Today, September 3, 2022, one of the most important statesmen in the 20th century and a man of peace – Mikhail Sergeyevitch Gorbachev (1931-2022) – is put to rest next to his wife, Raisa, in Moscow. And an extraordinary portrait of him on RT, Russia Today.
As is well-known, his legacy is very mixed. He died as a pariah in today’s Russia, accused of having caused the dissolution of the Soviet Union and caused misery with his main reforms of perestroika and glasnost. Believers in old-style Soviet Communism can only hate him.
Next, there are those who emphasise that it is human to err – old Communism never did, right? – and that he was too ‘naive’ and should never have trusted the West. I think that believing in other people’s words and promises – for instance, about never expanding NATO – is not a bad thing. We should, instead, blame those who cynically and deliberately chose to cheat him – such as George Bush the older who told German leader Helmuth Kohl not to do what he had already promised Gorbachev but instead to what the US/NATO world needed and then buy off Gorbachev’s Soviet Union with a few billion Deutsh Mark because the Soviet system could not provide goods in its shops and could not even pay for moving 380 000 Warsaw Pact troops out of East Germany – “You have deep pockets,” Bush told him.
And in 1994 the Clinton administration broke all promises given to Gorbachev – orally – and began NATO’s expansion that has made every president of Russia very dismayed ever since, leading in the final end – and yes, it is complicated – to the present 2nd Cold War and the war between Russia and NATO in Ukraine. See all about it in the TFF Abolish NATO Catalogue just published.
I do respect Russians who have a mixed attitude. I am not able to judge or feel what his time and decisions meant for a Russian citizen. But Gorbachev was not only a Russian leader, he was an actor on the world stage – the main one at the time. It is in that perspective I find it a bit too easy to call a man naive or incompetent who struggles his best with a peaceful revolution at home – and reactionary counter-coup – and a Western NATO world that wanted only to win in the style of the winner takes it all.
Gorbachev’s death is a fine opportunity to discuss why we are where we are today – because the history of that begins with him being a visionary reformer, suggesting a new non-confrontational European peace and security system only to be turned down point after point and never getting any substantial Western aid to succeed with his reform.
I mean, how would NATO survive if there was not someone to call an enemy? Gorbachev wanted to deprive – as it was said at the time – the West of its enemy. It would not have any of that.
There are also those – like myself – who see him as a great statesman and the single most important world leader to dare to attack the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex. There is no doubt that Gorbachev had a long-range – idealistic – vision of a better world, a disarmed world – and that he had the moral courage to engage in serious talks towards getting rid of nuclear weapons. He was, given his position, dwarfing everyone else in that respect before and after him. That, of course you may say, was ‘naive’ in a fundamentally militarised world and time such as ours.
He was also an uncorrupted person. Like only Gandhi before him, he demolished the system that had catapulted him to the top, did not benefit from it, and did not build a personality cult – he did not have to with his likeable, straightforward and determined personality beaming positive energy. He could never have become the Brezhnev-type of ‘concrete’ Communist. I do not know whether he ever studied Gandhi but his attitude to war and violence was much closer to Gandhi than to, say, Stalin and later Soviet leaders and all US presidents and NATO Secretaries-General.
I would venture as far as to say: It is thanks to ‘Gorbi’ that we are still alive today. When he saw his system crumble and the Soviet Empire fall, he could have started one or more wars on the Warsaw Pact members and thrown nuclear weapons around on NATO members – going down with a Band rather than a Whimper.
In this very-very interesting article, Gorbachev writes how awful he thought it was to be forced to be faced 24/7 with the responsibility of deciding whether or not to use nuclear weapons thanks to the black box always close to him.
Which president of a nuclear state would be able to – honestly – write such an article today?
No one. Gorbachev was a moral person.
Immediately after his death was announced, I wrote this on various social media:
“Mikhail Gorbachev has died: Remembering a warm-hearted and generous man
The man who was cheated by Western leaders but dwarfed them both intellectually and morally back then – and way more those of today – has died.
Probably the last real statesman for whom peace was the most important goal. He (and people around him of course) masterminded the biggest opportunity for global peace. NATO wanted victory, took it all. And lost.
I salute him and his historical vision. It was brilliant and had to be destroyed by lesser minds and hearts. And somehow I feel grateful that he won’t see the present NATO-Russia catastrophe to the end.
This is a beautifully written article by BBC’s Steve Rosenberg – I have the interview he quotes from in the booklet I just wrote – the TFF Abolish NATO Catalogue.”
And I accompanied it with this touching, personal article and videos by BBC’s Steve Rosenberg.
I must add that the way the West treated him – how he was cheated – is central in a couple of chapters in the mentioned Abolish NATO Catalogue that I published just a couple of weeks ago. I am happy about that and also included a few recent videos with him. My tribute to a decent visionary for peace.
Gorbachev was the main reason we got rid of Cold War 1. Those days were the greatest political days – in the direction of peace – that I have experienced in my life. NATO and the US in particular are the main reason that we are now far into Cold War 2 – in the direction of more war.
One must be grateful that Gorbachev shall not see the rest. He lived through – suffered through – enough demolition of everything he worked for – and the peace and security he, like many of us, so dearly wanted to see emerge – like the sun rising in the early morning to a new day.
Lesser minds and moral dwarfs did not want that new day. They could not handle it. Neither did – and do – they have a fraction of Gorbachev’s vision, humanity and true desire for less violence and more cooperation in our world. He saw a future with less confrontation while they only want more of it.
He did his part in ending the First Cold War back then. NATO did not. The West has no one who can do similarly what is needed today to end the Second. So what does it mean to be ‘naive’?