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Mikhail Gorbachev, European: in Sofia for a conference, the first and last president of the Soviet Union gave an interview to Bulgarian National Television's Valery Marinov. Edited excerpts.

On Europe and Russia:

"What is happening right now is a desire to renew and rebuild and develop relations. Russia looks on this very well. Europe, for Russia, is after all our common European home, but there are big things happening.


"I have been listening about how complex and difficult it has been--when our friends from the Warsaw Pact, from the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, all went into the European Union and Nato, the goal was to get as many of them in as fast as possible. It was a mistake on their behalf.

"And I think it was also an oversight by our friends because it caused this heedless break-up, so now we must seek this new relationship within the bounds of this new framework because we are all in Europe. This is why we are so assertive in seeking a new relationship with the EU and we want this relationship to be more than just pro forma, but a relationship that is advanced, a relationship of partnership--everyone is searching for the right term--a strategic relationship. In a nutshell, a developed relationship like the EU member states have."

On the former Soviet Union's approach to its former satellites:

"The most important part is that we understood and did not interfere. Nowhere. This was our guiding principle, let the people make their choice themselves. As they say, now the people are learning, in some cases they got it right and in others they did not. Maybe this was something that everyone had to go through.

"But one way or another, the process of rapprochement has started, and it is a good thing, I believe. We just have to avoid losing any more time. There are still people and connections left from those times, which must be reinforced and developed."

On Europe and Asia:

"Europe will remain what it is. We are in Europe and must think about it. I think that if Europe does not do what I have been talking about--closer ties, more co-operation and a system, with the participation of Russia and the US, that is focused on common defence--this could break the world.

"Common defence is about balancing processes--to reinforce the statements that no one is intent on waging war, which I think is the case.

"You know, history teaches us that you need [common ground], namely defence. Not the kind that can bring the end of the world. But even if there are conflicts within such a system, they would be less threatening.


On his idea of inter-continental partnerships:

I think this is part of European processes. After all, we have a common history, with our sins and positive sides, but we are all European. I have been saying this for a long time, but the East is rising--civilisation is moving to the Pacific Rim, but that does not mean that it should be followed by any sort of collapse.

"There have been many ideas, but the important part is avoiding a collapse, which is why I think it is important that we have a strong relationship with China. Even the relationship with Brazil is growing.

"We are contiguous [with China] and there is a lot of ground to explore, which is happening already. Japan is pitching in, as is China and even India. These are all our partners. So, we should not look with old eyes at a new world, as the saying goes. It is a global world and if we do not learn how to live in it, then it will be bad for us all.

"(The basis on which this new world should operate is) co-operation and trust, I think, in any issue. Take even the US with all its might, it cannot decide everything on its own."


On China:

"China is nothing, it cannot go on without the rest of the world. We are all dependent on it, which is why it is a global and mutually-dependent world. These mutual dependencies are felt in every village, you know. This is what we need to learn as we live in this global world. These mutual dependencies are very serious and global, but we cannot govern as we should [within this framework] just yet. This is why we need regional systems and national systems and at the UN level."

On contemporary Russian politics, president Medvedev and former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov:

"I don't know what deal they will strike there, but it is important that they reach an understanding without a fight.

"I am being very realistic about the entire picture. The mayor (Luzhkov) has done a lot, especially during the first decade [in office]. But, you know, it all keeps piling up and he grew heavy barnacles.

"But most importantly, it has been almost 19 years. Replaceability is one of the demands of democracy. Electability, replaceability and the opening for an inflow of new ideas is of utmost importance, which is why this issue had to be solved. But I think that it could have been solved as part of a negotiations process, so to say. Maybe they missed the time for that.


"I would have told him, "Well, Yury Mihailovich ...

"[You have been in charge] longer than Brezhnev already! That's enough"

On running a country like Russia:

"In countries like ours--here too, but with us more so--the notion has long been rooted about 'the man with the [strong] hand'.

"Nowadays it is more of a 'man with a head'. Not a milksop. To govern a country like Russia or others, one must have character, willpower, the courage to make a decision and assume the responsibility for it, or get out. But it is very important that it is all decided as part of the political process, democratically, taking into account the will of the people. Often, this ... It is still the case. I think Russia is still in its transition to democracy, but it is only half-way there, no further.

"The road is never over because there is always renewal, new issues and problems arise that need to be solved so the president and the executive branch [of government] have to work actively. Nowadays, it often defaults to authoritarian methods.

(The exit from this is) Democracy. Freedom and democracy.

The Sofia Echo staff
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Title Annotation:Reading Room
Publication:The Sofia Echo (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Geographic Code:4EXBU
Date:Oct 15, 2010
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