Late Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was a good, well-meaning man who ended the Cold War and dramatically reduced superpower and global nuclear tensions, but he put too much trust into the unwritten assurances of American leaders, experts told Sputnik.
Gorbachev died on Tuesday at the age of 91 in Moscow after a long and serious illness, according to the Central Clinical Hospital. He will be laid to rest at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow after a public farewell ceremony on Saturday.
Former US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Chas Freeman paid tribute to Gorbachev’s monumental achievement in easing global tensions and ensuring superpower peace for decades.
“Until his death, he was the most consequential of all living persons,” Freeman said.
Global anti-nuclear campaigner Dr. Helen Caldicott, founder of Nobel Peace Prize winning Physicians said Gorbachev had far greater vision and determination to abolish nuclear weapons than his US counterparts.
“A global hero died [on Tuesday]. A man who liaised with [then-US president Ronald] Reagan who brought the Cold War to an end and was one of the wisest men, if not the wisest, of this last century,” she said.
Unfortunately, when the two leaders met in Reykjavik, Iceland in October 1986 and almost agreed to abolish nuclear weapons, Reagan insisted on keeping Star Wars, the US-space-based weapons systems, Caldicott recalled.
“Gorbachev opposed this notion, so we still have our lives hanging by a thread, rapidly approaching global annihilation,” she said.
Gorbachev was also opposed to the eastward expansion of NATO in the 30 years following the end of the Soviet Union, Caldicott pointed out. A halt on NATO expansion east of the Oder River and the eastern-most border of Germany had been promised by then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III in the George Herbert Walker Bush administration, she noted.
However, this pledge was “subsequently violated by the great United States of America, hence the murderous mess in the Ukraine [today],” Caldicott commented.
American University in Moscow President Edward Lozansky agreed that Gorbachev was a good man who sought international global security and cooperation for all, especially for the Russian and American peoples, but that he was naive in trusting the assurances of successive US leaders.
“Gorbachev was a good man who clearly saw the mountains of problems in… the Soviet Union but naively expected America’s help in solving them,” he said.
In his vision which Gorbachev presented to Washington he saw this help not as a charity but an investment in the future, involving both mutually beneficial security and economic cooperation, Lozansky explained.
“Taking into account Russia’s enormous natural riches, its huge nuclear arsenal and human capital, that cooperation being performed in an honest way would definitely be good for everyone and prevent many problems that America faces today,” he pointed out.
However, the Washington establishment has chosen another way, Lozansky observed.
“The words they used were nice, and being a naive dreamer Gorbachev trusted them, forgetting Russia’s and Reagan favorite proverb ‘trust but verify.’ As it turned out, the deeds were quite opposite. As a result, a good man was deceived by the West and despised at home,” he said.
Nevertheless, Gorbachev will rank high in the annals of the world, Lozansky concluded.
“Still. I believe that his historical legacy will place him in the ranks of the righteous,” he said.
California State University Political Science Professor Beau Grosscup agreed that Gorbachev had courageously approved enormous constructive changes even at the cost of his own standing and career.
“By allowing a reunited Germany to join NATO, his dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and his policy of encouraging Eastern/Central [European Soviet] allies to develop their own policies, Mikhail Gorbachev was largely responsible for diminishing the rigid tension of the Cold War, at his own personal peril and political career,” he stated.
However, the United States consistently refused to take up the opportunities of friendship and partnership that Gorbachev and his successors offered, Grosscup pointed out.
“Unfortunately for him, the United States has continued its antagonistic posture toward Russia, evidenced by the move up to Russia’s border,” he said.
Gorbachev’s recollections in the following decades since he left office have reflected his failure to nail down any hard public commitment by the United States and its allies to halt NATO expansion to the east, Grosscup acknowledged.
“Gorbachev has given mixed signals on NATO’s aggression, claiming while there was no formal US promise to Russia on NATO expansion, there was an ‘understanding’ NATO wouldn’t threaten Russia’s historic geographical national security interests,” he said.