Mikhail Gorbachev, upon his recent return from Berlin.
Gorbachev: West 'Resigned' to Crimea's Return to Russia
(Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia)
"I remember the Paris Summit in 1990. Europe offered an
example of how to build a new world order, a new relationship. The Americans - and
Bush senior, talked about it. And I spoke about it. My good friend Pope John
Paul II said at the time that we needed a more equitable world order that was
more humane and safer. … And one wonders how people could object to their own
decisions. It all began with the fact that the United States suddenly started
talking about the creation of a 'new empire.' An over empire,
a super empire. Alas, God and fate had put the task before them. Yes,
they thought that their moment had come."
Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev
KPRU:Before your recent trip to Germany where you celebrated the
25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, you said that when
you were in Europe you would defend Russia’s position on Ukraine.
Gorbachev: Could you
please speak louder and more slowly. Remember you’re talking to an old man!
louder] You went to Germany to defend Russia against Western
Gorbachev: Well I didn’t
actually say that. I went for a holiday. The destruction of the Berlin Wall went
was a major event in history and will remain so forever. It required monumental
change for the wall to come down.
recall on the first day of meetings with leaders of the Warsaw Pact countries I
told them that when it came to the domestic policies of their countries, they
should develop, implement and be responsible for them, and that we would not
interfere in their internal affairs, but that when circumstances related to the
areas of the economy, energy and so on, we would have a say. I saw at that
moment that they all reacted differently.
bit gloomy, one imagines.
Gorbachev: Yes, but they
didn’t express it. I said to them: the Brezhnev Doctrine is
history now. Without that, it would have been impossible for the wall to come
Note: The Brezhnev
Doctrine can be summed up in this sentence: "When forces that are
hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country
towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but
a common problem and concern of all socialist countries."]
historians believe that the collapse of the Union began when the Brezhnev Doctrine
of 'total control over the Eastern bloc' was abandoned.
Gorbachev: I cannot
tolerate hearing that! It drives me crazy! Whether this is said out of irresponsibility
or because of the press or a little of both, I do not know. We are to blame -
we buried the Union. We are to blame. I fought tooth and nail to preserve it. I
wanted the republics to enjoy sovereignty and for their questions to be
answered locally. The Union had to be transformed and democratized. We were
getting to that by preparing new treaties of alliance. ..
you expect that the wall would collapse so quickly?
Gorbachev: In June 1989 I was
on an official visit to Bonn where I met with Chancellor Kohl. When we spoke to
the press, a journalist who looked very much like you asked exactly the same
question: When will it collapse? I said - under certain circumstances there is
a wall, and under other circumstances, it would disappear. I thought it would begin
to fall at the beginning of the 21st century - and Kohl thought so, too ….
why did it happen so quickly?
Gorbachev: Well I was
young, powerful and strong - I went there, pushed it over and that was it [laughs].
It simply came to that - democratic changes were being made in the Soviet
Union, relations with America were restored - and also with China after 35
years of enmity. Finally there was the "Velvet Revolution"
- in Czechoslovakia and Hungary for example. And like lepers the Germans were
sitting there on the other side of the fence. I think that sensation affected
them. And what should we have said to them? Listen, you are to blame for Hitler
starting the Second World War? But that’s not politics. That would have been folly.
All of West
Germany’s demands were met
critics say that Gorbachev didn’t manage many Western concessions from for the
reunification of Germany.
Gorbachev: The Germans met
all of our serious demands. There are still no nuclear weapons or foreign NATO troops
on the territory of the former German Democratic Republic [East Germany]. The
number of soldiers in the Federal Republic of Germany [West Germany] has been
nearly halved, from 600,000 to just over 300,000. But most importantly, we
agreed with the Germans on the signing of the "Big Treaty" [the Two
Plus Fours Agreement]. This was an excellent document. We had all that we
needed in it. For instance, it covered cooperation over the modernization of
industry. That is why to this day, Russia works more than 600 German companies.
Is there something else we should have coaxed out of them with hat in hand?
the non-expansion of NATO to the east?
Gorbachev: How could we have
made such a demand with the Warsaw Pact still in place?! With all this contrived
talk of agreements, one wonders what part you had in arriving at them …
Sergeevich, I don’t participate in coming up with
Gorbachev: Then why are
you sitting there attacking and asking such questions?
have to. This doesn’t only interest me.
Gorbachev: Why? Because it
smells of something, right? When all is said and done, remember this when they
want to say - Gorbachev lost. We didn’t give anything away! If there were
compromises, they were reciprocal. We didn’t prejudice the country. This is all
documented. And the agreements are still being observed.
there nodecisions you would change if
Gorbachev: [Thinks a
while] Perhaps something about in terms of how things were impliented.
But in principle everything was resolved properly.
wrote in an open letter recently that the West considered itself the victor in
the Cold War and this is the root of many of our problems today.
Gorbachev: That is a
question for the West.
Gorbachev:Or do you also consider that I, too, workfor theWest?
Gorbachev: We have a whole
new cohort of jingoists who want to curry favor. I look at some of them who
probably used to good, even solid people, and they’ve been licked clean!
They’re such toadies!
for “feeling like the victors,” I remember the Paris Summit in 1990. Europe offered
an example of how to build a new world order, a new relationship. The Americans
- and Bush senior, talked about it. And I spoke about it. My good friend Pope
John Paul II said at the time that we needed a more equitable world order that
was more humane and safer. … And one wonders how people could object to their
own decisions. It all began with the fact that the United States suddenly started
talking about the creation of a “new empire.” An over empire,
a super empire. Alas, God and fate had put the task before them. Yes,
they thought that their moment had come.
was that the cause of the Ukrainian crisis?
Gorbachev: The reason is
the same – the collapse of the Soviet Union. When we began to discuss the Belavezha
Accords, it was necessary, of course, to return to the problem of Crimea.
[The Belavezha Accords formally dissolved the Soviet
Union and create the Commonwealth of Independent States].
mean the Ukraine crisis should have been resolved by the Belavezha
Gorbachev: Yes, that's
when it should have been decided.
Gorbachev: No - although
he should have. The question hung in the air.
that the time to discuss it?
Gorbachev: Look - for at
least a year we stayed silent about Crimea. Our [naval] fleet
- and Ukraine, weren't going anywhere. We held talks and they agreed. What
else could have happened in territory that for so many centuries Russians had
fought for? Ukraine became a state under Lenin - and before that it was part of
Russia under the czar.
you approve of how events transpired in Crimea?
Gorbachev: I can say I
approve because the people, the Crimeans, were almost unanimously in favor.
Even I didn’t expect that, since so much had happened …
what about international law?
Gorbachev: When the Soviet
Union collapsed, where was international law? When it broke up, did the West
trust us? All right then. Let them continue not to interfere.
The last leader of the USSR, Mikhail
Gorbachev, leaves his handprints
for a memorial to the fall
of the Berlin wall, during celebrations marking
the 25th anniversary of the event,
Germany you met with [Chancellor] Merkel? Does she understand your position?
Gorbachev: I won’t tell
you before I have spoken to the president [Putin].
everyone knows that you met Merkel.
Gorbachev: But nobody
knows what happened at the meeting.
do you see a compromise between the West and Moscow on the Ukrainian question?
Gorbachev: There isn’t one
yet, but it is still quite possible. I think both Russia and the whole of Europe
will lose if the question isn’t resolved. Then responsibility will fall on all
of the current leaders.
the West accept Crimea becoming Russian?
Gorbachev: I think so,
yes. I think they are already resigned to it.
will a new wall be built along the border between Russia and Ukraine?
Gorbachev: That’s nonsense.
Let them dig ditches if they want. Someone will end up being unnecessarily buried.
contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall. But now a new one is being erected.
Gorbachev: [Nods head] Who isn’t disappointed? Such efforts were made … (thinks).Many dangerous currents emerged, groups
around presidents, and governments.
Gorbachev: Worse. People who are radicals. In Ukraine they opened fire on
Donetsk Airport and completely destroyed it. They’re closing the mines. What
will be ruined they don’t know. Then Europe will raise money for Ukrainians to
buy firewood. Incidentally, they’ve been chopping trees down near my home. I’m
not sure why. A whole forest of lumber is lying there. Perhaps it's for Ukraine?
they greatly surprised in the West that you were defending the Kremlin and
Gorbachev: I defend the
truth - and the truth in this instance is that Crimea shouldn’t be separated from
Russia. It’s a child of our country. We’re not trying to recreate the USSR. We
wouldn’t be able to - and we don’t need to.