of past years, which has turned out to be generally correct and to which there is no alternative.

In order to involve society in implementing the plans for restructuring it had to be made more truly democratic. Under the badge of democratization, restructuring has now encompassed politics, the economy, spiritual life, and ideology. We have unfolded a radical economic reform, we have accumulated experience, and from the new year we are transferring the entire national economy to new forms and work methods. Moreover, this means a profound reorganization of production relations and the realization of the immense potential of socialist property.

In moving toward such bold revolutionary transformations, we understood that there would be errors, that there would be resistance, that the novelty would bring new problems. We foresaw the possibility of breaking in individual sections. However, the profound democratic reform of the entire system of power and government is the guarantee that the overall process of restructuring will move steadily forward and gather strength.

We completed the first stage of the process of political reform with the recent decisions by the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet on amendments to the Constitution and the adoption of the Law on Elections. Without stopping, we embarked upon the second stage of this. At which the most important task will be working on the interaction between the central government and the republics, settling relations between nationalities on the principles of Leninist internationalism bequeathed to us by the great revolution and, at the same time, reorganizing the power of the Soviets locally. We are faced with immense work. At the same time we must resolve major problems.

We are more than fully confident. We have both the theory, the policy and the vanguard force of restructuring a party which is also restructuring itself in accordance with the new tasks and the radical changes throughout society. And the most important thing: all peoples and all generations of citizens in our great country are in favor of restructuring.

We have gone substantially and deeply into the business of constructing a socialist state based on the rule of law. A whole series of new laws has been prepared or is at a completion stage. Many of them come into force as early as 1989, and we trust that they will correspond to the highest standards from the point of view of ensuring the rights of the individual. Soviet democracy is to acquire a firm, normative base. This means such acts as the Law on Freedom of Conscience, on glasnost, on public associations and organizations, and on much else. There are now no people in places of imprisonment in the country who have been sentenced for their political or religious convictions. It is proposed to include in the drafts of the new laws additional guarantees ruling out any form or persecution on these bases. Of course, this does not apply to those who have committed real criminal or state offenses: espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and so on, whatever political or philosophical views they may hold.

The draft amendments to the criminal code are ready and waiting their turn. In particular, those articles relating to the use of the supreme measure of punishment are being reviewed. The problem of exit and entry is also being resolved in a humane spirit, including the case of leaving the country in order to be reunited with relatives. As you know, one of the reasons for refusal of visas is citizens’ possession of secrets. Strictly substantiated terms for the length of time for possessing secrets are being introduced in advance. On starting work at a relevant institution or enterprise, everyone will be made aware of this regulation. Disputes that arise can be appealed under the law. Thus the problem of the so-called “refuseniks” is being removed.

We intend to expand the Soviet Union’s participation in the monitoring mechanism on human rights in the United Nations and within the framework of the pan-European process. We consider that the jurisdiction of the International Court in The Hague with respect to interpreting and applying agreements in the field of human rights should be obligatory for all states.

Within the Helsinki process, we are also examining an end to jamming of all the foreign radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union. On the whole, our credo is as follows: Political problems should be solved only by political means, and human problems only in a humane way. […]

Now about the most important topic, without which no problem of the coming century can be resolved: disarmament. […]

Today I can inform you of the following: The Soviet Union has made a decision on reducing its armed forces. In the next two years, their numerical strength will be reduced by 500,000 persons, and the volume of conventional arms will also be cut considerably. These reductions will be made on a unilateral basis, unconnected with negotiations on the mandate for the Vienna meeting. By agreement with our allies in the Warsaw Pact, we have made the decision to withdraw six tank divisions from the GDR, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and to disband them by 1991. Assault landing formations and units, and a number of others, including assault river-crossing forces, with their armaments and combat equipment, will also be withdrawn from the groups of Soviet forces situated in those countries. The Soviet forces situated in those countries will be cut by 50,000 persons, and their arms by 5,000 tanks. All remaining Soviet divisions on the territory of our allies will be reorganized. They will be given a different structure from today’s which will become unambiguously defensive, after the removal of a large number of their tanks. […]

By this act, just as by all our actions aimed at the demilitarization of international relations, we would also like to draw the attention of the world community to another topical problem, the problem of changing over from an economy of armament to an economy of disarmament. Is the conversion of military production realistic? I have already had occasion to speak about this. We believe that it is, indeed, realistic. For its part, the Soviet Union is ready to do the following. Within the framework of the economic reform we are ready to draw up and submit our internal plan for conversion, to prepare in the course of 1989, as an experiment, the plans for the conversion of two or three defense enterprises, to publish our experience of job relocation of specialists from the military industry, and also of using its equipment, buildings, and works in civilian industry, It is desirable that all states, primarily the major military powers, submit their national plans on this issue to the United Nations.

It would be useful to form a group of scientists, entrusting it with a comprehensive analysis of problems of conversion as a whole and as applied to individual countries and regions, to be reported to the U.N. secretary-general, and later to examine this matter at a General Assembly session.

Finally, being on U.S. soil, but also for other, understandable reasons, I cannot but turn to the subject of our relations with this great country. … Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States of America span 5 1/2 decades. The world has changed, and so have the nature, role, and place of these relations in world politics. For too long they were built under the banner of confrontation, and sometimes of hostility, either open or concealed. But in the last few years, throughout the world people were able to heave a sigh of relief, thanks to the changes for the better in the substance and atmosphere of the relations between Moscow and Washington.

No one intends to underestimate the serious nature of the disagreements, and the difficulties of the problems which have not been settled. However, we have already graduated from the primary school of instruction in mutual understanding and in searching for solutions in our and in the common interests. The U.S.S.R. and the United States created the biggest nuclear missile arsenals, but after objectively recognizing their responsibility, they were able to be the first to conclude an agreement on the reduction and physical destruction of a proportion of these weapons, which threatened both themselves and everyone else.

Both sides possess the biggest and the most refined military secrets. But it is they who have laid the basis for and are developing a system of mutual verification with regard to both the destruction and the limiting and banning of armaments production. It is they who are amassing experience for future bilateral and multilateral agreements. We value this.

We acknowledge and value the contribution of President Ronald Reagan and the members of his administration, above all Mr. George Shultz. All this is capital that has been invested in a joint undertaking of historic importance. It must not be wasted or left out of circulation. The future U.S. administration headed by newly elected President George Bush will find in us a partner, ready — without long pauses and backward movements — to continue the dialogue in a spirit of realism, openness, and goodwill, and with a striving for concrete results, over an agenda encompassing the key issues of Soviet-U.S. relations and international politics.

We are talking first and foremost about consistent progress toward concluding a treaty on a 50 percent reduction in strategic offensive weapons, while retaining the ABM Treaty about elaborating a convention on the elimination of chemical weapons — here, it seems to us, we have the preconditions for making 1989 the decisive year and about talks on reducing conventional weapons and armed forces in Europe. We are also talking about economic, ecological and humanitarian problems in the widest possible sense. […]

We are not inclined to oversimplify the situation in the world. Yes, the tendency toward disarmament has received a strong impetus, and this process is gaining its own momentum, but it has not become irreversible. Yes, the striving to give up confrontation in favor of dialogue and cooperation has made itself strongly felt, but it has by no means secured its position forever in the practice of international relations. Yes, the movement toward a nuclear-free and nonviolent world is capable of fundamentally transforming the political and spiritual face of the planet, but only the very first steps have been taken. Moreover, in certain influential circles, they have been greeted with mistrust, and they are meeting resistance.

The inheritance of inertia of the past are continuing to operate. Profound contradictions and the roots of many conflicts have not disappeared. The fundamental fact remains that the formation of the peaceful period will take place in conditions of the existence and rivalry of various socioeconomic and political systems. However, the meaning of our international efforts, and one of the key tenets of the new thinking, is precisely to impart to this rivalry the quality of sensible competition in conditions of respect for freedom of choice and a balance of interests. In this case it will even become useful and productive from the viewpoint of general world development otherwise if the main component remains the arms race, as it has been till now, rivalry will be fatal. Indeed, an ever greater number of people throughout the world, from the man in the street to leaders, are beginning to understand this.

Esteemed Mr. Chairman, esteemed delegates: I finish my first speech at the United Nations with the same feeling with which I began it: a feeling of responsibility to my own people and to the world community. We have met at the end of a year that has been so significant for the United Nations, and on the threshold of a year from which all of us expect so much. One would like to believe that our joint efforts to put an end to the era of wars, confrontation and regional conflicts, aggression against nature, the terror of hunger and poverty, as well as political terrorism, will be comparable with our hopes. This is our common goal, and it is only by acting together that we may attain it. Thank you.

Flashback Friday: Gorbachev visits Canada ahead of U.S.-Soviet weapons deal

Soviet Union leader and reformer Mikhail Gorbachev paid a historic visit to Canada on this day in 1990, where he met with then-prime minister Brian Mulroney before heading to Washington.

Archived footage of CTV National News reveals a guardedly optimistic moment from world history on May 29, 1990, as the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev paid a 29-hour visit to Canada's capital.

CTV’s then-National News anchor Lloyd Robertson called it a "low-key" visit for Gorbachev, but a big deal for the Canadian public.

"Even though no major announcements are expected, the visit is still cause for major excitement," Robertson reported at the time.

Robertson described Gorbachev as "the man who captured the world's imagination," before introducing a report from CTV’s then-Ottawa Bureau Chief Craig Oliver.

"The glasnost and perestroika show comes to Ottawa and packs them in," Oliver said in the opening line of his report, as video showed Gorbachev walking through a crowd of cheering Canadians.

For those not up on their Cold War lingo, "glasnost and perestroika" translates to "openness and restructuring," the two words Gorbachev used to describe his reform approach to overhauling the Soviet Union.

Those core tenets of Gorbachev's government made him a popular figure on the world stage in 1990, as he introduced a number of policies to move the Soviet Union away from Communism while simultaneously scaling back Cold War tensions with the United States.

Oliver's story shows Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, meeting with Brian and Mila Mulroney for a lunchtime sit-down between the two leaders. The report also shows Canada rolling out the red carpet for Gorbachev, who was met at the airport by then-Gov. Gen. Ray Hnatyshyn and a full RCMP honour guard.

In his welcoming speech, Hnatyshyn described Gorbachev as "the man who single-handedly is sweeping away the Cold War map of Europe." He also praised the Russian leader for forging new ties with the West.

Gorbachev's Canadian visit came just six months after he played a key role in the fall of the Berlin Wall in East Germany. The Soviet Union loosened its grasp on many Eastern Bloc nations during Gorbachev's tenure, and that won him a lot of support from the international community. Gorbachev also improved relations with Western nations such as the United States by inking several treaties to reduce the number of stockpiled nuclear weapons.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October of 1990 for his work.

But it wasn't all sunshine and progress under Gorbachev's watch. The Soviet economy struggled badly with Gorbachev's economic policies, and many old-guard Communist Party members were not pleased when their country began moving toward a free market system.

Those dark clouds cast a shadow over Oliver's story, even amid the jubilant atmosphere of "Gorbymania." CTV archive footage shows security personnel escorted Gorbachev everywhere he went, keeping the excited Canadian crowds at bay.

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze was asked point-blank during the visit if Gorbachev was losing his grip on the Communist Party back home.

"I can't sense any weakening of the president's position, and I work day-to-day close to him in Moscow, and I don't think I can say that I have that feeling of weakening," Shevardnadze told reporters in Canada during the visit.

Shevardnadze would resign from his post at the end of the year over concerns that Communist hardliners were preparing to undo all of Gorbachev's reforms. He wound be up being right, as several individuals in the party staged an unsuccessful coup d'etat against Gorbachev in August of 1991.

Oliver hinted at that brewing unrest when speaking about the Mulroney-Gorbachev meeting.

"Unpopular economic policies and crises in national unity give the two men a lot to talk about right now," Oliver said, as footage showed the two leaders shaking hands at a staged photo op. Oliver was referring to Mulroney's push for closer economic ties with the United States, as well as his battle against simmering separatist sentiment in Quebec.

"Canadian officials hope they can corner Gorbachev long enough to discuss NATO, reunification of Germany, and future wheat sales in Canada," Oliver added.

Gorbachev left Canada the next day on a flight to Washington, D.C., where he met with then-President George H. W. Bush to sign the bilateral 1990 Chemical Weapons Accord. The deal saw both sides agree to destroy most of their chemical weapon stockpiles over the following decade, while also promising to support a global ban on chemical weapons from that point on.

In this file photo, Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney pose for photographers in Ottawa on May 29, 1990.

In this file photo, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (left) shakes hands with Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Ottawa on May 29, 1990.

Exclusive: Gorbachev Blames the U.S. for Provoking 'New Cold War'

I n the offices of Mikhail Gorbachev, still sharp at 83 and plainspoken as ever, the walls are lined with photos from his travels as the leader of the Soviet Union and, in the years after its demise, as a living icon of the Cold War. One picture shows him with his late wife Raisa standing arm-in-arm with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. In another frame he wears a cowboy hat and jeans as he stands beside Ronald Reagan, the U.S. President who famously branded Gorbachev&rsquos country an &ldquoevil empire&rdquo in 1983. These portraits, like many others in his Moscow office, betray Gorbachev&rsquos affection for his former American adversaries.

But in the course of this year those feelings seem to have been subsumed in a rising sense of animosity, as Russia and the West enter what Gorbachev calls a new Cold War. &ldquoAre we in the middle of a new Cold War? Indeed we are,&rdquo he tells TIME in an interview last month at the Moscow branch of the Gorbachev Foundation, the international advocacy group he founded in 1991, when he was forced to resign from his post as President due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The elder statesman, who was named TIME’s Person of the Year in 1987 and ‘Man of the Decade’ two years later, is not the first to declare the start of a new Cold War this year. Russia&rsquos annexation of Crimea in March has caused officials and pundits around the world to warn that the West&rsquos efforts to isolate Russia have opened a dangerous gulf between them. But the roots of the present standoff run deeper than this spring, says Gorbachev, and the blame for it lies with the Americans.

In the years that followed the Soviet collapse, the West &ldquotried to turn us into some kind of backwater, a province,&rdquo he says. &ldquoOur nation could not let that pass. It&rsquos not just about pride. It&rsquos about a situation where people speak to you however they want, impose limitations, and so on. It&rsquos America calling the shots in everything!&rdquo

For a country whose leaders remember the years when Russia was a superpower, the American dominance of global affairs has always been a taunting reality and a constant source of frustration. Instead of treating Russia as an equal partner, the West tried to &ldquopush us out of politics,&rdquo says Gorbachev, most recently during the revolution that brought a pro-Western government to power in Ukraine early this year. Vladimir Putin&rsquos reaction to that uprising sought to claw back some of the influence Russia had lost, and for that the Russian President has earned Gorbachev&rsquos admiration.

&ldquoPutin started acting on his own,&rdquo says Gorbachev, referring to the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. &ldquoAnd his position was in the interests of the majority.&rdquo

Even a year ago such praise would have been hard to imagine coming from Putin&rsquos Soviet predecessor. In the spring of 2013, Gorbachev attacked Putin for persecuting opposition activists and silencing dissent. He called that year’s crackdown an &ldquoattack on the rights of citizens&rdquo during an interview with the BBC, and gave Putin the following advice: &ldquoFor goodness sake, you shouldn’t be afraid of your own people&hellipWhat people want and expect their president to do is to restore an open, direct dialogue with them.&rdquo

Such criticism has since vanished from Gorbachev&rsquos public remarks, much as it has from the rhetoric of many of Putin&rsquos former critics. The annexation of Crimea sent the President&rsquos approval ratings soaring to record highs of well over 80% this year, driven upward by a jingoistic sense of pride even as Western sanctions eat into the value of the Russian currency and push its economy toward recession. Gorbachev now seems willing to forgive Putin for his authoritarian tendencies as long as he works to restore the &ldquogreat power&rdquo status that Russia lost.

&ldquoThere are still elements of autocracy, of authoritarianism&rdquo in Russia today, he tells TIME. &ldquoBut I&rsquoll say this. The manual control of authoritarianism was also needed to overcome the situation that our friends, our former friends and allies, created for Russia by pushing us out of geopolitics.&rdquo

The new East-West divide does evoke a sense of foreboding in Gorbachev. In particular Putin’s recent warnings that Russia is a &ldquonuclear power,&rdquo and that foreigners would be wise &ldquonot to mess with us,&rdquo all feel like reminders of the arms race that kept the world on the edge of a catastrophic war as Gorbachev climbed the ladder of the Soviet Communist Party to become its last General Secretary. &ldquoPeople are talking again not only about a new Cold War but a hot one,” he says. “It&rsquos as if a time of great troubles has arrived. The world is roiling.&rdquo

But that does not mean that Putin should back down in the face of Western sanctions. The man who pursued reforms at home and peace talks with the West in the late 1980s now feels it must be the Americans who learn a sense of humility toward Russia and stop resisting its rightful role as a global power. &ldquoIt&rsquos hard to belittle the Russians,&rdquo says Gorbachev. &ldquoWe know our worth.&rdquo And if the U.S. does start to seek a new thaw in relations with Russia, he has a fresh bit of advice to offer Putin going forward: &ldquoI learned that you can listen to the Americans, but you cannot trust them,&rdquo he says. &ldquoWhen they get an idea to do something, they&rsquoll turn the world onto a different axis to get it done.&rdquo

Still, as our interview winds down, Gorbachev seems to snap back into the mode of reconciliation that won him the Nobel Peace Prize a quarter century ago. &ldquoWe have to return to dialogue. We have to stop this process,&rdquo he says warily. &ldquoWe have to return to what we started with at the end of the Cold War.&rdquo But so far, he admits, the world is moving in the opposite direction.

Mikhail Gorbachev Arrives in U.S. - HISTORY

Following the welcoming ceremony, the President and General Secretary Gorbachev arrived at the Oval Office at 10:45 a.m. and exchanged pleasantries during a 15-minute photo-op. 2 One-on-one discussions began at 11:00. (U)

The President opened by giving the General Secretary a pair of cuff links, made by an American jeweler, on which was the symbol from Isaiah, the beating of swords into ploughshares. The General Secretary responded that this was indeed an appropriate symbol on a day in which the two leaders would truly be beating swords into ploughshares by signing the first treaty that did this. (S)

The President then said he would like to start with a particular request that the General Secretary consider a list of names of Soviet citizens, a list involving separated families and other cases. 3 He handed Gorbachev a card listing the names of Soviet citizens to whom he wished the Soviet government to grant exit visas. The President then asked that no notes be taken on the American side because he wanted to make a purely personal suggestion in the area of human rights. (S)

Responding to the President’s off-the-record point, the General Secretary said he wanted the President to understand that the Soviet government considered human rights a priority issue. He said it had not been easy to create unity among the Soviet people after the revolution in a country made up of so many diverse ethnic and national groups. But this had been done. He noted that the USSR was comprised of 15 national republics, each with its own national language, government, press, literature, and culture. And there were, additionally, 38 lesser ethnic groups with autonomous governmental structures, able to develop their own institutions and culture. The question of assuring human rights to a multiethnic population was an important question permanently on the Soviet agenda. There were always problems. Perestroika is dealing with all kinds of problems, not just economic but cultural as well, and the situation was steadily improving. (S)

Turning to emigration, Gorbachev said that the USSR was taking a realistic approach to the problem. The President would have noticed this. Some cases were being refused “for a time.” But Gorbachev wanted the President to understand that the Soviet government would do its utmost to remove this problem from the agenda. He added that he always appreciated the tact with which the President addressed this delicate and sensitive issue the Soviets react, he said, with great sensitivity when it becomes the subject of political declarations. He repeated his assertion that the human rights situation was improving and that it was a top priority for his government, which was made up of elected bodies representing all nationalities, workers, farmers, intelligentsia, women, young people, all of whose rights were important. (S)

The President noted that the United States was a unique nation whose population all derived from foreign origins. Gorbachev said he [Page 611] understood this. The President went on to note that some Americans had ties to the Soviet Union. He mentioned that, on the question of religion, while there were different philosophies, even primitive African tribes had some idea of God and worship. He noted that some one-half million Jews sought to leave the USSR for religious-cultural freedom. Gorbachev said these figures were completely unconfirmed. (S)

Gorbachev then challenged the President whether there were any human rights problems in the United States. The President admitted we had our problems because people are people, but that our Constitution protected basic human rights. Gorbachev proposed a seminar of experts to debate the matter, adding that he could not share the President’s positive assessment of the human rights picture in the United States. The President responded that anybody can leave the US , and Gorbachev , in turn, that this was not the only human right. The Constitution protects freedom of worship, said the President. But what about episodes of anti-Semitism in the United States, queried Gorbachev . The President observed that individuals have their prejudices, to which Gorbachev agreed. (S)

But, the President said, over the previous weekend 200,000 individuals had gathered to demonstrate on human rights in the USSR . 4 Gorbachev acknowledged this and repeated that the USSR considered the matter to be serious and important, which is why it had decided to discuss it with the US government. He repeated his proposal to convene a joint seminar on it, and suggested that this discussion be closed. Responding to another reference from the President to freedom of worship, Gorbachev proposed that the President visit the USSR in June 1988 when the Millennium of Christianity in Russia would be celebrated. Representatives of many religious denominations would come. The President could visit churches of numerous Christian denominations in the USSR and see for himself what was happening. However, Gorbachev said, he would not sit as the accused before a prosecutor. (S)

The President said he meant no threat by his line of argument. The General Secretary said he felt no threat, but that all countries had laws regarding immigration and emigration. The President responded that few restricted the right to leave their country. Many peoples wanted to come to the United States and we could not receive them all, but governed their entry under a system of quotas. Gorbachev said if quotas on immigration are acceptable, why not quotas on emigration? Why, he asked, does the United States guard the border with Mexico with fences and guns? What kind of democracy is this? (S)

The US -Mexican border was completely the reverse of the situation on Soviet borders, replied the President . Because of poor living conditions in Mexico many wanted to come to the US we could not absorb them all. The President reiterated that the fundamental point was that the USSR prevented people from getting out, that it compelled them to stay. (S)

Gorbachev said he was willing to continue discussing these and other problems, but not today. He and the President agreed to move on. (C)

Gorbachev observed that the two leaders had covered a long road from their first to this third meeting between them, a road marked by important and difficult issues. During that time, their dialogue had become much more profound, had begun to contain elements of trust between the two parties. There was an improved ability to address questions quietly and productively, a greater willingness to deal with political responses on each side, and political will to move ahead. (S)

The President recalled an episode in Geneva when staff experts who had been working in another building came to the two leaders to report roadblocks in their efforts. Gorbachev continued the recollection by reminding the President how the leaders had urged progress by pounding their fists on the table the President recalled this too. Gorbachev noted that this had been an important political moment illustrating how bureaucrats, sometimes very intelligent ones, forget who is really in power. People elect leaders, while officials are merely appointed. (S)

Gorbachev said it was not oversimplifying to claim that there had been a true change for the better in US -Soviet relations. Exchanges and discussions resolving important problems were underway. We would now sign the first agreement ever eliminating nuclear weapons, a fact of historic importance. We recognized, he said, that the process was not easy, that we had different views. Questions were being asked about prospects for ratification. The General Secretary said he was himself being asked to explain why the Soviet Union was to dismantle four times the number of weapons NATO and the US side would. He said he would succeed in explaining the value of the treaty to the Soviet people as the President would to the American people. He then referred to a letter from a student pleading that he and the President not become captives of emotion. (S)

The President suggested that ministers be invited to join the meeting at this point. The General Secretary agreed. The President said that he and the General Secretary were doing something very important for the future of the child who had written the letter. Gorbachev said he personally felt that a very important aspect of the current steps being taken in the US -Soviet relationship was the mental or psychological change being made in the minds of men, which he deeply felt. The [Page 613] President agreed. This had somehow to be captured, responded the General Secretary. (S)

The President expressed gratitude to Gorbachev for his efforts in improving a relationship that was far from easy. Gorbachev agreed that striving for cooperation was not easy, but that we should not be afraid to do it. He expressed pleasure at the President’s remarks at the welcoming ceremony. He expressed the view that, if there was no gap between what the President said and the actions that were taken, then there would be practical progress and he would find the Soviet side to be a good partner. (S)

The President mused that, were we confronted with a hostile threat from another planet, then our differences would disappear and we would be totally united. Gorbachev recalled having discussed this idea before. At this point Shultz , Shevardnadze , Baker , Yakovlev, Powell , and Dobrynin joined the meeting. Launching into a general statement on next steps in arms control, the General Secretary expressed thanks to the people who had worked on the INF Treaty. He said the signing of this treaty radically changed the whole situation, activated the discussion, and increased international pressure for new progress. The momentum had to be maintained and, along with the experience gained, to be applied to the problem of reducing strategic offensive forces. In this context, he noted that the two sides had agreed at Reykjavik on a 50% reduction of strategic offensive forces and on nonwithdrawal from the ABM treaty for period of 10 years. After Reykjavik the US side raised the issue of sublimits within the framework of 6000 strategic nuclear warheads. The Soviet side had sought to accommodate, accepted the concept of sublimits, and had offered proposals on the distribution of forces among the various legs of the triad. The US side had special concerns, specifically regarding Soviet heavy ICBMs. For its part, the Soviet side had concerns about US SLBM forces. Both sides were taking account of each others’ concerns. Secretary Shultz had been given a new Soviet proposal on sublimits in Moscow and had been asked to respond in Geneva. The General Secretary turned to Secretary Shultz and asked again what was the US position. (S)

The President stated that he wanted to react to one of the General Secretary’s points, namely, the 10-year delay regarding defenses both sides were planning. The President said he would like to see that period shortened a bit. He did not have in mind a sharp cut because there were technical limits to what is possible, but the US side felt it might be able to push defensive research to permit deployment a few years earlier. He felt, however, that the differences between the two sides on this and on sublimits could be negotiated. (S)

Secretary Shultz asked to review the range of arms reduction problems which the sides would try to resolve during the visit of the Soviet [Page 614] leader. He began by noting, as Gorbachev had, areas of agreement following Reykjavik: A reduction to 6000 strategic nuclear warheads, 1600 launchers/delivery vehicles, and a limit of 154 heavy ICBMs with 1540 warheads. Gorbachev interjected that the latter figure was a 50% cut when the US had originally only asked for 35%. Secretary Shultz noted that the US welcomed this, adding that these limits would include a 50% cut in Soviet throwweight. Gorbachev again interjected his agreement. Secretary Shultz said that these areas of agreement should now be incorporated in a treaty with the understanding that Soviet missile throwweight would fall 50% and not go back up. (S)

Secretary Shultz continued, observing that bomber counting rules had been agreed by Nitze and Akhromeyev at Reykjavik. We had now to devise necessary counting rules for other weapons—warheads on missiles, cruise missiles on aircraft, etc., subjects on which we had proposals which working groups could address. Gorbachev interjected that there were some related questions of principle to discuss. (S)

Secretary Shultz said that, regarding vital issues of verification, we should advance using the principles established in INF and instructing our negotiators on the basis of those principles. Gorbachev agreed. Then, the Secretary continued, the various sublimits had to be addressed, among which the most important was the ballistic missiles sublimit within the 6000 allowed warheads. In Moscow, the Soviet side had stated a proposal for 800–900 ALCMs. The other side of this idea from the Soviet side was Marshal Akhromeyev ’s proposal of 5100 warheads on strategic ballistic missiles. The Secretary said the US thought this too many 4800 was a better level, but the concept was important and we seemed to be agreeing on that. Gorbachev interjected that the Soviet side had a compromise proposal. Secretary Shultz noted that this was an important statement. Gorbachev objected laughingly that the Secretary had not even heard the Soviet proposal yet, but could be assured that the Soviet side was looking for a compromise. The Secretary suggested 4803 as a good compromise. In the same jocular fashion, the General Secretary responded that this number would be capitulation, not compromise whereupon he turned to the President to take up his earlier remark about a 10-year period of nonwithdrawal from the ABM Treaty being too long. Why was the US side moving away from the 10-year period discussed at Reykjavik, asked Gorbachev . So much had been agreed there and then the US side retreated. Why? (S)

Secretary Shultz reminded Gorbachev that US acceptance of a 10-year nonwithdrawal period was conditioned at Reykjavik on total elimination of ballistic missiles in the same period. The President recalled that even elimination of all nuclear weapons was discussed at Reykjavik. But these approaches were no longer a factor in our discussions, concluded Shultz . We could work on defining the period of nonwithdrawal. Gorba[Page 615]chev asked what period the US was now proposing. That, replied the Secretary , would depend on other aspects of the negotiation. General Secretary Gorbachev agreed to set these subjects ( START and ABM ) aside for the moment, but noted that there was a linkage between them and that this remained an issue of principle for the Soviet side. (S)

The President asked the General Secretary to humor him a bit by letting him see the deployment of advanced strategic defenses in his lifetime. Gorbachev replied by observing how healthy the President was and opined that he had many active years ahead of him. If we made the right decisions, he continued, we would see good results in our lifetime and our children would see them beyond us. But if we continued in the manner of the past 45 years, there would be no such progress. (S)

Gorbachev noted that Secretary Shultz had raised the issue of SLCMs, which had been discussed at Reykjavik in a special framework outside the 6000 warhead limit. Now that our positions were coming closer on a whole range of issues, the matter of SLCMs became particularly significant. It was not settled yet, but to prevent circumvention there would have to be a limit, something like 400 would be worthy of discussion. The nature of SLCMs and the problems they posed had changed considerably in the years since the SALT negotiations addressed them. Gorbachev asked what particularly bothered the US side in coming to grips with the SLCM problem. (S)

Secretary Shultz replied that the verification problems posed by SLCM limits were very difficult, particularly distinguishing between those with nuclear and those with conventional warheads because the two looked exactly alike. But the US side was prepared to discuss this because it recognized the importance of the matter. The Secretary knew that Akhromeyev had some thoughts on the subject of verifying SLCMs and the US was prepared to hear them. (S)

The General Secretary said that to focus things he wanted to introduce some new points about SLCMs. First, he repeated, there had to be a limit on their numbers. Second, the Soviet side had insisted that they had to be restricted to two types of submarines only. But, because the US had so many types of surface ships that could carry SLCMs, the Soviets were prepared to agree that they also could be deployed on two types of surface ships as well. Third, Gorbachev would address verification. Both sides, he insisted, had the technical means to verify SLCMs, the equipment that would allow determination of whether nuclear weapons were aboard a ship and what yield they were, without actually boarding the ship. This was what Akhromeyev had alluded to. Now either the US was concealing its capability, continued Gorbachev , or it lagged in such capability to verify nuclear weapons aboard ships. If the former, this would be bad if the latter, then the Soviet [Page 616] side would sell the technology to the US —if the price were right. In any case, the technology existed to permit identifying the presence and yield of nuclear weapons aboard ships, said Gorbachev . Thus, we could work out limits on SLCMs, establish that they would be deployed only on two types of submarines and two types of surface ships, and work out technical details of verification. (S)

Secretary Shultz repeated the interest of the US side in hearing what the Soviets had to say, but wanted to register considerable skepticism about verification of SLCM limits. Gorbachev offered to conduct a demonstration to prove the verifiability of such limits by technical means, to which the Secretary responded that it was too easy to switch warheads on SLCMs to make such a demonstration really convincing. Gorbachev repeated his insistence that suitable technology was indeed available, a matter that had been discussed with Paul Nitze . Both sides had verification concerns, but they were resolvable. Again Shultz noted the willingness of the US side to listen but advised that not just Paul Nitze , but a lot of skeptical admirals had to be convinced. (S)

In approaching these questions, the General Secretary said, we had to involve scientists more in our work, to provide a broad basis for realistic policy. He said that Western scientists had complained that their knowledge was not being adequately used in these areas. He had a letter from a British Nobel prize winner proposing an East-West commission of scientists to advise both the President and the Soviet leadership more reliably. Without scientists there could be no solutions to our problems. (S)

The President noted the late hour, and Secretary Shultz remarked that it might be time for a larger meeting in the Cabinet Room. But first the Secretary wanted to make another point or two to guide working group activity. With regard to mobile missiles, he said, the US had no problem in principle with allowing them. But the verification problems were exceptionally difficult and the working group had to focus on them. (S)

Gorbachev agreed with the President that it was about time to break off this part of the meeting, but he too wanted to add one more point, on nuclear testing. He noted that we were now negotiating about new limits on testing as part of a process leading to nuclear disarmament. This was good we had momentum. We had already decided to exchange visits of monitoring experts and to conduct experiments in yield measurement. He had an idea he wanted the President and others to think about. Since the negotiations now underway were aimed at the ultimate result of a total prohibition on all nuclear testing, why not, now, declare a bilateral moratorium on testing for the duration of these negotiations. This would be an act of enormous importance the whole world would support. He asked that the President and his [Page 617] colleagues not respond immediately to this idea but think it over carefully. Then noting that time was short and the matter of forging instructions to negotiators for future arms talks para-mount, he passed to the President a Soviet paper containing the tentative proposals of the Soviet side, as discussed at the last ministerial in Geneva. The President passed to the General Secretary a comparable US document covering START and Defense and Space issues. 5 (S)

At the close of the meeting the two sides agreed that there would be two basic working groups, one on arms control chaired by Nitze and Akhromeyev and one on other parts of the agenda chaired by Ridgway and Bessmertnykh . Further, Secretary Shultz proposed that, in briefing the press, both sides stick to general statements about the atmosphere and topics of discussion. Gorbachev agreed, noting some concern as to whether the US side would stick to this. The Secretary insisted that we always did. (S)

Gorbachev Was Right

We’re all prisoners of our own experiences. Richard Holbrooke, the Obama Administration’s diplomatic point man on Afghanistan, and the subject of my colleague George Packer’s terrific Profile last week, arrives at the current dilemmas influenced by Vietnam and Bosnia. General David Petraeus, Obama’s commander for the Middle East and Central Asian region, and General Stan McChrystal, his commander in Afghanistan, arrive at this intersection with the recent lessons of counterinsurgency in Iraq ringing in their ears. In some respects the debate over what strategy Obama should now adopt in Afghanistan has become a debilitating contest of historical analogies and comparative case studies. A similar discourse broke out recently after Russia’s incursion into Georgia the incident occurred during the Obama-McCain Presidential campaign, and McCain invoked comparisons to Hungary, 1956, and even the Second World War. The wise editor of this magazine, setting such comparisons aside, quoted the English theologian Joseph Butler, with whom, frankly, I was unacquainted. Anyway, Butler apparently once wrote, “Everything is what it is, and not another thing.” It is a more useful way to think about the value of history in policymaking than the historical-case-study debate method, I agree, and the quotation has stuck with me.

Of course, this philosophy does not make history irrelevant at moments like this. And you might argue that of all the analogies that should be reviewed as Obama makes his choices, those rooted in recent Afghan history are the most useful, since, in some respects, they are “not another thing.”

In the mid-nineteen-eighties, when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, he inherited a deteriorating war in Afghanistan. He wanted out but he was boxed in by hardliners in his Politburo and military. Gradually, however, he constructed an exit strategy from Afghanistan. It had several components, all of which are present, in amended forms, in the current Obama policy debate.

In Afghanistan, after an initial and failed attempt to use special forces more aggressively to hit Islamist guerrillas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Soviets began to pull back into Afghanistan’s major cities and to “Afghan-ize” their military operations. As they prepared to withdraw, Soviet troops moved away from direct combat, particularly in the countryside, and instead concentrated on training and equipping the Afghan forces. They also provided supplies and expertise the Afghans lacked—air power, for example, and SCUD missiles. As I described in a previous post, this military strategy worked pretty well, and the Soviet city-fortresses withstood heavy assaults from the U.S.-financed mujaheddin even after Soviet troops left the country they left only a thousand or two military and intelligence advisers behind.

Gorbachev’s Afghan client, President Najibullah, seized the space created by the Soviet transition. He negotiated with tribes, won defections, and preached relentlessly about national unity and Islam. If you listened to his unifying rhetoric by 1989, it would be very difficult to tell that he was once a communist secret-police chief his playlist sounded similar to the Islam-friendly nationalism of the late Saddam Hussein period in Iraq. Najibullah was a tough guy, too, and in the Afghan context his strength and ruthless reputation seemed to aid his political strategy. In essence, he practiced and partially succeeded at a prospective Obama approach that is short-handed as “reconciliation” or “national reintegration” in reference to the Taliban. Najibullah never brought his main enemies into the fold, but he bought time and held his ground in what amounted to a prolonged stalemate.

Gorbachev had a broader vision for his exit strategy than merely propping up Najibullah to conduct tribal negotiations, however. He believed that the Soviet Union and the United States, having effectively concluded their debilitating and devastating proxy war in Afghanistan, now had a shared interest in promoting stability in South and Central Asia. Gorbachev advocated U.N.-brokered regional negotiations aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan and isolating Islamist extremists. This in turn would create stability along the southern rim of the Soviet Union, where Muslim populations resided. Surely, Gorbachev argued, the United States did not wish to see anti-American Islamic extremists come to power in Kabul, at least not without the ameliorating effect of coalition arrangements and power-sharing with Najibullah? Didn’t the United States want moderates to prevail in Pakistan, next door, where a fragile constitutional democracy had only recently been restored?

The U.N. attempted, with ambivalent U.S. involvement, to pursue this vision of regional diplomacy and stabilization, through negotiations between 1988 and 1992 that included Najibullah and other Afghan leaders. It failed, however, in part because the United States, until the end of 1991, continued to fund and support a “military solution” for the mujaheddin favored by Pakistan’s army and intelligence service. The C.I.A. argued in favor of the military solution. It then concluded, as one assault after another on Najibullah-defended cities failed, that the U.S. had no further interests in the country and should pack up its financing and diplomacy and go home. A few years later, the Taliban took Kabul. One of the American policymakers responsible for this sequence of policy decisions—who was deeply skeptical of Gorbachev during the late nineteen-eighties and who was present at the decision to abandon the difficult work of regional diplomacy in 1991-1992 that Gorbachev favored—was Robert Gates, who is now Secretary of Defense. By all accounts, Gates has been a successful, pragmatic, and reliable adviser to both Bush and Obama in his current role. He certainly has been open and contrite in public remarks about the lessons that United States learned on September 11th, an event rooted (but only in part) in the U.S. decision to abandon Afghanistan to extremism and chronic instability a decade before. Gates will be in the room when Obama makes America’s next fateful decisions about Afghan policy.

That decision should be made on the basis of realistic assessments of American interests and capabilities, as they are in the present and can be forecasted the future, not on the basis of the past. (Every thing is what it is.) But one of the questions facing Obama is whether a vision of regional stability and even prosperity in South and Central Asia—beyond the problem of Al Qaeda—is worth the price of prolonged and risky American investments. On that question, we can make an observation about the past: Gorbachev was right.

  • Distribute the excerpts from Gorbachev’s speech to each person.
  • Ask teachers to read the speech carefully, jotting down initial observations and unfamiliar words, and then work in pairs to compare observations and generate a list of questions about the speech and the time period.
  • Then ask each group to spend several minutes comparing this to Reagan’s speech.

Write three columns onto the whiteboard: Notice, Questions, and Historical Background.
Use the following questions to guide discussion:

  • What did you notice about this speech?
  • What do you already know about this speech? About the time period in which it was created?
  • What is the subject of this speech and what is its message?
  • How does Gorbachev use the language of freedom? How does he define freedom, and for whom?
  • What similarities and differences did you notice between this speech and Reagan’s speech?
    Ask teachers to make a tentative guess: Which of these speeches do you think was given first? Why do you think that?
  • What additional information would you want to know (e.g., about Reagan, Gorbachev, U.S. and Soviet foreign policy, the end of the Cold War)?

More Comments:

Lorraine Paul - 8/25/2008

Mr Gaston, if you believe Serbia was broken up for 'humanitarian reasons', then the foundation of your argument is deeply flawed.

Serbia was 'broken up' because of its geo-political importance to western powers. Further, the region needed to be under the control of a friendly and acquiescent government to further the exploitation of the oil known to be in the Caspian region.

Do you really think that wars are fought on such a lofty premise? However, after closing one's eyes and ears and refusing to listen to even basic common-sense, we will assume you are correct. Because I am mightily labouring under this assumption, I can only agree with you that, yes, once a standard is done away with, another standard has to take its place.

This was exactly my thinking when the 'humanitarian bombing' started in Kosovo and Serbia. Aghast, I knew this would be the 'new' benchmark excuse for invading and occupying another country.

To my surprise, it was not. It was an even more manufactured excuse - weapons of mass destruction! Which excuse metamorphosed into the even loftier premise of spreading democracy and bringing about regime change, when said weapons failed to materialise.

Governments lie, Mr Gaston. They lie all the time because they can! No-one challenges them in the media because they also are part of the lie. Fortunately, there are people like Mr Palermo who see through their lies. Unfortunately, there are people who like being lied too, it makes for a more comfortable life.

Lorraine Paul - 8/25/2008

The only 'debate' that could possibly be relevant to Apartheid was that it was immoral, inhumane, ruthless and the world took far too long to reach that conclusion.

Mainly because too much money was to be made out of it by vested interests.

Finally, to the best of my memory the main economic sanctions against the Apartheid regime were at grass-roots level. I remember at the time I had a list of companies who did business with, and in, South Africa. I made sure I never bought their products.

Jon Martens - 8/25/2008

"What side were we on during WWII?"

The Western Allies. Distinct from the Soviet Union despite a measure of cooperation.

Robert Lee Gaston - 8/24/2008

The economic sanctions placed against South Africa were the first such action taken by the United Nations to implement a change of government. As such, the debates at the time contained enough verbal gymnastics to exclude the likes of other inhumane regimes in the area.

All I am saying is that once a standard is done away with, a new standard is automatically established, and it applies equally to all actors. For example, once Serbia is broken up for humanitarian reasons any other state can be broken up for humanitarian reasons. The only thing that appears to matter is the relative military power of the actors. So, we may be going back to the nineteenth century.

However, for Gorbachev and Mr. Palermo to lay it all at the feet of GW Bush simply ignores the fact that the log roll started long before GW Bush became president, and that he (Gorbachev) cannot be described as one of the world’s leading democrats.

It would indeed be refreshing if he would have said, Russia moved into Georgia because it could, and there is not a damned think you can do about it. However, the Russian general who threatened Poland with a nuclear strike may have been a little bit beyond the pale.

Lorraine Paul - 8/24/2008

Mr Gaston, the last time I read such a skewed argument I needed oxygen I was laughing so hard.

Further, please tell me when and where the UN-UK-USSA-USSR interferred in the internal matters of South Africa? My memory is bad but I am sure that I would remember any invasion or even sanction against that inhumane white supremacist government.

In fact, it was the black population of South Africa which was calling for sanctions, and it was Thatcher and Reagan who refused to intervene. Their weaselly excuse was that it would hurt the black people more than the white ruling elite. The black people cried out. but we can't be hurting any more than we are already. However, their cries fell on deaf ears as the real reason for non-intervention was that it would harm British and US business interests.

I'm curious as to which 'system' you are referring too when you write. 'So, it is quite hard to ascribe too much nobility to the system established by the likes of Misters Gorbachev and Putin.'.

Do you mean the one in place now? If so, Gorbachev has been out of power since 1991. How is he to 'blame'?

I am probably more aware than you are of the 'social cost' to the peoples of Russia and throughout the former Soviet Union. May I suggest you read the relevent chapter in Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.

In the old days pirates only managed to loot, rape and pillage isolated villages, nowadays they can do it to whole countries!!

Lorraine Paul - 8/24/2008

Yes, Mr Rodden, it was an uneasy alliance, however, you are perfectly correct when you state that these countries did put their idealogical differences aside and turned together to face, and defeat, the threat of Nazi Germany and its allies.

Australia was part of that expeditionary force, although we didn't actually fight as Australian soldiers but as part of the British contingent.

Mr Rodden, for some reason my reply to you has not sorted itself into its correct sequence. Just in case you missed it, I replied that your hope is my hope.

Lorraine Paul - 8/24/2008

Mr Jones, It is quite obvious from your comments that you are one of those who see the world in black and white. "Brutal invasion', indeed.

Have you actually read widely, and wisely, regarding the events? Events which you obviously lay the blame for at the feet of present, and past, world leaders. It may interest you to know that it was Georgian forces who first attacked, at about 1 o'clock in the morning and without any prior warning to the civilian population. In fact, the civilian population was their primary target.

Georgia wants the region, it just doesn't want it full of ethnic Russians!!

Further, may I suggest that your 'partisanship' is a big issue in my comments. You definitely need to get over what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction every time Russia is involved and immediately declaring 'it is their fault'. All done without any broad knowledge of the occurance.

I do not have 'friends' in Lithuania, as I stated - during a certain period in the early nineties I had reason to contact the leaders of the Lithuanian community. One of those leaders had just returned from a fact-finding delegation consisting of himself and a conservative member, at that time, of our federal parliament. For the life of me the parliamentary member's last name escapes me, however, I do remember his first name was Jim, and he was Shadow Minister. Previous to this, I also had the pleasure of working with 'Jim's' wife, so you can see this is a bit embarrassing for me to be unable to recall their surname.

As I said, two conservative men, who had no love of Moscow, still felt it was in the best interests of Lithuania to keep close ties, with Moscow. This was when neither of them could foresee the "rape" and pillage which would occur once the Soviet Union collapsed. If they had, both would have done their utmost to help avoid it. As would all those who put humanity before profits.

Grant W Jones - 8/24/2008

OK Lorraine, the Russians also get to re-invade Lithuania, since your friends from there were in favor of "close ties" with Moscow.

The issue is The Gorbmeister's credibility regarding his apologia for the brutal invasion of Georgia, not my "partisanship"(?).

Robert Lee Gaston - 8/24/2008

Actually, the title should have been "This is Scholarship?" The emotive language is roughly equivalent of that used by Mr. Palermo. My comments are also more supported by facts.

Russia seems to be marching from Communism to National Socialism via some corrupt capitalist nightmare. The European press is even reporting on kick-back and bribe price lists being available for those wishing to do business in Russia. Current estimates are that there is a 2% “leakage” (theft) in oil production. There is also an oil partnership consisting of “Friends of Vlad”.

What has been the social cost of all this? Consider the following:

There are more abortions than live births in the country.

The average life expectancy of a Russian man is 59 years.

HIV/AIDS drug addiction, TB and a skyrocketing suicide rate have been added to alcoholism as major public health concerns.

There are some demographic estimates that indicate that the European Russian culture may become extinct, and will be replaced by an Asian Islamic culture.

It is hard to estimate the economic impact of all this, but I would suspect that the Russian workforce is shrinking toward a point of no return.

So, it is quite hard to ascribe too much nobility to the system established by the likes of Misters Gorbachev and Putin.

Having said all that, there is still the question of Georgia. The Paris Peace conference of 1919 led to the establishment of two basic international legal principals territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

These principals were formally established by the League of Nations, and later by the United Nations. They were necessary because many states, all over the globe had been established by arbitrary lines on a map.

However, Items such as Local oppression and mistreatment of minorities was considered preferable to what had gone on in Europe between 1914 and 1918. Indeed, one of the war crime charges brought against government officials in Nazi Germany was the illegal occupation and annexation of the German Sudetenland. Those norms held up until the 1970s.

The principal of non-interference held up until the United Nations, backed by the United States and the Soviet Union decided to bring an end to the white dominated government of South Africa. So now the norm is something like: There is a principle of non-interference so long as internal state behavior meets with the approval of the United Nations or the International community, whatever that is. That is: Zimbabwe is okay, Kosovo is not okay. Don’t ask me to explain it, but I warn you, thinking through it will lead to cynicism. It seems that the truth is something like, states can interfere with the internal affairs of other states to the extent their military power permits it.

The EU, NATO and the United States may have given the principal of territorial integrity its final blow in Kosovo. The Russian argument is that if we in the West can carve up the Balkans to please ourselves, then Russia can carve up the area between the Black and Caspian Seas to Russia's advantage. One should note they used the same humanitarian arguments for the partition of Georgia as the West used to partition Serbia.

Mr. Palermo attempted to ascribe this entire situation to GW Bush when, in fact, Jimmy Carter was president when the principal of non-interference was shredded and the Clinton administration was the father of Kosovo.

Lorraine Paul - 8/23/2008

Your hope is also my hope, Mr Rodden.

Glenn Rodden - 8/23/2008

The American Expenditionary force arrived in Siberia during September 1918.

I realize that the US-UK-USSR alliance during WWII was not perfect. My point is that during that war the US and the USSR often put ideology aside and concentrated on defeating Nazi Germany. My hope is that once again US and Russian leaders can find common ground and stop a small conflict from turning into a larger conflict.

Lorraine Paul - 8/23/2008

Lisa, to answer your question they are the ruling elite and their minions. Ever ready to go anywhere in the world to protect their interests. If that means that they have to have their minions murder a few million around the world people, well you can't make a 'profit' without breaking eggs!!

Lorraine Paul - 8/23/2008

Maarja, why do you rebuke Lisa and leave the outrageously partisan remark made by Mr Jones unchallenged.

A remark which certainly reveals to me that his understanding of the complex relationships with the former Soviet Union are next to nothing. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union I was involved with the Lithunanian community in my city. No-one could ever accuse a Lithunanian who settled here after WWII as a friend of Moscow! However, many agreed that the interests of Lithunania and Lithunanians were best served by retaining close ties with Moscow.

This seems to give a different perspective to the 'official story' regarding the Baltic states disaffection with Moscow. One can intensely dislike but at the same time accept that that is where one's best interests lie.

Consider yourself rebuked by me, Mr Jones.

Lorraine Paul - 8/23/2008

I fail to recognise the 'scholarship' in your comments, Mr Gaston. Emotive language holds sway in every paragraph.

Lorraine Paul - 8/23/2008

I think it was in 1919 when 22 nations invaded the fledgeling Soviet Union.

As for 'being on the same side', that section of the US ruling elite who, at that time, characterised themselves as isolationists and appeasers (although many were outright collaborationists with Nazi Germany) never really accepted the SU as allies. One might even say that this section of the UK and the US elite were instrumental in stopping the opening of a second front in Europe. It was only when the Red Army was almost at the gates of Berlin that the Normandy landings finally eventuated.

As for the second half - The corrupt (see US State Department recent report on Georgia) government in Tblisi, hand-in-glove with Washington, refused to allow South Ossetia to secede from Georgia even though the majority of the population identified with Russia. This denial by Georgia necessitated a Russian peace-keeping force to protect the ethnic Russian community.

As any fool with half an eye to read would know, there was a belligerency against many ethnic Russians in the Republics when the SU collapsed. I encountered the first signs of it when I was travelling through Georgia and also Moldova in 1988. Georgia may not have wanted the people of Sth Ossetia but it certainly wanted the land the Russians were living on.

Georgia, as the 'guardian' of 'another' strategic oil pipeline (see Afghanistan) could definitely be said to be an important base for US oil interests. Therefore, attacking South Ossetia certainly kills two birds with one stone. Killing being the operative word as very little has been said about the Georgian military killing 1200 South Ossetians during their rampage. BBC World News did report it, also gaining interviews with refugees from South Ossetia who put the blame for the incident firmly on the shoulders of the Georgian government.

Finally, it could be said that the Israeli 'advisors' in Georgia, the Georgian parliament and US vested interests have all badly mis-calculated Russian acquiescence to their invasion.

The last two decades have seen the unchallenged rise of US hegemony around the world. The creation of this inhumane hegemony has only benefitted a very small percentage of the population, I, for one, will be cheering any country which brings a halt, even if only temporary, to its brutal expansion.

Maarja Krusten - 8/23/2008

Liza, your response makes no sense in an historical context. No historian would respond so simplistically by casting the argument as being between a foreign affairs expert affiliated with a political party you apparently don't support personally and the former leader of a country which once forcibly occupied previously sovereign nations. That's a false dichotomy. Historians have more choices than that, they would not limit themselves that way.

To argue the issue so flimsily is akin to you being a member of a police investigative unit and saying to a police colleague about a detective whom you happen to dislike that the CEO under investigation for fraud by the unit has more credibility because he is or was in charge of a company. And dismissing without basis the evidence the detective you dislike has gathered through a professional process of interviewing subordinates in the company who provided credible evidence of fraud.

The detective you are dismissing as lacking in credibility may have beaten you out for a promotion and you may bear a personal grudge against him, but a professional would not handle evidentiary matters by automatically deferring to the CEO under investigation because he "was in charge."

History is like detective work. Political and personal likes and dislikes should not come into assessments of these issues. HNN is disappointing because so few historians try to live up to that standard. Perhaps it no longer is valued the way it was when I was in graduate school. But good historians look at events on the basis of what occurred over the decades, the motivations that underlay those actions, and how they fit in with international law and diplomatic norms. Personal likes and dislikes are irrelvant.

Glenn Rodden - 8/22/2008

If the US did not intervene in the Russian Civil War in 1918, what year did we intervene and hwo is that relevant to this discussion?

What side were we on during WWII?

Lisa Kazmier - 8/22/2008

It is NOT about praise. It is about context and recognition of realpolitik. If you want to talk Kosovo fine. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting self determination for a group with territorial integrity that is being oppressed by a central govt. And the same should be said for S Ossetia, btw. Those folks declared independence in 1991! Kosovo never exactly did that, did they? Georgia won't give up on forcing S. Ossetia back into Georgia. Where is an equal principal of self determination?

And do you not agree that the Georgian president has shown his own capacity for thuggishness? Maybe that has something to do with the fact Georgia remains Stalin's birthplace, a thing that's cleverly forgotten when Putin is compared to him.?

Lisa Kazmier - 8/22/2008

You really think Rice has more credibility than the guy who was in charge of all territories in question? That is laughable.

Lisa Kazmier - 8/22/2008

This is fantastic and I sure wish Obama would stop listening to these old Cold Warriors and recognize that he has to understand the other side as well as how Boosh has baited Russia. The Neos seem to want confrontation and directly pushing Russia only leads to pushing back.

Who are these bumblelinizes.

Robert Lee Gaston - 8/21/2008

I realize it helps to portray G.W. Bush as the antichrist to be published on HNN, but this one goes a little beyond the pale. There are a few factors Mr. Palermo has decided to overlook, and that he should consider before heaping too much praise on Mikhail Gorbachev and Mr. Putin, and condemning G.W. Bush and Secretary Rice.

The model the Russians used for their invasion of Georgia seems to be Kosovo. That was a Clinton/Albright/Clark affair. It may yet prove to be ill conceived because it impacted an area of the world where Russia has traditional national interests. If we were to consider Russian sensibilities that was the time to do it.

Mr. Putin is a KGB trained hood who views everything as a zero sum game. As an aside there are rumors that our boy Vladimir has skimmed about 40 billion dollars from various Russian businesses. I suppose it is a savings account in the event the boys at home get sick of seeing him, and he needs it to buy a cool seat at an American university.

There are few in the Baltic States who would view Gorbachev as a democrat. You must remember his sponsor was a fellow named Yuri Andropov. Mr. Andropov was another KGB trained hood who was higher in the state security food chain than Vladimir.

Why should Russia fear Poland and the Ukraine joining NATO? That’s simple. Those countries know the comfort of being in the bosom of mother Russia. Therefore, they would rather fight than go back under the yoke. Russia also knows that Western Europe especially Germany, and the Benelux would not fight to save their own mothers much less a non-aligned Eastern European country. At least NATO membership might embarrass them into some kind of action.

Grant W Jones - 8/21/2008

The Soviet/Russian apologists are back in all their glory.

And Gorby never really wanted to indulge in thuggish tactics in the Baltic Republics, either. The Devil made him do it.

Gorby's the guy who said the Latvia and Estonia lacked a "legal basis" for independence. What Stalin has joined, let no man put asunder. This old Commie has no credibility on this, or any other, issue.

Jon Martens - 8/21/2008

It wasn't in 1918 when we intervened in their Civil War and had a shooting war with the Russians.

And we may have both fought against Germany in the World Wars, but even a cursory study of relations between the Big Three in WWII show that we really weren't on the same side.


Childhood: 1931–1950 Edit

Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in the village of Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai, then in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union. [4] At the time, Privolnoye was divided almost evenly between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians. [5] Gorbachev's paternal family were ethnic Russians and had moved to the region from Voronezh several generations before his maternal family were of ethnic Ukrainian heritage and had migrated from Chernigov. [6] His parents named him Victor, but at the insistence of his mother—a devout Orthodox Christian—he had a secret baptism, where his grandfather christened him Mikhail. [7] His relationship with his father, Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev, was close his mother, Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva (née Gopkalo), was colder and punitive. [8] His parents were poor, [9] and lived as peasants. [10] They had married as teenagers in 1928, [11] and in keeping with local tradition had initially resided in Sergei's father's house, an adobe-walled hut, before a hut of their own could be built. [12]

The Soviet Union was a one-party state governed by the Communist Party, and during Gorbachev's childhood was under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Stalin had initiated a project of mass rural collectivization which, in keeping with his Marxist–Leninist ideas, he believed would help convert the country into a socialist society. [13] Gorbachev's maternal grandfather joined the Communist Party and helped form the village's first kolkhoz (collective farm) in 1929, becoming its chair. [14] This farm was 19 kilometres (12 mi) outside Privolnoye village and when he was three years old, Gorbachev left his parental home and moved into the kolkhoz with his maternal grandparents. [15]

The country was then experiencing the famine of 1932–33, in which two of Gorbachev's paternal uncles and an aunt died. [16] This was followed by the Great Purge, in which individuals accused of being "enemies of the people", including those sympathetic to rival interpretations of Marxism like Trotskyism, were arrested and interned in labor camps, if not executed. Both of Gorbachev's grandfathers were arrested (his maternal in 1934 and his paternal in 1937) and spent time in Gulag labor camps prior to being released. [17] After his December 1938 release, Gorbachev's maternal grandfather discussed having been tortured by the secret police, an account that influenced the young boy. [18]

Following on from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, in June 1941 the German Army invaded the Soviet Union. German forces occupied Privolnoye for four and a half months in 1942. [19] Gorbachev's father had joined the Red Army and fought on the frontlines he was wrongly declared dead during the conflict and fought in the Battle of Kursk before returning to his family, injured. [20] After Germany was defeated, Gorbachev's parents had their second son, Aleksandr, in 1947 he and Mikhail would be their only children. [11]

The village school had closed during much of the war but re-opened in autumn 1944. [21] Gorbachev did not want to return but when he did he excelled academically. [22] He read voraciously, moving from the Western novels of Thomas Mayne Reid to the work of Vissarion Belinsky, Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, and Mikhail Lermontov. [23] In 1946, he joined Komsomol, the Soviet political youth organization, becoming leader of his local group and then being elected to the Komsomol committee for the district. [24] From primary school he moved to the high school in Molotovskeye he stayed there during the week while walking the 19 km (12 mi) home during weekends. [25] As well as being a member of the school's drama society, [26] he organized sporting and social activities and led the school's morning exercise class. [27] Over the course of five consecutive summers from 1946 onward he returned home to assist his father operate a combine harvester, during which they sometimes worked 20-hour days. [28] In 1948, they harvested over 8,000 centners of grain, a feat for which Sergey was awarded the Order of Lenin and his son the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. [29]

University: 1950–1955 Edit

— Gorbachev's letter requesting membership of the Communist Party, 1950 [30]

In June 1950, Gorbachev became a candidate member of the Communist Party. [30] He also applied to study at the law school of Moscow State University (MSU), then the most prestigious university in the country. They accepted without asking for an exam, likely because of his worker-peasant origins and his possession of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. [31] His choice of law was unusual it was not a well-regarded subject in Soviet society at that time. [32] Aged 19, he traveled by train to Moscow, the first time he had left his home region. [33]

In the city, he resided with fellow MSU students at a dormitory in Sokolniki District. [34] He and other rural students felt at odds with their Muscovite counterparts but he soon came to fit in. [35] Fellow students recall him working especially hard, often late into the night. [36] He gained a reputation as a mediator during disputes, [37] and was also known for being outspoken in class, although would only reveal a number of his views privately for instance he confided in some students his opposition to the Soviet jurisprudential norm that a confession proved guilt, noting that confessions could have been forced. [38] During his studies, an anti-semitic campaign spread through the Soviet Union, culminating in the Doctors' plot Gorbachev publicly defended a Jewish student who was accused of disloyalty to the country by one of their fellows. [39]

At MSU, he became the Komsomol head of his entering class, and then Komsomol's deputy secretary for agitation and propaganda at the law school. [40] One of his first Komsomol assignments in Moscow was to monitor the election polling in Krasnopresnenskaya district to ensure the government's desire for near total turnout Gorbachev found that most of those who voted did so "out of fear". [41] In 1952, he was appointed a full member of the Communist Party. [42] As a party and Komsomol member he was tasked with monitoring fellow students for potential subversion some of his fellow students said that he did so only minimally and that they trusted him to keep confidential information secret from the authorities. [43] Gorbachev became close friends with Zdeněk Mlynář, a Czechoslovak student who later became a primary ideologist of the 1968 Prague Spring. Mlynář recalled that the duo remained committed Marxist–Leninists despite their growing concerns about the Stalinist system. [44] After Stalin died in March 1953, Gorbachev and Mlynář joined the crowds amassing to see Stalin's body lying in state. [45]

At MSU, Gorbachev met Raisa Titarenko, a Ukrainian studying in the university's philosophy department. [46] She was engaged to another man but after that engagement fell apart, she began a relationship with Gorbachev [47] together they went to bookstores, museums, and art exhibits. [48] In early 1953, he took an internship at the procurator's office in Molotovskoye district, but was angered by the incompetence and arrogance of those working there. [49] That summer, he returned to Privolnoe to work with his father on the harvest the money earned allowed him to pay for a wedding. [50] On 25 September 1953 he and Raisa registered their marriage at Sokolniki Registry Office [50] and in October moved in together at the Lenin Hills dormitory. [51] Raisa discovered that she was pregnant and although the couple wanted to keep the child she fell ill and required a life-saving abortion. [52]

In June 1955, Gorbachev graduated with a distinction [53] his final paper had been on the advantages of "socialist democracy" (the Soviet political system) over "bourgeois democracy" (liberal democracy). [54] He was subsequently assigned to the Soviet Procurator's office, which was then focusing on the rehabilitation of the innocent victims of Stalin's purges, but found that they had no work for him. [55] He was then offered a place on an MSU graduate course specializing in kolkhoz law, but declined. [56] He had wanted to remain in Moscow, where Raisa was enrolled on a PhD program, but instead gained employment in Stavropol Raisa abandoned her studies to join him there. [57]

Stavropol Komsomol: 1955–1969 Edit

In August 1955, Gorbachev started work at the Stavropol regional procurator's office, but disliked the job and used his contacts to get a transfer to work for Komsomol, [58] becoming deputy director of Komsomol's agitation and propaganda department for that region. [59] In this position, he visited villages in the area and tried to improve the lives of their inhabitants he established a discussion circle in Gorkaya Balka village to help its peasant residents gain social contacts. [60]

Gorbachev and his wife initially rented a small room in Stavropol, [61] taking daily evening walks around the city and on weekends hiking in the countryside. [62] In January 1957, Raisa gave birth to a daughter, Irina, [63] and in 1958 they moved into two rooms in a communal apartment. [64] In 1961, Gorbachev pursued a second degree, on agricultural production he took a correspondence course from the local Stavropol Agricultural Institute, receiving his diploma in 1967. [65] His wife had also pursued a second degree, attaining a PhD in sociology in 1967 from the Moscow Pedagogical Institute [66] while in Stavropol she too joined the Communist Party. [67]

Stalin was ultimately succeeded as Soviet leader by Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin and his cult of personality in a speech given in February 1956, after which he launched a de-Stalinization process throughout Soviet society. [68] Later biographer William Taubman suggested that Gorbachev "embodied" the "reformist spirit" of the Khrushchev era. [69] Gorbachev was among those who saw themselves as "genuine Marxists" or "genuine Leninists" in contrast to what they regarded as the perversions of Stalin. [70] He helped spread Khrushchev's anti-Stalinist message in Stavropol, but encountered many who continued to regard Stalin as a hero or who praised the Stalinist purges as just. [71]

Gorbachev rose steadily through the ranks of the local administration. [72] The authorities regarded him as politically reliable, [73] and he would flatter his superiors, for instance gaining favor with prominent local politician Fyodor Kulakov. [74] With an ability to outmanoeuvre rivals, some colleagues resented his success. [75] In September 1956, he was promoted First Secretary of the Stavropol city's Komsomol, placing him in charge of it [76] in April 1958 he was made deputy head of the Komsomol for the entire region. [77] At this point he was given better accommodation: a two-room flat with its own private kitchen, toilet, and bathroom. [78] In Stavropol, he formed a discussion club for youths, [79] and helped mobilize local young people to take part in Khrushchev's agricultural and development campaigns. [80]

In March 1961, Gorbachev became First Secretary of the regional Komsomol, [81] in which position he went out of his way to appoint women as city and district leaders. [82] In 1961, Gorbachev played host to the Italian delegation for the World Youth Festival in Moscow [83] that October, he also attended the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. [84] In January 1963, Gorbachev was promoted to personnel chief for the regional party's agricultural committee, [85] and in September 1966 became First Secretary of the Stavropol City Party Organization ("Gorkom"). [86] By 1968 he was increasingly frustrated with his job—in large part because Khrushchev's reforms were stalling or being reversed—and he contemplated leaving politics to work in academia. [87] However, in August 1968, he was named Second Secretary of the Stavropol Kraikom, making him the deputy of First Secretary Leonid Yefremov and the second most senior figure in the Stavrapol region. [88] In 1969, he was elected as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and made a member of its Standing Commission for the Protection of the Environment. [89]

Cleared for travel to Eastern Bloc countries, in 1966 he was part of a delegation visiting East Germany, and in 1969 and 1974 visited Bulgaria. [90] In August 1968 the Soviet Union led an invasion of Czechoslovakia to put an end to the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalization in the Marxist–Leninist country. Although Gorbachev later stated that he had had private concerns about the invasion, he publicly supported it. [91] In September 1969 he was part of a Soviet delegation sent to Czechoslovakia, where he found the Czechoslovak people largely unwelcoming to them. [92] That year, the Soviet authorities ordered him to punish Fagien B. Sadykov, a Stavropol-based agronomist whose ideas were regarded as critical of Soviet agricultural policy Gorbachev ensured that Sadykov was fired from teaching but ignored calls for him to face tougher punishment. [93] Gorbachev later related that he was "deeply affected" by the incident "my conscience tormented me" for overseeing Sadykov's persecution. [94]

Heading the Stavropol Region: 1970–1977 Edit

In April 1970, Yefremov was promoted to a higher position in Moscow and Gorbachev succeeded him as the First Secretary of the Stavropol kraikom. This granted Gorbachev significant power over the Stavropol region. [95] He had been personally vetted for the position by senior Kremlin leaders and was informed of their decision by the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. [96] Aged 39, he was considerably younger than his predecessors in the position. [97] As head of the Stavropol region, he automatically became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1971. [98] According to biographer Zhores Medvedev, Gorbachev "had now joined the Party's super-elite". [99] As regional leader, Gorbachev initially attributed economic and other failures to "the inefficiency and incompetence of cadres, flaws in management structure or gaps in legislation", but eventually concluded that they were caused by an excessive centralization of decision making in Moscow. [100] He began reading translations of restricted texts by Western Marxist authors like Antonio Gramsci, Louis Aragon, Roger Garaudy, and Giuseppe Boffa, and came under their influence. [100]

Gorbachev's main task as regional leader was to raise agricultural production levels, something hampered by severe droughts in 1975 and 1976. [101] He oversaw the expansion of irrigation systems through construction of the Great Stavropol Canal. [102] For overseeing a record grain harvest in Ipatovsky district, in March 1972 he was awarded by Order of the October Revolution by Brezhnev in a Moscow ceremony. [103] Gorbachev always sought to maintain Brezhnev's trust [104] as regional leader, he repeatedly praised Brezhnev in his speeches, for instance referring to him as "the outstanding statesman of our time". [105] Gorbachev and his wife holidayed in Moscow, Leningrad, Uzbekistan, and resorts in the North Caucusus [106] he holidayed with the head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, who was favorable towards him and who became an important patron. [107] Gorbachev also developed good relationships with senior figures like the Soviet Prime Minister, Alexei Kosygin, [108] and the longstanding senior party member Mikhail Suslov. [109]

The government considered Gorbachev sufficiently reliable that he was sent as part of Soviet delegations to Western Europe he made five trips there between 1970 and 1977. [110] In September 1971 he was part of a delegation who traveled to Italy, where they met with representatives of the Italian Communist Party Gorbachev loved Italian culture but was struck by the poverty and inequality he saw in the country. [111] In 1972, he visited Belgium and the Netherlands, and in 1973 West Germany. [112] Gorbachev and his wife visited France in 1976 and 1977, on the latter occasion touring the country with a guide from the French Communist Party. [113] He was surprised by how openly West Europeans offered their opinions and criticized their political leaders, something absent from the Soviet Union, where most people did not feel safe speaking so openly. [114] He later related that for him and his wife, these visits "shook our a priori belief in the superiority of socialist over bourgeois democracy". [115]

Gorbachev had remained close to his parents after his father became terminally ill in 1974, Gorbachev traveled to be with him in Privolnoe shortly before his death. [116] His daughter, Irina, married fellow student Anatoly Virgansky in April 1978. [117] In 1977, the Supreme Soviet appointed Gorbachev to chair the Standing Commission on Youth Affairs due to his experience with mobilizing young people in Komsomol. [118]

Secretary of the Central Committee: 1978–1984 Edit

In November 1978, Gorbachev was appointed a Secretary of the Central Committee. [119] His appointment had been approved unanimously by the Central Committee's members. [120] To fill this position, Gorbachev and his wife moved to Moscow, where they were initially given an old dacha outside the city. They then moved to another, at Sosnovka, before finally being allocated a newly built brick house. [121] He was also given an apartment inside the city, but gave that to his daughter and son-in-law Irina had begun work at Moscow's Second Medical Institute. [122] As part of the Moscow political elite, Gorbachev and his wife now had access to better medical care and to specialized shops they were also given cooks, servants, bodyguards, and secretaries, although many of these were spies for the KGB. [123] In his new position, Gorbachev often worked twelve to sixteen hour days. [123] He and his wife socialized little, but liked to visit Moscow's theaters and museums. [124]

In 1978, Gorbachev was appointed to the Central Committee's Secretariat for Agriculture, replacing his old friend Kulakov, who had died of a heart attack. [125] Gorbachev concentrated his attentions on agriculture: the harvests of 1979, 1980, and 1981 were all poor, due largely to weather conditions, [126] and the country had to import increasing quantities of grain. [127] He had growing concerns about the country's agricultural management system, coming to regard it as overly centralized and requiring more bottom-up decision making [128] he raised these points at his first speech at a Central Committee Plenum, given in July 1978. [129] He began to have concerns about other policies too. In December 1979, the Soviets sent the Red Army into neighbouring Afghanistan to support its Soviet-aligned government against Islamist insurgents Gorbachev privately thought it a mistake. [130] At times he openly supported the government position in October 1980 he for instance endorsed Soviet calls for Poland's Marxist–Leninist government to crack down on growing internal dissent in that country. [130] That same month, he was promoted from a candidate member to a full member of the Politburo, the highest decision-making authority in the Communist Party. [131] At the time, he was the Politburo's youngest member. [131]

After Brezhnev's death in November 1982, Andropov succeeded him as General Secretary of the Communist Party, the de facto head of government in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was enthusiastic about the appointment. [132] However, although Gorbachev hoped that Andropov would introduce liberalizing reforms, the latter carried out only personnel shifts rather than structural change. [133] Gorbachev became Andropov's closest ally in the Politburo [134] with Andropov's encouragement, Gorbachev sometimes chaired Politburo meetings. [135] Andropov encouraged Gorbachev to expand into policy areas other than agriculture, preparing him for future higher office. [136] In April 1983, Gorbachev delivered the annual speech marking the birthday of the Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin [137] this required him re-reading many of Lenin's later writings, in which the latter had called for reform in the context of the New Economic Policy of the 1920s, and encouraged Gorbachev's own conviction that reform was needed. [138] In May 1983, Gorbachev was sent to Canada, where he met Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and spoke to the Canadian Parliament. [139] There, he met and befriended the Soviet ambassador, Aleksandr Yakovlev, who later became a key political ally. [140]

In February 1984, Andropov died on his deathbed he indicated his desire that Gorbachev succeed him. [141] Many in the Central Committee nevertheless thought the 53-year old Gorbachev was too young and inexperienced. [142] Instead, Konstantin Chernenko—a longstanding Brezhnev ally—was appointed General Secretary, but he too was in very poor health. [143] Chernenko was often too sick to chair Politburo meetings, with Gorbachev stepping in last minute. [144] Gorbachev continued to cultivate allies both in the Kremlin and beyond, [145] and also gave the main speech at a conference on Soviet ideology, where he angered party hardliners by implying that the country required reform. [146]

In April 1984, he was appointed chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Soviet legislature, a largely honorific position. [147] In June he traveled to Italy as a Soviet representative for the funeral of Italian Communist Party leader Enrico Berlinguer, [148] and in September to Sofia, Bulgaria to attend celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of its liberation by the Red Army. [149] In December, he visited Britain at the request of its Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher she was aware that he was a potential reformer and wanted to meet him. [150] At the end of the visit, Thatcher said: "I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together". [151] He felt that the visit helped to erode Andrei Gromyko's dominance of Soviet foreign policy while at the same time sending a signal to the United States government that he wanted to improve Soviet-U.S. relations. [152]

On 10 March 1985, Chernenko died. [153] Gromyko proposed Gorbachev as the next General Secretary as a longstanding party member, Gromyko's recommendation carried great weight among the Central Committee. [154] Gorbachev expected much opposition to his nomination as General Secretary, but ultimately the rest of the Politburo supported him. [155] Shortly after Chernenko's death, the Politburo unanimously elected Gorbachev as his successor they wanted him over another elderly leader. [156] He thus became the eighth leader of the Soviet Union. [10] Few in the government imagined that he would be as radical a reformer as he proved. [157] Although not a well-known figure to the Soviet public, there was widespread relief that the new leader was not elderly and ailing. [158] Gorbachev's first public appearance as leader was at Chernenko's Red Square funeral, held on 14 March. [159] Two months after being elected, he left Moscow for the first time, traveling to Leningrad, where he spoke to assembled crowds. [160] In June he traveled to Ukraine, in July to Belarus, and in September to Tyumen Oblast, urging party members in these areas to take more responsibility for fixing local problems. [161]

Early years: 1985–1986 Edit

Gorbachev's leadership style differed from that of his predecessors. He would stop to talk to civilians on the street, forbade the display of his portrait at the 1985 Red Square holiday celebrations, and encouraged frank and open discussions at Politburo meetings. [162] To the West, Gorbachev was seen as a more moderate and less threatening Soviet leader some Western commentators however believed this an act to lull Western governments into a false sense of security. [163] His wife was his closest adviser, and took on the unofficial role of a "first lady" by appearing with him on foreign trips her public visibility was a breach of standard practice and generated resentment. [164] His other close aides were Georgy Shakhnazarov and Anatoly Chernyaev. [165]

Gorbachev was aware that the Politburo could remove him from office, and that he could not pursue more radical reform without a majority of supporters in the Politburo. [166] He sought to remove several older members from the Politburo, encouraging Grigory Romanov, Nikolai Tikhonov, and Viktor Grishin into retirement. [167] He promoted Gromyko to head of state, a largely ceremonial role with little influence, and moved his own ally, Eduard Shevardnadze, to Gromyko's former post in charge of foreign policy. [168] Other allies whom he saw promoted were Yakovlev, Anatoly Lukyanov, and Vadim Medvedev. [169] Another of those promoted by Gorbachev was Boris Yeltsin, who was made a Secretary of the Central Committee in July 1985. [170] Most of these appointees were from a new generation of well-educated officials who had been frustrated during the Brezhnev era. [171] In his first year, 14 of the 23 heads of department in the secretariat were replaced. [172] Doing so, Gorbachev secured dominance in the Politburo within a year, faster than either Stalin, Khrushchev, or Brezhnev had achieved. [173]

Domestic policies Edit

Gorbachev recurrently employed the term perestroika, first used publicly in March 1984. [174] He saw perestroika as encompassing a complex series of reforms to restructure society and the economy. [175] He was concerned by the country's low productivity, poor work ethic, and inferior quality goods [176] like several economists, he feared this would lead to the country becoming a second-rate power. [177] The first stage of Gorbachev's perestroika was uskoreniye ("acceleration"), a term he used regularly in the first two years of his leadership. [178] The Soviet Union was behind the United States in many areas of production, [179] but Gorbachev claimed that it would accelerate industrial output to match that of the U.S. by 2000. [180] The Five Year Plan of 1985–90 was targeted to expand machine building by 50 to 100%. [181] To boost agricultural productivity, he merged five ministries and a state committee into a single entity, Agroprom, although by late 1986 acknowledged this merger as a failure. [182]

The purpose of reform was to prop up the centrally planned economy—not to transition to market socialism. Speaking in late summer 1985 to the secretaries for economic affairs of the central committees of the East European communist parties, Gorbachev said: "Many of you see the solution to your problems in resorting to market mechanisms in place of direct planning. Some of you look at the market as a lifesaver for your economies. But, comrades, you should not think about lifesavers but about the ship, and the ship is socialism." [183] Gorbachev's perestroika also entailed attempts to move away from technocratic management of the economy by increasingly involving the labor force in industrial production. [184] He was of the view that once freed from the strong control of central planners, state-owned enterprises would act as market agents. [185] Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders did not anticipate opposition to the perestroika reforms according to their interpretation of Marxism, they believed that in a socialist society like the Soviet Union there would not be "antagonistic contradictions". [186] However, there would come to be a public perception in the country that many bureaucrats were paying lip service to the reforms while trying to undermine them. [187] He also initiated the concept of gospriyomka (state acceptance of production) during his time as leader, [188] which represented quality control. [189] In April 1986, he introduced an agrarian reform which linked salaries to output and allowed collective farms to sell 30% of their produce directly to shops or co-operatives rather than giving it all to the state for distribution. [190] In a September 1986 speech, he embraced the idea of reintroducing market economics to the country alongside limited private enterprise, citing Lenin's New Economic Policy as a precedent he nevertheless stressed that he did not regard this as a return to capitalism. [190]

In the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption had risen steadily between 1950 and 1985. [191] By the 1980s, drunkenness was a major social problem and Andropov had planned a major campaign to limit alcohol consumption. Encouraged by his wife, Gorbachev—who believed the campaign would improve health and work efficiency—oversaw its implementation. [192] Alcohol production was reduced by around 40 percent, the legal drinking age rose from 18 to 21, alcohol prices were increased, stores were banned from selling it before 2pm, and tougher penalties were introduced for workplace or public drunkenness and home production of alcohol. [193] The All-Union Voluntary Society for the Struggle for Temperance was formed to promote sobriety it had over 14 million members within three years. [194] As a result, crime rates fell and life expectancy grew slightly between 1986 and 1987. [195] However, moonshine production rose considerably, [196] and the reform had significant costs to the Soviet economy, resulting in losses of up to US$100 billion between 1985 and 1990. [197] Gorbachev later considered the campaign to have been an error, [198] and it was terminated in October 1988. [199] After it ended, it took several years for production to return to previous levels, after which alcohol consumption soared in Russia between 1990 and 1993. [200]

In the second year of his leadership, Gorbachev began speaking of glasnost, or "openness". [201] According to Doder and Branston, this meant "greater openness and candour in government affairs and for an interplay of different and sometimes conflicting views in political debates, in the press, and in Soviet culture." [202] Encouraging reformers into prominent media positions, he brought in Sergei Zalygin as head of Novy Mir magazine and Yegor Yakovlev as editor-in-chief of Moscow News. [203] He made the historian Yuri Afanasiev dean of the State Historical Archive Faculty, from where Afansiev could press for the opening of secret archives and the reassessment of Soviet history. [171] Prominent dissidents like Andrei Sakharov were freed from internal exile or prison. [204] Gorbachev saw glasnost as a necessary measure to ensure perestroika by alerting the Soviet populace to the nature of the country's problems in the hope that they would support his efforts to fix them. [205] Particularly popular among the Soviet intelligentsia, who became key Gorbachev supporters, [206] glasnost boosted his domestic popularity but alarmed many Communist Party hardliners. [207] For many Soviet citizens, this newfound level of freedom of speech and press—and its accompanying revelations about the country's past—was uncomfortable. [208]

Some in the party thought Gorbachev was not going far enough in his reforms a prominent liberal critic was Yeltsin. He had risen rapidly since 1985, attaining the role of Moscow city boss. [209] Like many members of the government, Gorbachev was skeptical of Yeltsin, believing that he engaged in too much self-promotion. [210] Yeltsin was also critical of Gorbachev, regarding him as patronizing. [209] In early 1986, Yeltsin began sniping at Gorbachev in Politburo meetings. [210] At the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February, Yeltsin called for more far-reaching reforms than Gorbachev was initiating and criticized the party leadership, although did not cite Gorbachev by name, claiming that a new cult of personality was forming. Gorbachev then opened the floor to responses, after which attendees publicly criticized Yeltsin for several hours. [211] After this, Gorbachev also criticized Yeltsin, claiming that he only cared for himself and was "politically illiterate". [212] Yeltsin then resigned as both Moscow boss and as a member of the Politburo. [212] From this point, tensions between the two men developed into a mutual hatred. [213]

In April 1986 the Chernobyl disaster occurred. [214] In the immediate aftermath, officials fed Gorbachev incorrect information to downplay the incident. As the scale of the disaster became apparent, 336,000 people were evacuated from the area around Chernobyl. [215] Taubman noted that the disaster marked "a turning point for Gorbachev and the Soviet regime". [216] Several days after it occurred, he gave a televised report to the nation. [217] He cited the disaster as evidence for what he regarded as widespread problems in Soviet society, such as shoddy workmanship and workplace inertia. [218] Gorbachev later described the incident as one which made him appreciate the scale of incompetence and cover-ups in the Soviet Union. [216] From April to the end of the year, Gorbachev became increasingly open in his criticism of the Soviet system, including food production, state bureaucracy, the military draft, and the large size of the prison population. [219]

Foreign policy Edit

In a May 1985 speech given to the Soviet Foreign Ministry—the first time a Soviet leader had directly addressed his country's diplomats—Gorbachev spoke of a "radical restructuring" of foreign policy. [220] A major issue facing his leadership was Soviet involvement in the Afghan Civil War, which had then been going on for over five years. [221] Over the course of the war, the Soviet Army took heavy casualties and there was much opposition to Soviet involvement among both the public and military. [221] On becoming leader, Gorbachev saw withdrawal from the war as a key priority. [222] In October 1985, he met with Afghan Marxist leader Babrak Karmal, urging him to acknowledge the lack of widespread public support for his government and pursue a power sharing agreement with the opposition. [222] That month, the Politburo approved Gorbachev's decision to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan, although the last troops did not leave until February 1989. [223]

Gorbachev had inherited a renewed period of high tension in the Cold War. [224] He believed strongly in the need to sharply improve relations with the United States he was appalled at the prospect of nuclear war, was aware that the Soviet Union was unlikely to win the arms race, and thought that the continued focus on high military spending was detrimental to his desire for domestic reform. [224] Although privately also appalled at the prospect of nuclear war, U.S. President Ronald Reagan publicly appeared to not want a de-escalation of tensions, having scrapped détente and arms controls, initiating a military build-up, and calling the Soviet Union the "evil empire". [225]

Both Gorbachev and Reagan wanted a summit to discuss the Cold War, but each faced some opposition to such a move within their respective governments. [226] They agreed to hold a summit in Geneva, Switzerland in November 1985. [227] In the buildup to this, Gorbachev sought to improve relations with the U.S.'s NATO allies, visiting France in October 1985 to meet with President François Mitterrand. [228] At the Geneva summit, discussions between Gorbachev and Reagan were sometimes heated, and Gorbachev was initially frustrated that his U.S. counterpart "does not seem to hear what I am trying to say". [229] As well as discussing the Cold War proxy conflicts in Afghanistan and Nicaragua and human rights issues, the pair discussed the U.S.'s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), to which Gorbachev was strongly opposed. [230] The duo's wives also met and spent time together at the summit. [231] The summit ended with a joint commitment to avoiding nuclear war and to meet for two further summits: in Washington D.C. in 1986 and in Moscow in 1987. [230] Following the conference, Gorbachev traveled to Prague to inform other Warsaw Pact leaders of developments. [232]

In January 1986, Gorbachev publicly proposed a three-stage programme for abolishing the world's nuclear weapons by the end of the 20th century. [234] An agreement was then reached to meet with Reagan in Reykjavík, Iceland in October 1986. Gorbachev wanted to secure guarantees that SDI would not be implemented, and in return was willing to offer concessions, including a 50% reduction in Soviet long range nuclear missiles. [235] Both leaders agreed with the shared goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, but Reagan refused to terminate the SDI program and no deal was reached. [236] After the summit, many of Reagan's allies criticized him for going along with the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons. [237] Gorbachev meanwhile told the Politburo that Reagan was "extraordinarily primitive, troglodyte, and intellectually feeble". [237]

In his relations with the developing world, Gorbachev found many of the leaders professing revolutionary socialist credentials or a pro-Soviet attitude—such as Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Syria's Hafez al-Assad—frustrating, and his best personal relationship was instead with India's Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. [221] He thought that the "socialist camp" of Marxist–Leninist governed states—the Eastern Bloc countries, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba—were a drain on the Soviet economy, receiving a far greater amount of goods from the Soviet Union than they collectively gave in return. [238] He sought improved relations with China, a country whose Marxist government had severed ties with the Soviets in the Sino-Soviet Split and had since undergone its own structural reform. In June 1985 he signed a US$14 billion five-year trade agreement with the country and in July 1986, he proposed troop reductions along the Soviet-Chinese border, hailing China as "a great socialist country". [239] He made clear his desire for Soviet membership of the Asian Development Bank and for greater ties to Pacific countries, especially China and Japan. [240]

Further reform: 1987–1989 Edit

Domestic reforms Edit

In January 1987, Gorbachev attended a Central Committee plenum where he talked about perestroika and democratization while criticizing widespread corruption. [241] He considered putting a proposal to allow multi-party elections into his speech, but decided against doing so. [242] After the plenum, he focused his attentions on economic reform, holding discussions with government officials and economists. [243] Many economists proposed reducing ministerial controls on the economy and allowing state-owned enterprises to set their own targets Ryzhkov and other government figures were skeptical. [244] In June, Gorbachev finished his report on economic reform. It reflected a compromise: ministers would retain the ability to set output targets but these would not be considered binding. [245] That month, a plenum accepted his recommendations and the Supreme Soviet passed a "law on enterprises" implementing the changes. [246] Economic problems remained: by the late 1980s there were still widespread shortages of basic goods, rising inflation, and declining living standards. [247] These stoked a number of miners' strikes in 1989. [248]

By 1987, the ethos of glasnost had spread through Soviet society: journalists were writing increasingly openly, [249] many economic problems were being publicly revealed, [250] and studies appeared that critically reassessed Soviet history. [251] Gorbachev was broadly supportive, describing glasnost as "the crucial, irreplaceable weapon of perestroika". [249] He nevertheless insisted that people should use the newfound freedom responsibly, stating that journalists and writers should avoid "sensationalism" and be "completely objective" in their reporting. [252] Nearly two hundred previously restricted Soviet films were publicly released, and a range of Western films were also made available. [253] In 1989, Soviet responsibility for the 1940 Katyn massacre was finally revealed. [254]

In September 1987, the government stopped jamming the signal of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America. [255] The reforms also included greater tolerance of religion [256] an Easter service was broadcast on Soviet television for the first time and the millennium celebrations of the Russian Orthodox Church were given media attention. [257] Independent organizations appeared, most supportive of Gorbachev, although the largest, Pamyat, was ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic in nature. [258] Gorbachev also announced that Soviet Jews wishing to migrate to Israel would be allowed to do so, something previously prohibited. [259]

In August 1987, Gorbachev holidayed in Nizhniaia Oreanda, Ukraine, there writing Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and Our World at the suggestion of U.S. publishers. [260] For the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917—which brought Lenin and the Communist Party to power—Gorbachev produced a speech on "October and Perestroika: The Revolution Continues". Delivered to a ceremonial joint session of the Central Committee and the Supreme Soviet in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, it praised Lenin but criticized Stalin for overseeing mass human rights abuses. [261] Party hardliners thought the speech went too far liberalisers thought it did not go far enough. [262]

In March 1988, the magazine Sovetskaya Rossiya published an open letter by the teacher Nina Andreyeva. It criticized elements of Gorbachev's reforms, attacking what she regarded as the denigration of the Stalinist era and arguing that a reformer clique—whom she implied were mostly Jews and ethnic minorities—were to blame. [263] Over 900 Soviet newspapers reprinted it and anti-reformists rallied around it many reformers panicked, fearing a backlash against perestroika. [264] On returning from Yugoslavia, Gorbachev called a Politburo meeting to discuss the letter, at which he confronted those hardliners supporting its sentiment. Ultimately, the Politburo arrived at a unanimous decision to express disapproval of Andreyeva's letter and publish a rebuttal in Pravda. [265] Yakovlev and Gorbachev's rebuttal claimed that those who "look everywhere for internal enemies" were "not patriots" and presented Stalin's "guilt for massive repressions and lawlessness" as "enormous and unforgiveable". [266]

Forming the Congress of People's Deputies Edit

Although the next party congress was not scheduled until 1991, Gorbachev convened the 19th Party Conference in its place in June 1988. He hoped that by allowing a broader range of people to attend than at previous conferences, he would gain additional support for his reforms. [267] With sympathetic officials and academics, Gorbachev drafted plans for reforms that would shift power away from the Politburo and towards the soviets. While the soviets had become largely powerless bodies that rubber-stamped Politburo policies, he wanted them to become year-round legislatures. He proposed the formation of a new institution, the Congress of People's Deputies, whose members were to be elected in a largely free vote. [268] This congress would in turn elect a USSR Supreme Soviet, which would do most of the legislating. [269]

These proposals reflected Gorbachev's desire for more democracy however, in his view there was a major impediment in that the Soviet people had developed a "slave psychology" after centuries of Tsarist autocracy and Marxist–Leninist authoritarianism. [270] Held at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, the conference brought together 5,000 delegates and featured arguments between hardliners and liberalisers. The proceedings were televised, and for the first time since the 1920s, voting was not unanimous. [271] In the months following the conference, Gorbachev focused on redesigning and streamlining the party apparatus the Central Committee staff—which then numbered around 3,000—was halved, while various Central Committee departments were merged to cut down the overall number from twenty to nine. [272]

In March and April 1989, elections to the new Congress were held. [273] Of the 2,250 legislators to be elected, one hundred — termed the "Red Hundred" by the press — were directly chosen by the Communist Party, with Gorbachev ensuring many were reformists. [274] Although over 85% of elected deputies were party members, [275] many of those elected—including Sakharov and Yeltsin—were liberalisers. [276] Gorbachev was happy with the result, describing it as "an enormous political victory under extraordinarily difficult circumstances". [277] The new Congress convened in May 1989. [278] Gorbachev was then elected its chair – the new de facto head of state – with 2,123 votes in favor to 87 against. [279] Its sessions were televised live, [279] and its members elected the new Supreme Soviet. [280] At the Congress, Sakharov spoke repeatedly, exasperating Gorbachev with his calls for greater liberalization and the introduction of private property. [281] When Sakharov died shortly after, Yeltsin became the figurehead of the liberal opposition. [282]

Relations with China and Western states Edit

Gorbachev tried to improve relations with the UK, France, and West Germany [283] like previous Soviet leaders, he was interested in pulling Western Europe away from U.S. influence. [284] Calling for greater pan-European co-operation, he publicly spoke of a "Common European Home" and of a Europe "from the Atlantic to the Urals". [285] In March 1987, Thatcher visited Gorbachev in Moscow despite their ideological differences, they liked one another. [286] In April 1989 he visited London, lunching with Elizabeth II. [287] In May 1987, Gorbachev again visited France, and in November 1988 Mitterrand visited him in Moscow. [288] The West German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl had initially offended Gorbachev by comparing him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, although later informally apologized and in October 1988 visited Moscow. [289] In June 1989 Gorbachev then visited Kohl in West Germany. [290] In November 1989 he also visited Italy, meeting with Pope John Paul II. [291] Gorbachev's relationships with these West European leaders were typically far warmer than those he had with their Eastern Bloc counterparts. [292]

Gorbachev continued to pursue good relations with China to heal the Sino-Soviet Split. In May 1989 he visited Beijing and there met its leader Deng Xiaoping Deng shared Gorbachev's belief in economic reform but rejected calls for democratization. [293] Pro-democracy students had amassed in Tiananmen Square during Gorbachev's visit but after he left were massacred by troops. Gorbachev did not condemn the massacre publicly but it reinforced his commitment not to use violent force in dealing with pro-democracy protests in the Eastern Bloc. [294]

Following the failures of earlier talks with the U.S., in February 1987, Gorbachev held a conference in Moscow, titled "For a World without Nuclear Weapons, for Mankind's Survival", which was attended by various international celebrities and politicians. [295] By publicly pushing for nuclear disarmament, Gorbachev sought to give the Soviet Union the moral high ground and weaken the West's self-perception of moral superiority. [296] Aware that Reagan would not budge on SDI, Gorbachev focused on reducing "Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces", to which Reagan was receptive. [297] In April 1987, Gorbachev discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz in Moscow he agreed to eliminate the Soviets' SS-23 rockets and allow U.S. inspectors to visit Soviet military facilities to ensure compliance. [298] There was hostility to such compromises from the Soviet military, but following the May 1987 Mathias Rust incident—in which a West German teenager was able to fly undetected from Finland and land in Red Square—Gorbachev fired many senior military figures for incompetence. [299] In December 1987, Gorbachev visited Washington D.C., where he and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. [300] Taubman called it "one of the highest points of Gorbachev's career". [301]

A second U.S.-Soviet summit occurred in Moscow in May–June 1988, which Gorbachev expected to be largely symbolic. [302] Again, he and Reagan criticized each other's countries—Reagan raising Soviet restrictions on religious freedom Gorbachev highlighting poverty and racial discrimination in the U.S.—but Gorbachev related that they spoke "on friendly terms". [303] They reached an agreement on notifying each other before conducting the ballistic missile test and made agreements on transport, fishing, and radio navigation. [304] At the summit, Reagan told reporters that he no longer considered the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and the duo revealed that they considered themselves friends. [305]

The third summit was held in New York City in December. [306] Arriving there, Gorbachev gave a speech to the United Nations Assembly where he announced a unilateral reduction in the Soviet armed forces by 500,000 he also announced that 50,000 troops would be withdrawn from Central and Eastern Europe. [307] He then met with Reagan and President-elect George H. W. Bush he rushed home, skipping a planned visit to Cuba, to deal with the Armenian earthquake. [308] On becoming U.S. president, Bush appeared interested in continuing talks with Gorbachev but wanted to appear tougher on the Soviets than Reagan had to allay criticism from the right-wing of his Republican Party. [309] In December 1989, Gorbachev and Bush met at the Malta Summit. [310] Bush offered to assist the Soviet economy by suspending the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and repealing the Stevenson and Baird Amendments. [311] There, the duo agreed to a joint press conference, the first time that a U.S. and Soviet leader had done so. [312] Gorbachev also urged Bush to normalize relations with Cuba and meet its president, Fidel Castro, although Bush refused to do so. [313]

Nationality question and the Eastern Bloc Edit

On taking power, Gorbachev found some unrest among different national groups within the Soviet Union. In December 1986, riots broke out in several Kazakh cities after a Russian was appointed head of the region. [314] In 1987, Crimean Tatars protested in Moscow to demand resettlement in Crimea, the area from which they had been deported on Stalin's orders in 1944. Gorbachev ordered a commission, headed by Gromyko, to examine their situation. Gromyko's report opposed calls for assisting Tatar resettlement in Crimea. [315] By 1988, the Soviet "nationality question" was increasingly pressing. [316] In February, the administration of the Nagorno-Karabakh region officially requested that it be transferred from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic to the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic the majority of the region's population were ethnically Armenian and wanted unification with other majority Armenian areas. [317] As rival Armenian and Azerbaijani demonstrations took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, Gorbachev called an emergency meeting of the Politburo. [318] Ultimately, Gorbachev promised greater autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh but refused the transfer, fearing that it would set off similar ethnic tensions and demands throughout the Soviet Union. [319]

That month, in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait, Azerbaijani gangs began killing members of the Armenian minority. Local troops tried to quell the unrest but were attacked by mobs. [320] The Politburo ordered additional troops into the city, but in contrast to those like Ligachev who wanted a massive display of force, Gorbachev urged restraint. He believed that the situation could be resolved through a political solution, urging talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Communist Parties. [321] Further anti-Armenian violence broke out in Baku in 1990. [322] Problems also emerged in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in April 1989, Georgian nationalists demanding independence clashed with troops in Tbilisi, resulting in various deaths. [323] Independence sentiment was also rising in the Baltic states the Supreme Soviets of the Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian Soviet Socialist Republics declared their economic "autonomy" from Russia and introduced measures to restrict Russian immigration. [324] In August 1989, protesters formed the Baltic Way, a human chain across the three republics to symbolize their wish for independence. [325] That month, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet ruled the 1940 Soviet annexation of their country to be illegal [326] in January 1990, Gorbachev visited the republic to encourage it to remain part of the Soviet Union. [327]

Gorbachev rejected the "Brezhnev Doctrine", the idea that the Soviet Union had the right to intervene militarily in other Marxist–Leninist countries if their governments were threatened. [328] In December 1987 he announced the withdrawal of 500,000 Soviet troops from Central and Eastern Europe. [329] While pursuing domestic reforms, he did not publicly support reformers elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. [330] Hoping instead to lead by example, he later related that he did not want to interfere in their internal affairs, but he may have feared that pushing reform in Central and Eastern Europe would have angered his own hardliners too much. [331] Some Eastern Bloc leaders, like Hungary's János Kádár and Poland's Wojciech Jaruzelski, were sympathetic to reform others, like Romania's Nicolae Ceaușescu, were hostile to it. [332] In May 1987 Gorbachev visited Romania, where he was appalled by the state of the country, later telling the Politburo that there "human dignity has absolutely no value". [333] He and Ceaușescu disliked each other, and argued over Gorbachev's reforms. [334]

In August 1989, the Pan-European Picnic, which Otto von Habsburg planned as a test of Gorbachev, resulted in a large mass exodus of East German refugees. According to the Sinatra doctrine, the Soviet Union did not interfere and the media-informed Eastern European population realized that on the one hand their rulers were increasingly losing power and on the other hand the Iron Curtain was falling apart as a bracket for the Eastern Bloc. [335] [336] [337]

In the Revolutions of 1989, most of the Marxist–Leninist states of Central and Eastern Europe held multi-party elections resulting in regime change. [338] In most countries, like Poland and Hungary, this was achieved peacefully, but in Romania the revolution turned violent and led to Ceaușescu's overthrow and execution. [338] Gorbachev was too preoccupied with domestic problems to pay much attention to these events. [339] He believed that democratic elections would not lead Eastern European countries into abandoning their commitment to socialism. [340] In 1989, he visited East Germany for the fortieth anniversary of its founding [341] shortly after, in November, the East German government allowed its citizens to cross the Berlin Wall, a decision Gorbachev praised. Over the following years, much of the wall was demolished. [342] Neither Gorbachev nor Thatcher or Mitterrand wanted a swift reunification of Germany, aware that it would likely become the dominant European power. Gorbachev wanted a gradual process of German integration but Kohl began calling for rapid reunification. [343] With Germany reunified, many observers declared the Cold War over. [344]

Presidency of the Soviet Union: 1990–1991 Edit

In February 1990, both liberalisers and Marxist–Leninist hardliners intensified their attacks on Gorbachev. [345] A liberalizer march took part in Moscow criticizing Communist Party rule, [346] while at a Central Committee meeting, the hardliner Vladimir Brovikov accused Gorbachev of reducing the country to "anarchy" and "ruin" and of pursuing Western approval at the expense of the Soviet Union and the Marxist–Leninist cause. [347] Gorbachev was aware that the Central Committee could still oust him as General Secretary, and so decided to reformulate the role of head of government to a presidency from which they could not remove him. [348] He decided that the presidential election should be held by the Congress of People's Deputies. He chose this over a public vote because he thought the latter would escalate tensions and feared that he might lose it [349] a spring 1990 poll nevertheless still showed him as the most popular politician in the country. [350]

In March, the Congress of People's Deputies held the first (and only) Soviet presidential election, in which Gorbachev was the only candidate. He secured 1,329 in favor to 495 against 313 votes were invalid or absent. He therefore became the first executive President of the Soviet Union. [351] A new 18-member Presidential Council de facto replaced the Politburo. [352] At the same Congress meeting, he presented the idea of repealing Article 6 of the Soviet constitution, which had ratified the Communist Party as the "ruling party" of the Soviet Union. The Congress passed the reform, undermining the de jure nature of the one-party state. [353]

In the 1990 elections for the Russian Supreme Soviet, the Communist Party faced challengers from an alliance of liberalisers known as "Democratic Russia" the latter did particularly well in urban centers. [354] Yeltsin was elected the parliament's chair, something Gorbachev was unhappy about. [355] That year, opinion polls showed Yeltsin overtaking Gorbachev as the most popular politician in the Soviet Union. [350] Gorbachev struggled to understand Yeltsin's growing popularity, commenting: "he drinks like a fish. he's inarticulate, he comes up with the devil knows what, he's like a worn-out record." [356] The Russian Supreme Soviet was now out of Gorbachev's control [356] in June 1990, it declared that in the Russian Republic, its laws took precedence over those of the Soviet central government. [357] Amid a growth in Russian nationalist sentiment, Gorbachev had reluctantly allowed the formation of a Communist Party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as a branch of the larger Soviet Communist Party. Gorbachev attended its first congress in June, but soon found it dominated by hardliners who opposed his reformist stance. [358]

German reunification and the Gulf War Edit

In January 1990, Gorbachev privately agreed to permit East German reunification with West Germany, but rejected the idea that a unified Germany could retain West Germany's NATO membership. [359] His compromise that Germany might retain both NATO and Warsaw Pact memberships did not attract support. [360] In May 1990, he visited the U.S. for talks with President Bush [361] there, he agreed that an independent Germany would have the right to choose its international alliances. [360] He later revealed that he had agreed to do so because U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised that NATO troops would not be posted to eastern Germany and that the military alliance would not expand into Eastern Europe. [362] Privately, Bush ignored Baker's assurances and later pushed for NATO expansion. [363] On the trip, the U.S. informed Gorbachev of its evidence that the Soviet military—possibly unbeknownst to Gorbachev—had been pursuing a biological weapons program in contravention of the 1987 Biological Weapons Convention. [364] In July, Kohl visited Moscow and Gorbachev informed him that the Soviets would not oppose a reunified Germany being part of NATO. [365] Domestically, Gorbachev's critics accused him of betraying the national interest [366] more broadly, they were angry that Gorbachev had allowed the Eastern Bloc to move away from direct Soviet influence. [367]

In August 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government invaded Kuwait Gorbachev endorsed President Bush's condemnation of it. This brought criticism from many in the Soviet state apparatus, who saw Hussein as a key ally in the Persian Gulf and feared for the safety of the 9,000 Soviet citizens in Iraq, although Gorbachev argued that the Iraqis were the clear aggressors in the situation. [368] In November the Soviets endorsed a UN Resolution permitting force to be used in expelling the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. [369] Gorbachev later called it a "watershed" in world politics, "the first time the superpowers acted together in a regional crisis." [370] However, when the U.S. announced plans for a ground invasion, Gorbachev opposed it, urging instead a peaceful solution. [371] In October 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize he was flattered but acknowledged "mixed feelings" about the accolade. [372] Polls indicated that 90% of Soviet citizens disapproved of the award, which was widely seen as a Western and anti-Soviet accolade. [373]

With the Soviet budget deficit climbing and no domestic money markets to provide the state with loans, Gorbachev looked elsewhere. [374] Throughout 1991, Gorbachev requested sizable loans from Western countries and Japan, hoping to keep the Soviet economy afloat and ensure the success of perestroika. [375] Although the Soviet Union had been excluded from the G7, Gorbachev secured an invitation to its London summit in July 1991. [376] There, he continued to call for financial assistance Mitterrand and Kohl backed him, [377] while Thatcher—no longer in office— also urged Western leaders to agree. [378] Most G7 members were reluctant, instead offering technical assistance and proposing the Soviets receive "special associate" status—rather than full membership—of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. [379] Gorbachev was frustrated that the U.S. would spend $100 billion on the Gulf War but would not offer his country loans. [380] Other countries were more forthcoming West Germany had given the Soviets DM60 billion by mid-1991. [381] Later that month, Bush visited Moscow, where he and Gorbachev signed the START I treaty, a bilateral agreement on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, after ten years of negotiation. [382]

August putsch and government crises Edit

At the 28th Communist Party Congress in July 1990, hardliners criticized the reformists but Gorbachev was re-elected party leader with the support of three-quarters of delegates and his choice of Deputy General Secretary, Vladimir Ivashko, was also elected. [383] Seeking compromise with the liberalizers, Gorbachev assembled a team of both his own and Yeltsin's advisers to come up with an economic reform package: the result was the "500 Days" programme. This called for further decentralization and some privatization. [384] Gorbachev described the plan as "modern socialism" rather than a return to capitalism but had many doubts about it. [385] In September, Yeltsin presented the plan to the Russian Supreme Soviet, which backed it. [386] Many in the Communist Party and state apparatus warned against it, arguing that it would create marketplace chaos, rampant inflation, and unprecedented levels of unemployment. [387] The 500 Days plan was abandoned. [388] At this, Yeltsin rallied against Gorbachev in an October speech, claiming that Russia would no longer accept a subordinate position to the Soviet government. [389]

By mid-November 1990, much of the press was calling for Gorbachev to resign and predicting civil war. [390] Hardliners were urging Gorbachev to disband the presidential council and arrest vocal liberals in the media. [391] In November, he addressed the Supreme Soviet where he announced an eight-point program, which included governmental reforms, among them the abolition of the presidential council. [392] By this point, Gorbachev was isolated from many of his former close allies and aides. [393] Yakovlev had moved out of his inner circle and Shevardnadze had resigned. [394] His support among the intelligentsia was declining, [395] and by the end of 1990 his approval ratings had plummeted. [396]

Amid growing dissent in the Baltics, especially Lithuania, in January 1991 Gorbachev demanded that the Lithuanian Supreme Council rescind its pro-independence reforms. [397] Soviet troops occupied several Vilnius buildings and clashed with protesters, 15 of whom were killed. [398] Gorbachev was widely blamed by liberalizers, with Yeltsin calling for his resignation. [399] Gorbachev denied sanctioning the military operation, although some in the military claimed that he had the truth of the matter was never clearly established. [400] Fearing more civil disturbances, that month Gorbachev banned demonstrations and ordered troops to patrol Soviet cities alongside the police. This further alienated the liberalizers but was not enough to win-over hardliners. [401] Wanting to preserve the Union, in April Gorbachev and the leaders of nine Soviet republics jointly pledged to prepare a treaty that would renew the federation under a new constitution but six of the republics—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia—did not endorse this. [402] A referendum on the issue brought 76.4% in favor of continued federation but the six rebellious republics had not taken part. [403] Negotiations as to what form the new constitution would take took place, again bringing together Gorbachev and Yeltsin in discussion it was planned to be formally signed in August. [404]

In August, Gorbachev and his family holidayed at their dacha, "Zarya" ('Dawn') in Foros, Crimea. [405] Two weeks into his holiday, a group of senior Communist Party figures—the "Gang of Eight"—calling themselves the State Committee on the State of Emergency launched a coup d'état to seize control of the Soviet Union. [406] The phone lines to his dacha were cut and a group arrived, including Boldin, Shenin, Baklanov, and General Varennikov, informing him of the take-over. [407] The coup leaders demanded that Gorbachev formally declare a state of emergency in the country, but he refused. [408] Gorbachev and his family were kept under house arrest in their dacha. [409] The coup plotters publicly announced that Gorbachev was ill and thus Vice President Yanayev would take charge of the country. [410]

Yeltsin, now President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, went inside the Moscow White House. Tens of thousands of protesters amassed outside it to prevent troops storming the building to arrest him. [411] Gorbachev feared that the coup plotters would order him killed, so had his guards barricade his dacha. [412] However, the coup's leaders realized that they lacked sufficient support and ended their efforts. On 21 August, Vladimir Kryuchkov, Dmitry Yazov, Oleg Baklanov, Anatoly Lukyanov, and Vladimir Ivashko arrived at Gorbachev's dacha to inform him that they were doing so. [412]

That evening, Gorbachev returned to Moscow, where he thanked Yeltsin and the protesters for helping to undermine the coup. [413] At a subsequent press conference, he pledged to reform the Soviet Communist Party. [414] Two days later, he resigned as its General Secretary and called on the Central Committee to dissolve. [415] [416] Several members of the coup committed suicide others were fired. [417] Gorbachev attended a session of the Russian Supreme Soviet on 23 August, where Yeltsin aggressively criticized him for having appointed and promoted many of the coup members to start with. Yeltsin then announced the suspension of the activities of the Russian Communist Party. [418]

Final collapse Edit

On 29 August, the Supreme Soviet indefinitely suspended all Communist Party activity, effectively ending Communist rule in the Soviet Union (On 6 November, Yeltsin issued a decree banning all Communist Party activities in Russia). From then on, the Soviet Union collapsed with dramatic speed. By the end of September, Gorbachev had lost the ability to influence events outside of Moscow.

On 30 October, Gorbachev attended a conference in Madrid trying to revive the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. The event was co-sponsored by the U.S. and Soviet Union, one of the first examples of such cooperation between the two countries. There, he again met with Bush. [419] En route home, he traveled to France where he stayed with Mitterrand at the latter's home near Bayonne. [420]

After the coup, Yeltsin had suspended all Communist Party activities on Russian soil by shutting down the Central Committee offices in Staraya Square along with raising of the imperial Russian tricolor flag alongside the Soviet flag at Red Square. By the final weeks of 1991, Yeltsin began to take over the remnants of the Soviet government including the Kremlin itself.

To keep unity within the country, Gorbachev continued to pursue plans for a new union treaty but found increasing opposition to the idea of a continued federal state as the leaders of various Soviet republics bowed to growing nationalist pressure. [421] Yeltsin stated that he would veto any idea of a unified state, instead favoring a confederation with little central authority. [422] Only the leaders of Kazakhstan and Kirghizia supported Gorbachev's approach. [423] The referendum in Ukraine on 1 December with a 90% turnout for secession from the Union was a fatal blow Gorbachev had expected Ukrainians to reject independence. [424]

Without Gorbachev's knowledge, Yeltsin met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Belarusian President Stanislav Shushkevich in Belovezha Forest, near Brest, Belarus, on 8 December and signed the Belavezha Accords, which declared the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as its successor. [425] Gorbachev only learned of this development when Shushkevich phoned him Gorbachev was furious. [426] He desperately looked for an opportunity to preserve the Soviet Union, hoping in vain that the media and intelligentsia might rally against the idea of its dissolution. [427] Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian Supreme Soviets then ratified the establishment of the CIS. [428] On 9 December, he issued a statement calling the CIS agreement "illegal and dangerous". [429] [430] On 20 December, the leaders of 11 of the 12 remaining republics–all except Georgia–met in Alma-Ata and signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, agreeing to dismantle the Soviet Union and formally establish the CIS. They also provisionally accepted Gorbachev's resignation as president of what remained of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev revealed that he would resign as soon as he saw that the CIS was a reality. [431] [432]

Accepting the fait accompli of the Soviet Union's dissolution, Gorbachev reached a deal with Yeltsin that called for Gorbachev to formally announce his resignation as Soviet President and Commander-in-Chief on 25 December, before vacating the Kremlin by 29 December. [433] Yakovlev, Chernyaev, and Shevardnadze joined Gorbachev to help him write a resignation speech. [431] Gorbachev then gave his speech in the Kremlin in front of television cameras, allowing for international broadcast. [434] In it, he announced, "I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." He expressed regret for the breakup of the Soviet Union but cited what he saw as the achievements of his administration: political and religious freedom, the end of totalitarianism, the introduction of democracy and a market economy, and an end to the arms race and Cold War. [435] Gorbachev was only the third Soviet leader, after Malenkov and Khrushchev, not to die in office. [436] [437] The following day, 26 December, the Council of the Republics, the upper house of the Supreme Soviet, formally voted the Soviet Union out of existence. [438] The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist at midnight on 31 December 1991 [439] as of that date, all Soviet institutions that had not been taken over by Russia ceased to function.

Initial years: 1991–1999 Edit

Out of office, Gorbachev had more time to spend with his wife and family. [440] He and Raisa initially lived in their dilapidated dacha on Rublevskoe Shosse, and were also allowed to privatise their smaller apartment on Kosygin Street. [440] He focused on establishing his International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, or "Gorbachev Foundation", launched in March 1992 [441] Yakovlev and Revenko were its first Vice Presidents. [442] Its initial tasks were in analyzing and publishing material on the history of perestroika, as well as defending the policy from what it called "slander and falsifications". The foundation also tasked itself with monitoring and critiquing life in post-Soviet Russia, presenting alternative development forms to those pursued by Yeltsin. [442]

To finance his foundation, Gorbachev began lecturing internationally, charging large fees to do so. [442] On a visit to Japan, he was well received and given multiple honorary degrees. [443] In 1992, he toured the U.S. in a Forbes private jet to raise money for his foundation. During the trip he met up with the Reagans for a social visit. [443] From there he went to Spain, where he attended the Expo '92 world fair in Seville and met with Prime Minister Felipe González, who had become a friend of his. [444] He further visited Israel and Germany, where he was received warmly by many politicians who praised his role in facilitating German reunification. [445] To supplement his lecture fees and book sales, Gorbachev appeared in commercials such as a television advertisement for Pizza Hut, another for the ÖBB [446] and a photograph advertisement for Louis Vuitton, enabling him to keep the foundation afloat. [447] [448] With his wife's assistance, Gorbachev worked on his memoirs, which were published in Russian in 1995 and in English the following year. [449] He also began writing a monthly syndicated column for The New York Times. [450]

In 1993, Gorbachev launched Green Cross International, which focused on encouraging sustainable futures, and then the World Political Forum. [451]

Gorbachev had promised to refrain from criticizing Yeltsin while the latter pursued democratic reforms, but soon the two men were publicly criticizing each other again. [452] After Yeltsin's decision to lift price caps generated massive inflation and plunged many Russians into poverty, Gorbachev openly criticized him, comparing the reform to Stalin's policy of forced collectivization. [452] After pro-Yeltsin parties did poorly in the 1993 legislative election, Gorbachev called on him to resign. [453] In 1995, his foundation held a conference on "The Intelligentsia and Perestroika". It was there that Gorbachev proposed to the Duma a law that would reduce many of the presidential powers established by Yeltsin's 1993 constitution. [454] Gorbachev continued to defend perestroika but acknowledged that he had made tactical errors as Soviet leader. [451] While he still believed that Russia was undergoing a process of democratization, he concluded that it would take decades rather than years, as he had previously thought. [455]

In contrast to her husband's political activities, Raisa had focused on campaigning for children's charities. [456] In 1997, she founded a sub-division of the Gorbachev Foundation known as Raisa Maksimovna's Club to focus on improving women's welfare in Russia. [457] The Foundation had initially been housed in the former Social Science Institute building, but Yeltsin introduced limits to the number of rooms it could use there [458] the American philanthropist Ted Turner then donated over $1 million to enable the foundation to build new premises on the Leningradsky Prospekt. [459] In 1999, Gorbachev made his first visit to Australia, where he gave a speech to the country's parliament. [460] Shortly after, in July, Raisa was diagnosed with leukemia. With the assistance of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, she was transferred to a cancer center in Münster, Germany and there underwent chemotherapy. [461] In September she fell into a coma and died. [222] After Raisa's passing, Gorbachev's daughter Irina and his two granddaughters moved into his Moscow home to live with him. [462] When questioned by journalists, he said that he would never remarry. [450]

1996 presidential campaign Edit

The Russian presidential elections were scheduled for June 1996, and although his wife and most of his friends urged him not to run, Gorbachev decided to do so. [463] He hated the idea that the election would result in a run-off between Yeltsin and Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation candidate whom Yeltsin saw as a Stalinist hardliner. He never expected to win outright but thought a centrist bloc could be formed around either himself or one of the other candidates with similar views, such as Grigory Yavlinsky, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, or Alexander Lebed. [464] After securing the necessary one million signatures of nomination, he announced his candidacy in March. [465] Launching his campaign, he traveled across Russia giving rallies in twenty cities. [465] He repeatedly faced anti-Gorbachev protesters, while some pro-Yeltsin local officials tried to hamper his campaign by banning local media from covering it or by refusing him access to venues. [466] In the election, Gorbachev came seventh with circa 386,000 votes, or around 0.5% of the total. [467] Yeltsin and Zyuganov went through to the second round, where the former was victorious. [467]

Promoting social democracy in Putin's Russia: 1999–2008 Edit

In December 1999, Yeltsin resigned and was succeeded by his deputy, Vladimir Putin, who then won the March 2000 presidential election. [468] Gorbachev attended Putin's inauguration ceremony in May, the first time he had entered the Kremlin since 1991. [469] Gorbachev initially welcomed Putin's rise, seeing him as an anti-Yeltsin figure. [451] Although he spoke out against some of the Putin government's actions, Gorbachev also had praise for the new government in 2002, he said that "I've been in the same skin. That's what allows me to say what [Putin's] done is in the interest of the majority". [470] At the time, he believed Putin to be a committed democrat who nevertheless had to use "a certain dose of authoritarianism" to stabilize the economy and rebuild the state after the Yeltsin era. [469] At Putin's request, Gorbachev became co-chair of the "Petersburg Dialogue" project between high-ranking Russians and Germans. [468]

In 2000, Gorbachev helped form the Russian United Social Democratic Party. [471] In June 2002 he participated in a meeting with Putin, who praised the venture, suggesting that a center-left party could be good for Russia and that he would be open to working with it. [470] In 2003, Gorbachev's party merged with the Social Democratic Party to form the Social Democratic Party of Russia, [471] which faced much internal division and failed to gain traction with voters. [471] Gorbachev resigned as party leader in May 2004 following a disagreement with the party's chairman over the direction taken in the 2003 election campaign. The party was later banned in 2007 by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation due to its failure to establish local offices with at least 500 members in the majority of Russian regions, which is required by Russian law for a political organization to be listed as a party. [472] Later that year, Gorbachev founded a new movement, the Union of Social Democrats. Stating that it would not contest the forthcoming elections, Gorbachev declared: "We are fighting for power, but only for power over people's minds". [473]

Gorbachev was critical of U.S. hostility to Putin, arguing that the U.S. government "doesn't want Russia to rise" again as a global power and wants "to continue as the sole superpower in charge of the world". [474] More broadly, Gorbachev was critical of U.S. policy following the Cold War, arguing that the West had attempted to "turn [Russia] into some kind of backwater". [475] He rejected the idea – expressed by Bush – that the U.S. had "won" the Cold War, arguing that both sides had cooperated to end the conflict. [475] He claimed that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S., rather than cooperating with Russia, had conspired to build a "new empire headed by themselves". [476] He was critical of how the U.S. had expanded NATO right up to Russia's borders despite their initial assurances that they would not do so, citing this as evidence that the U.S. government could not be trusted. [475] [477] He spoke out against the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia because it lacked UN backing, as well as the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. [475] In June 2004 Gorbachev nevertheless attended Reagan's state funeral, [478] and in 2007 visited New Orleans to see the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. [479]

Growing criticism of Putin and foreign policy remarks: since 2008 Edit

Barred by the constitution from serving more than two consecutive terms as president, Putin stood down in 2008 and was succeeded by his Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who reached out to Gorbachev in ways that Putin had not. [474] In September 2008, Gorbachev and business oligarch Alexander Lebedev announced they would form the Independent Democratic Party of Russia, [480] and in May 2009 Gorbachev announced that the launch was imminent. [481] After the outbreak of the 2008 South Ossetia war between Russia and South Ossetian separatists on one side and Georgia on the other, Gorbachev spoke out against U.S. support for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and for moving to bring the Caucasus into the sphere of its national interest. [482] [483] Gorbachev nevertheless remained critical of Russia's government and criticized the 2011 parliamentary elections as being rigged in favor of the governing party, United Russia, and called for them to be re-held. [484] After protests broke out in Moscow over the election, Gorbachev praised the protesters. [484]

In 2009, Gorbachev released Songs for Raisa, an album of Russian romantic ballads, sung by him and accompanied by musician Andrei Makarevich, to raise money for a charity devoted to his late wife. [485] That year he also met with U.S. President Barack Obama in efforts to "reset" strained U.S.-Russian relations, [486] and attended an event in Berlin commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. [487] In 2011, an eightieth birthday gala for him was held at London's Royal Albert Hall, featuring tributes from Simon Peres, Lech Wałęsa, Michel Rocard, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Proceeds from the event went to the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation. [488] That year, Medvedev awarded him the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the First-Called. [484]

In 2012, Putin announced that he was standing again as president, something Gorbachev was critical of. [489] [490] [491] He complained that Putin's new measures had "tightened the screws" on Russia and that the president was trying to "completely subordinate society", adding that United Russia now "embodied the worst bureaucratic features of the Soviet Communist party". [489]

Gorbachev was in increasingly poor health in 2011, he had spinal operation and in 2014 oral surgery. [484] In 2015, Gorbachev ceased his pervasive international traveling. [492] He continued to speak out on issues affecting Russia and the world. In 2014, he defended the Crimean status referendum that led to Russia's annexation of Crimea. [475] He noted that while Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, when both were part of the Soviet Union, the Crimean people had not been asked at the time, whereas in the 2014 referendum they had. [493] After sanctions were placed on Russia as a result of the annexation, Gorbachev spoke out against them. [494] His comments led to Ukraine banning him from entering the country for five years. [495]

At a November 2014 event marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev warned that the ongoing war in Donbas had brought the world to the brink of a new cold war, and he accused Western powers, particularly the U.S., of adopting an attitude of "triumphalism" towards Russia. [497] [498] In July 2016, Gorbachev criticized NATO for deploying more troops to Eastern Europe amid escalating tensions between the military alliance and Russia. [499] In June 2018, he welcomed the 2018 Russia–United States summit between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, [500] although in October criticized Trump's threat to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying the move "is not the work of a great mind." He added: "all agreements aimed at nuclear disarmament and the limitation of nuclear weapons must be preserved for the sake of life on Earth." [501]

After the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, Gorbachev claimed that "The storming of the capitol was clearly planned in advance, and it's obvious by whom." He did not clarify to whom he was referring. Gorbachev also questioned the United States' continued existence as a nation. [502] [503]

In an interview with Russian news agency TASS on 20 January, Gorbachev said that relations between the United States and Russia are of "great concern", and called on U.S. President Joe Biden to begin talks with the Kremlin in order to make the two countries' "intentions and actions clearer" and "in order to normalize relations." [504]

— Gorbachev biographer William Taubman, 2017 [471]

According to his university friend Zdeněk Mlynář, in the early 1950s "Gorbachev, like everyone else at the time, was a Stalinist." [505] Mlynář noted, however, that unlike most other Soviet students, Gorbachev did not view Marxism simply as "a collection of axioms to be committed to memory." [506] Biographers Doder and Branson related that after Stalin's death, Gorbachev's "ideology would never be doctrinal again", [507] but noted that he remained "a true believer" in the Soviet system. [508] Doder and Branson noted that at the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in 1986, Gorbachev was seen to be an orthodox Marxist–Leninist [509] that year, the biographer Zhores Medvedev stated that "Gorbachev is neither a liberal nor a bold reformist". [510]

By the mid-1980s, when Gorbachev took power, many analysts were arguing that the Soviet Union was declining to the status of a Third World country. [511] In this context, Gorbachev argued that the Communist Party had to adapt and engage in creative thinking much as Lenin had creatively interpreted and adapted the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to the situation of early 20th century Russia. [512] For instance, he thought that rhetoric about global revolution and overthrowing the bourgeoisie—which had been integral to Leninist politics—had become too dangerous in an era where nuclear warfare could obliterate humanity. [513] He began to move away from the Marxist–Leninist belief in class struggle as the engine of political change, instead viewing politics as a ways of co-ordinating the interests of all classes. [514] However, as Gooding noted, the changes that Gorbachev proposed were "expressed wholly within the terms of Marxist-Leninist ideology". [515]

According to Doder and Branson, Gorbachev also wanted to "dismantle the hierarchical military society at home and abandon the grand-style, costly, imperialism abroad". [516] However, Jonathan Steele argued that Gorbachev failed to appreciate why the Baltic nations wanted independence and "at heart he was, and remains, a Russian imperialist." [517] Gooding thought that Gorbachev was "committed to democracy", something marking him out as different from his predecessors. [518] Gooding also suggested that when in power, Gorbachev came to see socialism not as a place on the path to communism, but a destination in itself. [519]

Gorbachev's political outlook was shaped by the 23 years he served as a party official in Stavropol. [520] Doder and Branson thought that throughout most of his political career prior to becoming General Secretary, "his publicly expressed views almost certainly reflected a politician's understanding of what should be said, rather than his personal philosophy. Otherwise he could not have survived politically." [521] Like many Russians, Gorbachev sometimes thought of the Soviet Union as being largely synonymous with Russia and in various speeches described it as "Russia" in one incident he had to correct himself after calling the USSR "Russia" while giving a speech in Kyiv, Ukraine. [520]

McCauley noted that perestroika was "an elusive concept", one which "evolved and eventually meant something radically different over time." [522] McCauley stated that the concept originally referred to "radical reform of the economic and political system" as part of Gorbachev's attempt to motivate the labor force and make management more effective. [523] It was only after initial measures to achieve this proved unsuccessful that Gorbachev began to consider market mechanisms and co-operatives, albeit with the state sector remaining dominant. [523] The political scientist John Gooding suggested that had the perestroika reforms succeeded, the Soviet Union would have "exchanged totalitarian controls for milder authoritarian ones" although not become "democratic in the Western sense". [518] With perestroika, Gorbachev had wanted to improve the existing Marxist–Leninist system but ultimately ended up destroying it. [524] In this, he brought an end to state socialism in the Soviet Union and paved the way for a transition to liberal democracy. [525]

Taubman nevertheless thought Gorbachev remained a socialist. [526] He described Gorbachev as "a true believer—not in the Soviet system as it functioned (or didn't) in 1985 but in its potential to live up to what he deemed its original ideals." [526] He added that "until the end, Gorbachev reiterated his belief in socialism, insisting that it wasn't worthy of the name unless it was truly democratic." [527] As Soviet leader, Gorbachev believed in incremental reform rather than a radical transformation [528] he later referred to this as a "revolution by evolutionary means". [528] Doder and Branson noted that over the course of the 1980s, his thought underwent a "radical evolution". [529] Taubman noted that by 1989 or 1990, Gorbachev had transformed into a social democrat. [471] McCauley suggested that by at least June 1991 Gorbachev was a "post-Leninist", having "liberated himself" from Marxism–Leninism. [530] After the fall of the Soviet Union, the newly formed Communist Party of the Russian Federation would have nothing to do with him. [531] However, in 2006, he expressed his continued belief in Lenin's ideas: "I trusted him then and I still do". [526] He claimed that "the essence of Lenin" was a desire to develop "the living creative activity of the masses". [526] Taubman believed that Gorbachev identified with Lenin on a psychological level. [532]

Reaching an adult height of 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 m), [534] Gorbachev has a distinctive port-wine stain on the top of his head. [535] By 1955 his hair was thinning, [536] and by the late 1960s he was bald. [537] Throughout the 1960s he struggled against obesity and dieted to control the problem [87] Doder and Branson characterized him as "stocky but not fat". [534] He speaks in a southern Russian accent, [538] and is known to sing both folk and pop songs. [539]

Throughout his life, he tried to dress fashionably. [540] Having an aversion to hard liquor, [541] he drank sparingly and did not smoke. [542] He was protective of his private life and avoided inviting people to his home. [115] Gorbachev cherished his wife, [543] who in turn was protective of him. [106] He was an involved parent and grandparent. [544] He sent his daughter, his only child, to a local school in Stavropol rather than to a school set aside for the children of party elites. [545] Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Soviet administration, he was not a womanizer and was known for treating women respectfully. [82]

Gorbachev was baptized Russian Orthodox and when he was growing up, his grandparents had been practicing Christians. [546] In 2008, there was some press speculation that he was a practicing Christian after he visited the tomb of St Francis of Assisi, to which he publicly clarified that he was an atheist. [547] Since studying at university, Gorbachev considered himself an intellectual [35] Doder and Branson thought that "his intellectualism was slightly self-conscious", [548] noting that unlike most Russian intelligentsia, Gorbachev was not closely connected "to the world of science, culture, the arts, or education". [549] When living in Stavropol he and his wife collected hundreds of books. [550] Among his favorite authors were Arthur Miller, Dostoevsky, and Chinghiz Aitmatov, while he also enjoyed reading detective fiction. [551] He enjoyed going for walks, [552] having a love of natural environments, [553] and was also a fan of association football. [554] He favored small gatherings where the assembled discussed topics like art and philosophy rather than the large, alcohol-fueled parties common among Soviet officials. [555]

Personality Edit

Gorbachev's university friend, Mlynář, described him as "loyal and personally honest". [556] He was self-confident, [557] polite, [542] and tactful [542] he had a happy and optimistic temperament. [558] He used self-deprecating humour, [559] and sometimes profanities, [559] and often referred to himself in the third person. [560] He was a skilled manager, [82] and had a good memory. [561] A hard worker or workaholic, [562] as General Secretary, he would rise at 7 or 8 in the morning and not go to bed until 1 or 2. [563] Taubman called him "a remarkably decent man" [543] he thought Gorbachev to have "high moral standards". [564]

Zhores Medvedev thought him a talented orator, in 1986 stating that "Gorbachev is probably the best speaker there has been in the top Party echelons" since Leon Trotsky. [565] Medvedev also considered Gorbachev "a charismatic leader", something Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko had not been. [566] Doder and Branson called him "a charmer capable of intellectually seducing doubters, always trying to co-opt them, or at least blunt the edge of their criticism". [567] McCauley thought Gorbachev displayed "great tactical skill" in maneuvering successfully between hardline Marxist–Leninists and liberalisers for most of his time as leader, although added that he was "much more skilled at tactical, short-term policy than strategic, long-term thinking", in part because he was "given to making policy on the hoof". [568]

Doder and Branson thought Gorbachev "a Russian to the core, intensely patriotic as only people living in the border regions can be." [520] Taubman also noted that the former Soviet leader has a "sense of self-importance and self-righteousness" as well as a "need for attention and admiration" which grated on some of his colleagues. [564] He was sensitive to personal criticism and easily took offense. [569] Colleagues were often frustrated that he would leave tasks unfinished, [570] and sometimes also felt underappreciated and discarded by him. [571] Biographers Doder and Branson thought that Gorbachev was "a puritan" with "a proclivity for order in his personal life". [572] Taubman noted that he was "capable of blowing up for calculated effect". [573] He also thought that by 1990, when his domestic popularity was waning, Gorbachev become "psychologically dependent on being lionized abroad", a trait for which he was criticized in the Soviet Union. [574] McCauley was of the view that "one of his weaknesses was an inability to foresee the consequences of his actions". [575]

Opinions on Gorbachev are deeply divided. [560] According to a 2017 survey carried out by the independent institute Levada Center, 46% of Russians citizens have a negative opinion towards Gorbachev, 30% are indifferent, while only 15% have a positive opinion. [576] Many, particularly in Western countries, see him as the greatest statesman of the second half of the 20th century. [577] U.S. press referred to the presence of "Gorbymania" in Western countries during the late 1980s and early 1990s, as represented by large crowds that turned out to greet his visits, [578] with Time magazine naming him its "Man of the Decade" in the 1980s. [579] In the Soviet Union itself, opinion polls indicated that Gorbachev was the most popular politician from 1985 through to late 1989. [580] For his domestic supporters, Gorbachev was seen as a reformer trying to modernise the Soviet Union, [581] and to build a form of democratic socialism. [582] Taubman characterized Gorbachev as "a visionary who changed his country and the world—though neither as much as he wished." [583] Taubman regarded Gorbachev as being "exceptional. as a Russian ruler and a world statesman", highlighting that he avoided the "traditional, authoritarian, anti-Western norm" of both predecessors like Brezhnev and successors like Putin. [584] McCauley thought that in allowing the Soviet Union to move away from Marxism–Leninism, Gorbachev gave the Soviet people "something precious, the right to think and manage their lives for themselves", with all the uncertainty and risk that that entailed. [585]

— Gorbachev biographer William Taubman, 2017 [583]

Gorbachev's negotiations with the U.S. helped bring an end to the Cold War and reduced the threat of nuclear conflict. [583] His decision to allow the Eastern Bloc to break apart prevented significant bloodshed in Central and Eastern Europe as Taubman noted, this meant that the "Soviet Empire" ended in a far more peaceful manner than the British Empire several decades before. [583] Similarly, under Gorbachev, the Soviet Union broke apart without falling into civil war, as happened during the breakup of Yugoslavia at the same time. [586] McCauley noted that in facilitating the merger of East and West Germany, Gorbachev was "a co-father of German unification", assuring him long-term popularity among the German people. [587]

He also faced domestic criticism during his rule. During his career, Gorbachev attracted the admiration of some colleagues, but others came to hate him. [564] Across society more broadly, his inability to reverse the decline in the Soviet economy brought discontent. [588] Liberals thought he lacked the radicalism to really break from Marxism–Leninism and establish a free market liberal democracy. [589] Conversely, many of his Communist Party critics thought his reforms were reckless and threatened the survival of Soviet socialism [590] some believed he should have followed the example of China's Communist Party and restricted himself to economic rather than governmental reforms. [591] Many Russians saw his emphasis on persuasion rather than force as a sign of weakness. [527]

For much of the Communist Party nomenklatura, the Soviet Union's dissolution was disastrous as it resulted in their loss of power. [592] In Russia, he is widely despised for his role in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic collapse. [560] General Varennikov, one of those who orchestrated the 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev, for instance called him "a renegade and traitor to your own people". [454] Many of his critics attacked him for allowing the Marxist–Leninist governments across Eastern Europe to fall, [593] and for allowing a reunited Germany to join NATO, something they deem to be contrary to Russia's national interest. [594]

The historian Mark Galeotti stressed the connection between Gorbachev and his predecessor, Andropov. In Galeotti's view, Andropov was "the godfather of the Gorbachev revolution", because—as a former head of the KGB—he was able to put forward the case for reform without having his loyalty to the Soviet cause questioned, an approach that Gorbachev was able to build on and follow through with. [595] According to McCauley, Gorbachev "set reforms in motion without understanding where they could lead. Never in his worst nightmare could he have imagined that perestroika would lead to the destruction of the Soviet Union". [596]

Orders, decorations, and honors Edit

In 1988, India awarded Gorbachev the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development [597] in 1990, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize for "his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community". [598] Out of office he continued to receive honors. In 1992, he was the first recipient of the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, [599] and in 1994 was given the Grawemeyer Award by the University of Louisville, Kentucky. [600] In 1995, he was awarded the Grand-Cross of the Order of Liberty by Portuguese President Mário Soares, [601] and in 1998 the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. [602] In 2000, he was presented with the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement at an awards ceremony at Hampton Court Palace near London. [603] In 2002, Gorbachev received the Freedom of the City of Dublin from Dublin City Council. [604]

In 2002, Gorbachev was awarded the Charles V Prize by the European Academy of Yuste Foundation. [605] Gorbachev, together with Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren, were awarded the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for their recording of Sergei Prokofiev's 1936 Peter and the Wolf for Pentatone. [606] In 2005, Gorbachev was awarded the Point Alpha Prize for his role in supporting German reunification. [607]

Year Title Co-author Publisher
1996 Memoirs Doubleday
2005 Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on Buddhism and Communism Daisaku Ikeda I. B. Tauris
2016 The New Russia Polity
2018 In a Changing World
2020 What Is at Stake Now: My Appeal for Peace and Freedom Polity
    – Soviet crackdown on Georgian protests in 1989 – Soviet crackdown on Azerbaijani protests in 1990 – former Gorbachev advisor on the United States and Canada
  1. ^ Briefly suspended from 19 to 21 August 1991 during the August Coup.
  2. ^De facto until 21 August 1991 de jure until 4 September.
  3. ^ This post was abolished on 25 December 1991 and powers were transferred to Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia. Functions of the presidency were succeeded by the Council of Heads of State and the Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
  4. ^ On 14 March 1990, the provision on the CPSU monopoly on power was removed from Article 6 of the Constitution of the USSR. Thus, in the Soviet Union, a multi-party system was officially allowed and the CPSU ceased to be part of the state apparatus.
  5. ^ Himself as the Chairman of the United Social Democratic Party of Russia until 24 November 2001, and the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Russia until 20 October 2007
  6. ^UK:/ ˈ ɡ ɔːr b ə tʃ ɒ f , ˌ ɡ ɔːr b ə ˈ tʃ ɒ f / , US:/- tʃ ɔː f , - tʃ ɛ f / [1][2][3] Russian: Михаил Сергеевич Горбачёв , tr.Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachyov, IPA:[mʲɪxɐˈil sʲɪrˈɡʲejɪvʲɪtɕ ɡərbɐˈtɕɵf] ( listen )

Citations Edit

  1. ^"Gorbachev". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^"Gorbachev, Mikhail", Oxford Dictionaries, accessed 4 February 2019
  3. ^"Gorbachev". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 4 February 2019 .
  4. ^Medvedev 1986, p. 22 Doder & Branson 1990, p. 1 McCauley 1998, p. 15 Taubman 2017, p. 7.
  5. ^Taubman 2017, p. 10.
  6. ^McCauley 1998, p. 15 Taubman 2017, p. 10.
  7. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 4 McCauley 1998, p. 15 Taubman 2017, p. 7.
  8. ^Taubman 2017, pp. 8–9.
  9. ^Taubman 2017, p. 9.
  10. ^ abMedvedev 1986, p. 22.
  11. ^ abTaubman 2017, p. 16.
  12. ^Taubman 2017, pp. 16, 17.
  13. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 1 Taubman 2017, p. 7.
  14. ^McCauley 1998, p. 15 Taubman 2017, pp. 12–13.
  15. ^Taubman 2017, p. 14.
  16. ^McCauley 1998, p. 16 Taubman 2017, p. 7.
  17. ^McCauley 1998, pp. 15–16 Taubman 2017, pp. 7, 8.
  18. ^Taubman 2017, pp. 18–19.
  19. ^Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 5–6 McCauley 1998, p. 17 Taubman 2017, pp. 7, 20–22.
  20. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 5 McCauley 1998, p. 17 Taubman 2017, pp. 8, 26–27.
  21. ^Taubman 2017, p. 27.
  22. ^Taubman 2017, pp. 9, 27–28.
  23. ^Taubman 2017, pp. 29–30.
  24. ^Taubman 2017, pp. 8, 28–29.
  25. ^Taubman 2017, p. 30.
  26. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 7 McCauley 1998, p. 18 Taubman 2017, p. 32.
  27. ^Taubman 2017, p. 32.
  28. ^McCauley 1998, p. 18 Taubman 2017, p. 34.
  29. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 6 McCauley 1998, p. 18 Taubman 2017, pp. 8, 34.
  30. ^ abTaubman 2017, p. 42.
  31. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 6, 8 McCauley 1998, p. 18 Taubman 2017, pp. 40–41.
  32. ^Medvedev 1986, p. 35.
  33. ^Taubman 2017, p. 43.
  34. ^Taubman 2017, p. 50.
  35. ^ abTaubman 2017, p. 44.
  36. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 14 Taubman 2017, p. 48.
  37. ^Taubman 2017, p. 53.
  38. ^Taubman 2017, p. 52.
  39. ^McCauley 1998, p. 19 Taubman 2017, pp. 45, 52.
  40. ^Doder & Branson 1990, p. 10 McCauley 1998, p. 19 Taubman 2017, p. 46.
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  42. ^McCauley 1998, p. 19 Taubman 2017, p. 46.
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Sources and further reading Edit

  • Bhattacharya, Jay Gathmann, Christina Miller, Grant (2013). "The Gorbachev Anti-Alcohol Campaign and Russia's Mortality Crisis". American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. 5 (2): 232–260. doi:10.1257/app.5.2.232. JSTOR43189436. PMC3818525 . PMID24224067.
  • Bunce, Valerie (1992). "On Gorbachev". The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review. 19 (1): 199–206. doi:10.1163/187633292X00108.
  • Doder, Dusko Branson, Louise (1990). Gorbachev: Heretic in the Kremlin. London: Futura. ISBN978-0708849408 .
  • Galeotti, Mark (1997). Gorbachev and his Revolution. London: Palgrave. ISBN978-0333638552 .
  • Gooding, John (1990). "Gorbachev and Democracy". Soviet Studies. 42 (2): 195–231. doi:10.1080/09668139008411864. JSTOR152078.
  • Kotkin, Stephen. Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 (2nd ed. 2008) excerpt
  • McCauley, Martin (1998). Gorbachev . Profiles in Power. London and New York: Longman. ISBN978-0582215979 .
  • McHugh, James T. "Last of the enlightened despots: A comparison of President Mikhail Gorbachev and Emperor Joseph II." Social Science Journal 32.1 (1995): 69-85 online abstract .
  • Medvedev, Zhores (1986). Gorbachev. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ISBN978-0393023084 .
  • Steele, Jonathan (1996). "Why Gorbachev Failed". New Left Review. 216: 141–152.
  • Tarschys, Daniel (1993). "The Success of a Failure: Gorbachev's Alcohol Policy, 1985–88". Europe-Asia Studies. 45 (1): 7–25. doi:10.1080/09668139308412074. JSTOR153247.
  • Taubman, William (2017). Gorbachev: His Life and Times. New York City: Simon and Schuster. ISBN978-1471147968 .

Interviews and articles Edit

    (PBS interview), April 2001 – October 2005 – interview by The Nation, September 2009 – Russia Beyond, March 2010 – article by Mikhail Gorbachev published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 2011

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