The Kremlin on Wednesday hailed the late Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as an extraordinary global statesman who helped end the Cold War, but said he lashed out at the prospect of rapprochement with the “bloodthirsty” West wrong.
He underscored President Vladimir Putin’s long-held feelings about the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which Gorbachev unwittingly presided over and which Putin has lamented as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century, which he would reverse if given the chance.
Putin, who on February 24 launched what he called Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, one of the 15 former Soviet republics, has previously said that the demise of the Soviet Union marked the “awakening of historical Russia” and what was built it up was over 1,000 years.
There will be no state funeral for the former president of the Soviet Union, a Russian news agency reported.
“There are no plans to organize a state funeral for Gorbachev,” Interfax sources said.
Previously, his Gorbachev Foundation told the same agency that he would be buried next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999, in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery.
While Gorbachev, who died in Moscow on Tuesday at the age of 91, is revered by many in the West for helping to end the Cold War, many Russians see him as a naïve politician who inadvertently led a big country to death It collapsed, sparking years of economic hardship, humiliation and a crisis that has resulted in loss of geopolitical influence.
Others inside Russia, particularly those who have long been critical of Putin’s crackdown on dissent and free speech, see Gorbachev as a democrat and someone who was trying to do the right thing.
In a carefully worded telegram to Gorbachev’s relatives on Wednesday, Putin expressed his condolences and described Gorbachev as someone who had had a tremendous impact on world history and had sought to offer solutions and reforms to overtake the USSR.
“He has led our country through a period of complex and dramatic changes and major foreign policy, economic and social challenges,” said Putin, who served in the KGB security service when Gorbachev was in power.
But Putin has made no assessment of Gorbachev’s tenure from 1985 to 1991 beyond this mere factual statement.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, was more outspoken.
He described Gorbachev as an extraordinary statesman who helped end the Cold War but whose role in history is a matter of debate.
“He genuinely wanted to believe that the Cold War would end and usher in a period of eternal romance between a new Soviet Union and the world, the West,” Peskov said.
“That romance turned out to be false. There was no romance period, a 100-year honeymoon didn’t materialize, and the bloodthirsty nature of our opponents was revealed. It’s good that we recognized and understood that in time,” added Peskov.
Gorbachev suffered from intermittent health problems for years and was rarely seen in public, but had occasionally advocated better East-West relations and sought to encourage more dialogue between Washington and Moscow on nuclear weapons.
Western leaders beamed in their tributes to Gorbachev, including President Michael D. Higgins.
“Of the expressions of grief over the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, perhaps those most poignant will be those who, in Cold War conditions, viewed his ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ as instruments of hope,” he said.
“Concerned citizens around the world who saw hope in the deals he was pursuing with others to reduce, rather than manufacture and proliferate, instruments of war when so many global problems of hunger and poverty prevailed.
“For them, he seemed to recognize the power of diplomacy, with its ability to show even powerful governments the ability to address, even resolve, ideological differences and bring them to the center of discourse with discussions based on mutual respect.
“His own deep despair, as expressed in rare interviews late in life, was that he had underestimated the power and influence of the institutional forces raised against it, including borderless military-industrial complexes. He spoke of how he had trusted where he should have recognized that there was no basis of trust. There were internal and external forces that would never allow the radical reforms.
“He was a man of good instincts that offered hope and will be rightly remembered by so many for that most human of instincts.”
Some residents of the Russian capital Moscow told Reuters they had a largely negative view of Gorbachev but regretted his death.
“In the late 1980s, it seemed to us that he was someone who would change the Soviet Union for the better,” Vladimir Kalintsov said.
“In the end, however, it turned out that he was someone who broke down the Soviet Union … and that led to many wars in the former Soviet republics.”
Natalya Salumilina, another Muscovite, said she was glad Gorbachev lived long enough to see what she called the fruits of his labor and accused him of making stupid decisions that held the Russian people hostage.
Another, Larisa Kalashnikova, said: “I see him negatively. He has done a lot of harm to our country.”
The bellicose political talk shows that have made up most of Russian state television since Putin sent his troops to Ukraine largely ignored the news of Gorbachev’s death.
On the Rossiya-24 channel, a talk show played a series of tributes to Gorbachev by Western media, while host Olga Skabeyeva noted that the reactions in Russia would be “fundamentally and radically different” but it would be “indecent” to announce them so early discuss after he dies.
However, jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny had warm words for the last leader of the Soviet Union, noting that he had ordered the release of political prisoners.
“I am sure that his life and history, which were decisive for the events of the late twentieth century, will be viewed far more positively by posterity than by his contemporaries,” Navalny said in a message posted on Twitter by his allies.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former member of Russia’s parliament and critic of the Kremlin, said Gorbachev is one of Russia’s best leaders and credited him for freeing hundreds of millions of people from tyranny, drastically reducing the number of nuclear warheads and rejecting violence as a possibility to stay in power.
“He gave the world a chance for peace and Russia – for freedom,” Ryzhkov said.
“It’s not his fault we couldn’t use it.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/kremlin-says-gorbachev-helped-end-cold-war-but-was-wrong-about-bloodthirsty-west-as-no-state-funeral-planned-41950520.html The Kremlin says Gorbachev helped end the Cold War but was wrong about the “bloodthirsty” West as no state funeral is planned