Paul Craig Roberts -- Guest Column by Mikhail Gorbachev
Paul Craig Roberts -- Guest Column by Mikhail
“Reagan acted out of honest conviction and genuinely
rejected nuclear weapons. Already during my first meeting with him in November
of 1985, we were able to make the most important determination: “Nuclear war
cannot be won and must never be fought.” This sentence combined morals and
politics — two things many consider to be irreconcilable. Unfortunately, the US
has since forgotten the second important point in our joint statement —
according to which neither America nor we will seek to achieve military
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, is an
important historic personage. His liberalizing policies demonstrated that there
were elements within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union who possessed
superior morality to that of some Western leaders. Gorbachev trusted too much
the good side of humans and was betrayed by elements within the Soviet Union
who took advantage of his liberalization to declare independence in behalf of
their own power. Watching Soviet power fall away, hardline communists arrested
Gorbachev in a coup. The result was the rise of Yeltsin who became an
accomplice of the West.
Perhaps it is ironic that it was hardline communists
who collapsed the Soviet Union. The Soviet collapse unleashed the
neoconservative ideology, the most dangerous in history, that America won the
Cold War and is anointed by History to exercise hegemony over the world.
This neoconservative fantasy has renewed the Cold War
and is driving the world to nuclear armageddon.
This interview of Gorbachev by the German magazine, Spiegel,
should be part of your education.
Mikhail Gorbachev: US Military an 'Insurmountable Obstacle to a Nuclear-Free World'
An American nuclear missile facility in Montana:
"This country would enjoy total military supremacy if nuclear weapons were
In a SPIEGEL interview, former Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev discusses morals and politics in the nuclear age, the crisis in
Russian-American relations and his fear that an atomic weapon will some day be
Sergeyevich, during your inaugural speech as general secretary of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985, you warned of nuclear war and called
for the "complete destruction of nuclear weapons and a permanent ban on
them." Did you mean that seriously?
discussion about disarmament had already been going on for too long -- far too
long. I wanted to finally see words followed by action because the arms race
was not only continuing, it was growing ever
more dangerous in terms of the number of weapons and their
destructive capacity. There were tens of thousands of nuclear warheads on
different delivery systems like aircraft, missiles and submarines.
SPIEGEL: Did you feel the Soviet Union
was under threat during the 1980s by the nuclear weapons of NATO member states?
Gorbachev: The situation
was that nuclear missiles were being stationed closer and closer to our
adversary's borders. They were getting increasingly precise and they were also
being aimed at decision-making centers. There were very concrete plans for the
use of these weapons. Nuclear war had become conceivable. And even a technical
error could have caused it to happen. At the same time, disarmament talks were
not getting anywhere. In Geneva, diplomats pored over mountains of paper, drank
wine, and even harder stuff, by the liter. And it was all for nothing.
SPIEGEL: At a meeting of the Warsaw Pact
nations in 1986, you declared that the military doctrine of the Soviet Union
was no longer to plan for the coming war, but rather to seek to prevent
military confrontation with the West. What was the reason behind the shift in
Gorbachev: It was clear to me
that relations with America and the West would be a lasting dead end without
atomic disarmament, with mutual distrust and growing hostility. That is why
nuclear disarmament was the highest priority for Soviet foreign policy.
SPIEGEL: Did you not also
push disarmament forward because of the financial and economic troubles facing
the Soviet Union in the 1980s?
Gorbachev: Of course we
perceived just how great a burden the arms race was on our economy. That did
indeed play a role. It was clear to us that atomic confrontation threatened not
only our people but also all of humanity. We knew only too well the weapons
being discussed, their destructive force and the consequences. The nuclear
catastrophe at Chernobyl provided us with a rather precise idea of what the
consequences of a nuclear war would be. Decisive for us were thus political and
ethical considerations, not economic ones.
SPIEGEL: What was your experience with US
President Ronald Reagan, who many saw as a driving force in the Cold War?
Gorbachev: Reagan acted
out of honest conviction and genuinely rejected nuclear weapons. Already during
my first meeting with him in November of 1985, we were able to make the most
important determination: "Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
This sentence combined morals and politics -- two things many consider to be
irreconcilable. Unfortunately, the US has since forgotten the second important
point in our joint statement -- according to which neither America nor we will
seek to achieve military superiority.
SPIEGEL: Are you
disappointed in the Americans?
Gorbachev: So many decades
pass, but unfortunately some things do not change. Already back in the 1950s,
President Dwight D. Eisenhower stated the problem by its name. The power of the
military-industrial complex continued to be enormous under Reagan and his
successor George Bush. Former US Secretary of State George Shultz told me a few
years ago that only a conservative president like Reagan could have been in a
position to get the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty through the
Senate. Let's not forget that the the "Zero Option" that Reagan
himself proposed (eds. note: the proposal to remove all Soviet and American
intermediate-range nuclear missles from Europe) had many opponents in the
West. They considered it to be a propaganda stunt and they wanted to thwart
Reagan's policies. After the Reykjavik summit in 1986 (eds. note: the
subject of the summit between Reagan and Gorbachev was nuclear disarmament),
Margaret Thatcher declared: We won't be able to handle a second Reykjavik.
SPIEGEL: Did you really
believe at the time that you could achieve a world free of nuclear weapons?
Gorbachev: We not only
proclaimed a nuclear weapons free world as a major goal -- we also named
concrete interim goals. In addition, we aspired to the destruction of chemical
weapons and are now close to achieving that goal. Limiting conventional weapons
was also on our agenda. That was all inextricably linked to a normalization of
our relations. We wanted to move from confrontation to cooperation. We achieved
a lot, which shows that my approach was completely realistic.
SPIEGEL: Many accused you of using your
demand as a tactic to present the Soviet Union as a peace-loving country.
Gorbachev: No, there was
no propaganda at play and it was not tactical. It was important to get away
from the nuclear abyss our countries were marching toward when they stationed
hundreds of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.
SPIEGEL: Why were the
negotiations over intercontinental ballistic missiles so much tougher than
those over intermediate-range missiles?
Gorbachev: In Reykjavik,
Iceland, in October 1986, Reagan and I not only established the framework for
eliminating intermediate-range missiles, but also for halving the number of
intercontinental missiles. But Reagan was up against strong resistance from the
hawks in the US administration. This continued under Bush, so, in the end, we
only finally signed the treaty in summer 1991. With the strategic long-range
weapons there were also technical questions. And then we also had the problem
with the missile defense.
SPIEGEL: You were unable to
convince Reagan to abandon his SDI project, which aimed to create a defensive
shield against nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. Did that upset you?
Gorbachev: Reagan wanted it no
matter what. That's why in Reykjavik we weren't able to turn our agreements on
intercontinental missiles and intermediate-range missiles into treaties. In
order to break the impasse, we offered the Americans concessions and uncoupled
the negotiating package. We agreed on a separate treaty addressing the
intermediate-range missiles. Reagan and I signed it in Washington in December
SPIEGEL: The stationing of
American intermediate-range missiles led to mass demonstrations by the peace
movement in Germany …
Gorbachev: … and Helmut Kohl
then played a very positive role in the establishment of the treaty with the
elimination of the Pershing 1A missiles.
SPIEGEL: The nuclear warhead belonged to
the Americans, but the missiles were German. Kohl declared that the missiles
could be destroyed if the US and Russia came to an agreement on the destruction
of the intermediate-range missiles.
Gorbachev: If Kohl had
not dispensed with them, we would not have signed.
SPIEGEL: Was there actually resistance to
your disarmament policies within the Soviet ruling elite?
Gorbachev: Every member of the
leadership at the time understood the importance of disarmament. All the
leading politicians had experience and a sober view of things. Just think about
Foreign Minister Andrei Gromkyo …
SPIEGEL: … who had the nickname "Mr.
Nyet" in the West because of his hardline negotiating tactics …
Gorbachev: … but like
all the others, he understood how dangerous the arms race was. At the top, we
were united at the time about ending it.
SPIEGEL: How did disarmament treaties
materialize under your leadership?
Gorbachev: The Soviet
Union had a strict and clear system for the preparation of politburo decisions.
They happened through the so-called Five, a committee made up of
representatives from relevant agencies and experts. We took into consideration
the positions of our negotiating partners without jeopardizing the Soviet
Union's state security. The politburo weighed proposals and then issued
directives to our negotiation delegations and also to me, the general secretary
and later president, for summit meetings. That happened prior to Reykjavik in
1986, Washington in 1987 and other meetings. The politburo, in turn, fell back
on proposals from experts, which it then reviewed and discussed.
SPIEGEL: Can the goal of a
nuclear free world still be achieved today?
Gorbachev: It is the
correct goal in any case. Nuclear weapons are unacceptable. The fact that they
can wipe out the entirety of civilization makes them particularly inhumane.
Weapons like this have never existed before in history and they cannot be
allowed to exist. If we do not get rid of them, sooner or later they will be
SPIEGEL: In recent years, a
number of new nuclear powers have emerged.
Gorbachev: That's why we
should not forget that the elimination of nuclear weapons is the obligation of
every country that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Though America and
Russia have by far the largest arsenals at their disposal.
SPIEGEL: What do you think
of the oft-cited theory that mutually assured destruction prevents nuclear wars?
Gorbachev: There's a dangerous
logic in that. Here's another question: If five or 10 countries are allowed to
have nuclear weapons, then why can't 20 or 30? Today, a few dozen countries
have the technical prerequisites to build nuclear weapons. The alternative is
clear: Either we move toward a nuclear-free world or we have to accept that
nuclear weapons will continue to spread, step by step, across the globe. And
can we really imagine a world without nuclear weapons if a single country
amasses so many conventional weapons that its military budget nearly tops that
of all other countries combined? This country would enjoy total military
supremacy if nuclear weapons were abolished.
SPIEGEL: You're talking
about the US?
Gorbachev: You said it. It is
an insurmountable obstacle on the road to a nuclear-free world. That's why we
have to put demilitarization back on the agenda of international politics. This
includes a reduction of military budgets, a moratorium on the development of
new types of weapons and a prohibition on militarizing space. Otherwise, talks
toward a nuclear-free world will be little more than empty words. The world
would then become less safe, more unstable and unpredictable. Everyone will
lose, including those now seeking to dominate the world.
SPIEGEL: Is there a risk of war between
Russia and the West over the crisis in Ukraine?
Gorbachev: We have
reached a crossroads in relations between America and Russia. Many are already talking about a new Cold War. Talks between
both powers over important global problems have practically been put on ice.
That includes the question of nuclear disarmament. Trust, the very capital we
worked so hard to build, has been destroyed.
SPIEGEL: Do you believe there is a danger
of nuclear war?
Gorbachev: I'm very
worried. The current state of things is scary. The nuclear powers still have
thousands of nuclear warheads. Nuclear weapons are still stationed in Europe.
The pace of reducing stockpiles has slowed considerably. We are witnessing the
beginning of a new arms race. The militarization of space is a real danger. The
danger of nuclear proliferation is greater than ever before. The Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force, primarily because the Americans did
not ratify it. This would have been extremely important.
SPIEGEL: Do you think Russia will once
again begin to use its nuclear capablities as a bargaining chip in
Gorbachev: We have to view
everything in context. Unfortunately, formulations have reappeared in the
nuclear powers' military doctrines that represent a relapse to the language
that predated the Soviet-American declaration of 1985. We need a new
declaration, probably from the United Nations Security Council, that reasserts nuclear
war as inadmissible -- it knows no winners.
SPIEGEL: Isn't a world
without nuclear weapons just a nice dream?
Gorbachev: No matter how
difficult the situation is, we must not fall into resignation or panic. In the
mid-1980s, there was no shortage of people who thought the train to atomic hell
was unstoppable. But then we achieved a lot in very short space of time.
Thousands of nuclear warheads were destroyed and several types of nuclear
weapons, such as intermediate-range missiles, were disposed of. We can be proud
of that. We accomplished all that together. It should be a lesson for today's
leaders: for Obama, Putin and Merkel.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Gorbachev, we
thank you for this interview.
About Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev was born in
1931 in the rural locality of Privolnoye in the northern Caucasus. He became a
member of the Soviet Communist Party at the age of 21 and began a career as a
functionary. From 1985 to 1991, he served as the general secretary of the
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the most powerful
man in the country. With his policies of glasnost ("openness") and
perestroika ("restructuring"), he initiated the end of the Soviet
Union and the Cold War. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his
Gorbachev – Biography
Life of Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev was
born on March 2 1931 in Privolnoye, Stavropol territory in the North Caucasus,
to a peasant family in a small village. His father was an agricultural mechanic
on a collective farm. In 1942 at the age of 11 his district was occupied by the
Germans, leading to 3 years of hardship during the Second World War. After
spending time as an agricultural assistant in 1950Mikhail Gorbachevenrolled
as a law student in the University of Moscow. Here at university Mikhail
Gorbachev became a full member of the Soviet Union Communist Party (CPSU). Also
at university Mikhail met and married his life partner Raisa Maximova
his degree in law in 1956 Mikhail made rapid progress within the Communist
Party. By 1970 Mikhail had become the first Secretary for Stavropol territory,
governing an area of 2.4 million people. By 1980 he had been made the youngest
full member of the Politburo. After the death of Chernenko in 1985 M.Gorbachev
was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party a position of enormous
Perestroika and Glasnost
period in office M.Gorbachev introduced several policies which revolutionised
the internal and external affairs of the Soviet Union. Firstly Perestroika or
restructuring involved opening up the Soviet economy to market forces. By 1987
private ownership of business was allowed for the first time since the 1920s.
These reforms came partly out of the inefficiencies Gorbachev had seen in State
controlled agricultural sectors. Due to the large scale inefficiencies within
the Soviet economy the transformation to a market economy has often been a
painful one. However after several years of inflation and falling GDP the
Russian economy has started to stabilise and this policy is generally viewed
favourably by the Russians.
affairs Gorbachev introduced the concept of Glasnost (openness) this was a
distinct break with the authoritarian past of the Soviet Union. Glasnost led to
greater freedom of speech, freedom of worship and a reduction in State control
over individual lives. Many 1000s of political prisoners were released during
Gorbachev’s period in government. Ironically this greater freedom of speech was
used to great effect later by the many critics of Gorbachev within the Soviet
End Of The Cold
In the 1980s the
Soviet economy was struggling due to the inefficiencies of a planned economy
but also the huge sums spent on the arms race. Gorbachev felt the Soviet Union
could no longer afford to spend such great sums on military spending and
therefore sought a reduction the arms. This led to nuclear missile reduction
treaties with America and effectively ended the Cold War which had dominated
international relations since 1945. Western leaders such as R.Reagan, G.Bush
and M.Thatcher spoke warmly of their impressions of this new style Russian
leader. In 1989 the Soviet Army also retreated from Afghanistan, this had
proved a contentious and costly war for the Soviets.
the Brezhnev Doctrine.
Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would no longer follow the Brezhnev
doctrine. The Brezhnev doctrine was formulated in 1968 and was used as a
justification to maintain Communist control over the Warsaw Pact countries.
(This was used during the military termination of the Prague Spring in 1969.)
Effectively Gorbachev gave Eastern European countries the right to pursue their
own political agenda. This more than any other policy had a remarkably quick
and significant effect, drastically changing the European political map.
Starting with Poland, the Eastern European countries experienced generally
peaceful democratic revolutions, with Pro Soviet Communist parties being
replaced by other democratic parties. Most symbolically in 1989 the Berlin Wall
was torn down allowing East and West Germany to reunite. In recognition of
Gorbachev’s role in bringing an end to the cold war he was awarded theNobel Peace Prizein
Break up of
from outside the Soviet Union, Gorbachev had many enemies within the Soviet
Union. On the one hand the Conservatives were alarmed at what they saw as the
break up of the old Soviet Union. They wished to maintain the military and
political power of the old Soviet Union. On the other hand modernisers led by
Boris Yeltsin felt there was need for even quicker change in making the
transition to a market economy. In 1991 Gorbachev was placed under house arrest
by conservative critics, this was known as the August Coup. After 3 days
Gorbachev was released, but on returning to Moscow his power had inexorably
shifted away into the hands of Yeltsin. The Soviet Union and Politburo had
become effetively defunct and Gorbachev resigned as President in 1991.
Gorbachev has made abortive attempts to return to politics but has never been
able to gain significant popular support. Since then he had devoted his
attention to projects such as the Gorbachev Foundation and the Green
Cross International. The Green Cross international is an environmental
organisation dedicated to attempting to solve key environmental problems.
Raisa, the wife
of Gorbachev died of Leukemia in 1999. They had one daughter Irina Gorbachev.