On Gorbachev, the world’s last great statesman – IDN-InDepthNews
Point of view of Roberto Savio*
This article was published by More and is republished with permission from the author.
ROME (IDN) — With the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last great statesman, an entire era came to an end.
I had the privilege of working with him as deputy director of the Global Policy Forumthat ‘Gorbi’ had founded in Turin in 2003, with a headquarters agreement with the Piedmont Region.
The Forum brought together personalities from around the world to discuss what was happening. The most important international protagonists would frankly discuss their roles and their mistakes, from Helmut Kohl to François Mitterrand and from Wojciech Jaruzelski to Oscar Arias.
I will never forget a WPF in 2007, during which Gorbachev reminded those present that he had agreed in a meeting with Kohl to withdraw his support for the East German regime in exchange for assurances that the borders of NATO would not be moved beyond a reunited Germany. And Kohl replied, pointing to Giulio Andreotti, who was present, that some were not so enthusiastic about a return to creating Europe’s greatest power, a position shared by Thatcher.
Andreotti said: “I love Germany so much that I’d rather have two”. And the US delegation acknowledged that commitment but complained that US Secretary of State James Baker had been overtaken by the hawks, who wanted to continue expanding NATO and shackling Russia.
Gorbi’s comment was pithy: “Instead of cooperating with a Russia that wanted to continue on a Nordic-style socialist path, you rushed to bring it down and got Boris Yeltsin first, who was conditionally yours.”
But Boris Yeltsin was followed by Vladimir Putin, who began to see things differently.
Gorbachev cooperated with Ronald Reagan to eliminate the Cold War. It is amusing to see American historiography credit Reagan with the historic victory over Communism and the end of the Cold War. But without Gorbachev, the powerful but lackluster Soviet bureaucracy would have continued to resist and arguably lost power. Even if the Berlin Wall would not have fallen, the wave of freedom in socialist Europe would undoubtedly have come after Reagan’s term.
Even more than Reagan, Gorbachev’s will to move forward on the road to peace and disarmament became evident after the 1986 meeting in Reykjavík. Gorbachev proposed to Reagan the total elimination of atomic weapons, and Reagan said that because of the time difference he would consult with Washington later.
When the two men met the next day, Reagan told him that the United States was proposing the elimination of 40% of nuclear warheads. And Gorbachev replied: “If you can’t do anything more, let’s start like this. But I remind you that we can now destroy the planet and humanity hundreds of times over”. Time would prove that disarming nuclear Russia was undoubtedly in the American interest if Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, who went so far as to threaten to resign, had been able to look far ahead.
Yeltsin did everything to humiliate Gorbachev, to replace him. He stripped him of all pensions, of all advantages: bodyguards, state cars, and made him leave the Kremlin in a few hours. But in Putin’s eyes, Gorbachev has practically become an enemy of the people.
The propaganda against him was crude but effective. Gorbachev had presided over the end of the great tragedy of the Soviet Union and believed the West. But the USSR was surrounded by NATO, and Putin saw himself obliged, in the name of history, to recover at least part of the great power that Gorbachev had squandered.
Those who had supported Gorbachev since Yeltsin’s arrival saw how the oldest statesman, who had changed the course of history, suffered deeply from witnessing what was happening. Of course, the press preferred to ignore the deep corruption of the Yeltsin era, which cost the Russian people terrible sacrifices.
Under Yeltsin, a team of American economists issued decrees privatizing the entire Russian economy, with an immediate collapse in the value of the ruble and social services. The average life expectancy fell by ten years in one fell swoop. I had the great impression to discover that my morning breakfast at the hotel cost as much as an average monthly pension. It was deeply saddening to see so many old ladies dressed in black selling their few meager belongings on the street.
At the same time, a few party officials, friends of Yeltsin, bought the large state enterprises put up for sale at a low price.
But how did they manage in a society that had no rich people? Giulietta Chiesa documented it in an investigation in ‘La Stampa’ of Turin.
Under American pressure, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted an emergency loan of five billion dollars (in 1990) to stabilize the dollar. These dollars never reached the Russian Central Bank, and the IMF asked no questions. Future oligarchs shared them and suddenly found that they had become millionaires.
When Yeltsin had to leave power, he looked for a successor who would guarantee him and his cronies impunity.
One of his advisers introduced him to Putin, saying he could tame the uprising in Chechnya. And Putin agreed on one condition: that the oligarchs never get involved in politics. One of them, Khodorkovsky, does not respect the pact and opens a front against Yeltsin. We know his fate: stripped of all his possessions and imprisoned, which was the only appearance of an oligarch in politics.
Gorbachev is the last statesman. With the arrival of the Lega Nord in Turin, the agreement to host the Global Policy Forum was, to their surprise, cancelled. The Forum moved to Luxembourg, then the Italian Foundation in Rome took over some of its (very prescient) activities on environmental issues.
Gorbachev’s right-hand man, Andrei Grachev, spokesperson for Gorbi within the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) and for the transition to democracy, brilliant analyst, moved to Paris, where he was the benchmark for debates on Russia. Gorbi, suffering from diabetes, experienced the war in Ukraine as a personal tragedy: his mother was Ukrainian. He retired to a hospital under close surveillance, where he eventually died. The era of statesmen is over, the era also of the debates of the great protagonists of history.
After Gorbachev, politicians lost the dimension of statesmen. They have gradually fallen back on the requirements of electoral success, on short-term politics, on the shelving of debates of ideas, and are turning more to reason than to the instinct of the voters. Instincts to awaken and conquer, even through a relentless fake news campaign.
It is a school of thought that Trump has managed to export to the world, from the constitutional vote in Chile on September 4, to Jair Bolsonaro, to Bongbong Marcos, to Putin and, consequently, to Volodymyr Zelensky.
And I find myself repressing my bitterness, my disappointment. Not only on the death of one of my mentors (as was Aldo Moro) but on an era that now seems to be definitely over: that of Politics with a capital P, capable of shaking up the world it encountered, with risks and with the major objectives of Peace and International Cooperation.
And to go on to write: Incomfortable truths of which few are aware will be immediately buried by hostile interventions and ridicule. Andrei was right when he told me recently on the phone: “Roberto, my mistake and yours is to have survived our time. Let’s be careful too because we will end up becoming a nuisance…” [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 September 2022]
Original link: https://www.meer.com/en/70671-gorbachev-the-last-statement
*Editor of OtherNews, Italian-Argentinian Roberto Savio is an economist, journalist, communications expert, political commentator, social and climate justice activist and advocate for anti-neoliberal global governance. Director of International Relations of the European Center for Peace and Development. Advisor to INPS-IDN. He co-founded the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and is in the meantime its president emeritus.
Photo: Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022) Ssource: meer
IDN is the flagship agency of the Asbl international press union.
We believe in the free flow of information. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Internationalexcept for articles that are republished with permission.