Gorbachev: 'Americans Have a Severe Disease'
15 Years After Being Deposed From Power, Former Leader Discusses Russia, U.S.
By CLAIRE SHIPMAN
July 12, 2006
Mikhail Gorbachev is generally regarded as the man who broke down the "iron curtain" that separated the communist world from the West and thawed the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Now, 15 years after a coup removed him from power and the Soviet Union dissolved, he has some stern words for the United States, whose relationship with Russia has soured lately.
"We have made some mistakes," he said, referring to recent attacks on Russia's democracy. "So what? Please don't put even more obstacles in our way. Do you really think you are smarter than we are?"
The former general secretary of the Soviet Union Communist Party accused Americans of arrogance and trying to impose their way of life on other nations.
"Americans have a severe disease -- worse than AIDS. It's called the winner's complex," he said. "You want an American style-democracy here. That will not work."
Gorbachev found a partner in former President Bush in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
During their time in power, communism fell in East Germany, when Germans tore down the legendary wall separating the democratic West from the communist East.
The collapse of communism quickly spread across eastern Europe, and the leaders worked together to create a partnership in the changing world
Gorbachev, however, is wry about the current president, George W. Bush.
"He's very determined," Gorbachev said. "You can't say he does not have character."
The former Soviet leader had severe criticism for two of the most important people in the Bush administration: Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"They are just hawks protecting the interests of the military -- shallow people," he said.
Criticism for Putin
Gorbachev also often has stern words for the Russian government, but frequently advises President Vladimir Putin, who is under fire for his authoritarian tactics.
"I told him I did not understand why he had canceled state elections. There is no glasnost," he said, referring to the Soviet push toward a more open society in the 1980s. "No elections here like there used to be in '89 and '90."
"Vladimir Putin is walking on a razor's edge," he said. "Putin has used and he will continue to use authoritarian measures, but Russia will form a democracy. I know Vladimir Putin. He is a moral person."
Gorbachev said he was ultimately a Putin supporter and was impressed by the president's need to create stability out of chaos.
Although he has assumed the role of senior statesman and remains active in Russian politics, Gorbachev said he was "75 years. Enough is enough."
He has not given up the dream of Russian democracy and hopes to see his two granddaughters live in freedom.
"I want my grandchildren to live in a democratic country -- in a peaceful world," he said. "But it's hard to imagine because there are so many answers we still need to find."