Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev: There is no need to be afraid of negotiations
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has, ahead of his 90th birthday on March 2, given a telephone interview to Interfax special correspondent Vyacheslav Terekhov.
Question: In your opinion, what is the biggest achievement of your political life?
Answer: Of course, the fact that I made up my mind and carried out perestroika. It played the decisive role in the domestic life of Soviet people, just as in the international arena. Primarily, it contributed to nuclear disarmament and the strengthening of security.
Q.: A month has passed since the new president took office in the United States. In your opinion, to what extent could Russia-U.S. relations change?
A.: Our countries have vast experience of answering the question where and how we need to go. Drawing on that experience, it must be understood that many things can be achieved if the wish to achieve disarmament and strengthen security prevails. It's imperative to meet and negotiate and, crucially, to not scowl at each other.
After all, it is clear to everybody that the main task is to avoid nuclear war. But this cannot be accomplished alone, so you have to meet, everybody should be concerned about nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, in this world there are not only those who strive for security and disarmament, but there are quite a few opponents of this process as well.
I believe our presidents certainly must meet. Cast your mind back to U.S. President Reagan: he was the most inveterate conservative before our talks, but he became an active participant in the negotiating process after understanding the issue! There are no hopeless politicians. Of course, there are those who nurture predatory plans and, of course, nothing can be done about them, but, fortunately, they aren't the majority. So I’m convinced that, to achieve progress, it is necessary to meet each other half way.
Q.: As far as I understand, your advice to the Russian and U.S. presidents is to meet and begin negotiations, isn't it?
A.: Naturally. When relations between the USSR and the U.S. were very complicated, I once wrote a letter to Reagan and proposed we meet. As I explained, that was essential because the nuclear disarmament negotiations were getting bogged down. To get them moving again it was necessary to meet at the highest level and negotiate. Two days later, I got a reply from Reagan – 'affirmative.' That was consent to a meeting. As you recall, things got moving.
Q.: Now let us move on, to our own continent. Relations with Europe, with the European Union, are deteriorating sharply. What do you think about this?
A.: We must understand that we all are Europeans and we must draw a conclusion from this. And this means we need to negotiate, we need to try and understand each other.
Q.: But it seems that Western Europe is reluctant to do this?
A.: They are all reluctant at first! It has always been this way. And afterwards, after they sit down at the negotiating table, everything is okay. There is no need to be afraid of negotiations. Only negotiations, only meetings at all levels, especially the highest one, can yield positive results. And experience clearly supports this.
Q.: How will you celebrate your birthday?
A.: I will celebrate it modestly.
Q.: I know there will be many congratulatory phone calls, but hopefully we will be able to meet this year in person to celebrate your birthday.
A.: Such options are being discussed.