Mikhail Gorbachev: Appears ‘The World Is Preparing for War’
‘Wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war,’ writes former Soviet leader
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that it appears “as if the world is preparing for war.”
Writing in an op-ed published Thursday at TIME magazine, Gorbachev, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War, writes that the most pressing problem facing the world is “the militarization of politics and the new arms race.”
State budgets, he continues, claim austerity to sacrifice social spending, but easily back funding for weapons of war. At the same time, he writes of the buildup on Russia’s borders: “NATO and Russian forces and weapons” are now in close proximity “as if to shoot point-blank.” He continues:
Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.
While he and President Ronald Reagan agreed in 1985 “that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” now, “the nuclear threat once again seems real,” with “advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex […] rubbing their hands.” And that, he declares, is absolutely the wrong direction to solve the world’s ills. Instead, war of any kind must be abolished, he writes:
In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war—not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.
He called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution—which should be put forth by U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin—that restates that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. ”
More recently, in 2016, he said, “The window to a nuclear weapon-free world…is being shut and sealed right before our eyes.”
“As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used as a result either of accident or technical failure or of evil intent of man, an insane person or terrorist,” Gorbachev said.
Trump, however, out of step with most of the world, used Twitter to call for an expanded U.S. nuclear arsenal—a fact that contributed to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this week moving its symbolic Doomsday Clock closer to midnight.
The last time Mikhail Gorbachev made American news, the former Soviet leader sounded upbeat.
Of the incoming President Trump, he told the Associated Press in December: “He has little political experience, but maybe it’s good.”
Of his successor, autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin: “He is a strong person,” Gorbachev, 85, said
“Together, they could lead the world” to peace, he told the reporter, and he sang a song after the interview.
Putin and Trump have called for stronger nuclear weapons in their countries since then. Now Gorbachev is back in the media — warning of possible global war.
“The world today is overwhelmed with problems,” he wrote in the first line of his essay. “Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.”
He listed some problems: “the militarization of politics and the new arms races,” bellicose world leaders and a media that echoes them. Tanks and weapons in Europe — “placed closer to each other, as if to shoot point-blank.”
“It all look as if the world is preparing for war,” Gorbachev wrote.
His tone had darkened since his song in December — if not since the Soviet Union dissolved beneath his feet a quarter-century ago. But Gorbachev’s advice for the world was much the same: Do like he and former president Ronald Reagan — whose cooperation and mutual disarmament may well have averted World War III.
Gorbachev’s essay summarizes the lurching end of the Cold War in a few brief lines: “In the second half of the 1980s, together with the U.S., we launched a process of reducing nuclear weapons and lowering the nuclear threat.”
The reality wasn’t so neat, though it seemed impossibly rapid to a world that had spent a century under the cloud of global war.
Gorbachev took over the Communist Party in 1985, as Reagan was beginning his second term in the White House with pushes for a new nuclear missile and a more robust military.
Many Americans credit Reagan’s hard line on military policy — like his push for missile defense — with forcing the Soviet Union to reform and eventually collapse.
In his own interviews, Gorbachev has spun history differently.
“Our interests coincided,” he told The Washington Post in 2004, after giving Reagan’s coffin a fond pat at his funeral.
“We both knew what kind of weapons we each had,” he said. “There were mountains of nuclear weapons. A war could start not because of a political decision, but just because of some technical failure.”
Whatever inspired him, Gorbachev is remembered for softening a totalitarian empire — making the Soviet Union more open and liberal while cutting its nuclear stockpiles, as Reagan reciprocated.
The push for world peace was distilled in Reagan’s famous call in 1987 — “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” — followed two years later by the border opening between East and West Germany, and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
Gorbachev would later complain that the peacemaking got out of hand — after his rivals took advantage to oust him in a coup d’état, which led to his resignation on the same day the Soviet flag fell at the Kremlin.
Now, as he sees signs of peace undone across the world, he is calling on the Kremlin and White House’s new occupants to join forces again and stop it.
In Time, Gorbachev urged “the presidents of two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals” to push for a U.N. resolution condemning nuclear war.
But neither Trump nor Putin sound like they want his advice.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Dec. 22 — the week of the anniversary of Gorbachev’s resignation.