Gorbachev Interview: ‘I Am Truly and Deeply Concerned’
Interview Conducted by Matthias Schepp and Britta Sandberg
SPIEGEL: Do you think it is possible there could be another major war in Europe?
Gorbachev: Such a scenario shouldn’t even be considered. Such a war today would inevitably lead to a nuclear war. But the statements from both sides and the propaganda lead me to fear the worst. If one side loses its nerves in this inflamed atmosphere, then we won’t survive the coming years.
SPIEGEL: Aren’t you overstating things a bit?
Gorbachev: I don’t say such things lightly. I am a man with a conscience. But that’s the way things are. I am truly and deeply concerned.
SPIEGEL: The new Russian military doctrine labels NATO’s eastern expansion and the “reinforcement of NATO’s offensive capabilities” as one of the primary threats facing Russia. Do you agree?
Gorbachev: NATO’s eastward expansion has destroyed the European security architecture as it was defined in the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. The eastern expansion was a 180-degree reversal, a departure from the decision of the Paris Charter in 1990 taken together by all the European states to put the Cold War behind us for good. Russian proposals, like the one by former President Dmitri Medvedev that we should sit down together to work on a new security architecture, were arrogantly ignored by the West. We are now seeing the results.
SPIEGEL: The Ukraine conflict is a personal one for you — and not just for political reasons.
Gorbachev: That is correct, and anything else would be strange. I am, after all, half Ukrainian. My mother was Ukrainian and my wife Raisa was too. I spoke my very first words in Ukrainian, and the first songs I heard were Ukrainian. The southern Russian region of Stavropol, where I come from and where I once served as party chief, had a partnership during Soviet times with Ukraine’s Donetsk region, where this terrible war is raging today. Back then we offered each other mutual help. We were friends and we lived in one state. Still, even today I have friends and relatives in Ukraine — as do most Russians.
SPIEGEL: As general secretary of the Communist Party, you fought for glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in your country. Has everything that you pushed for during your political life fallen into ruin under Putin?
Gorbachev: I take an entirely different view. Glasnost isn’t dead and neither is democracy. A new generation has grown up in Russia under entirely different conditions — and it is much freer than in the Soviet Union. The clock can no longer be turned back. Nothing has fallen into ruin.
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