Gorbachev — a man who changed the world | The Express Tribune


Mikhail Gorbachev died on Tuesday 30e from August 2022 at the age of 91. Coming from a nondescript family of farmers, he rose through courage, extraordinary intellect and dedication to human freedoms within a communist system, to become a great Russian leader. He was cast in a cast quite different from the tradition of modern Russian leaders like Kruschchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev, etc. Idealist and reformer, he leaves behind him a mixed heritage. While he will be remembered as the one who moved the world towards global peace and friendship, he continues to be regarded in his own country by most as the one who led to the painful collapse of the world. ‘Soviet Union.

While Gorbachev’s role in ending the Cold War promoted the cause of world peace, he also helped avert nuclear war during times of heightened tensions between East and West. With the world at the time possessing over 40,000 nuclear warheads and perched on the precipice of possible human annihilation, he played a leading role in negotiations to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the two sides, resulting in Strategic Arms Limitation (SALT) talks and induction. verifiable mutual safety mechanisms to reduce the risk of fires due to errors or lack of communication.

His glasnost (opening) and perestroika (restructuring) of Soviet Communism, justified by him as reviving the early humanist spirit of Leninism, led to forces that could not be contained and which ultimately led to the breakup of the ‘Soviet Union.

This was mainly due to his belief that communism could only have a future in an atmosphere of economic and political freedom that led to historic developments in world affairs. While he was driven by the ambition to reform Communism to revive it in the context of modern demands, he never wanted the Soviet Union to disintegrate. That the momentum unleashed by his opening the country to change and freedoms could not be prevented from leading to Russia’s collapse always left him somewhat dissatisfied and embittered. But did he repent of his founding decisions? Answering this question, he replied one day: “If I had to do it all over again, I might not be able to improve.

His policies led to epic changes in world affairs. It was thanks to him that the Berlin Wall which had divided the inhabitants of a city in two since the end of the Second World War was demolished, paving the way for the reunification of East Germany and Germany. ‘West. Eastern European countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact living under the Brezhnev Doctrine moved towards free democracies. He never wanted to create the tensions and anxiety that arose in the Soviet Union, but his hand was forced by severe economic difficulties and the inability of the faltering economy to bear the crushing burden of a race for armaments with America and Europe.

Gorbachev came to power in 1987, and by 1989 he had realized that Russia was waging a losing war in Afghanistan. During his tenure, Russian forces, after failing to hold out in Afghanistan and being bled into what was described as “the bear trap” by a US-assisted jihadist war waged by the “mujajideen” , withdrew from Afghanistan. Russia and the United States left behind a war-torn Afghanistan that gave rise to factional militancy and Talibanization, becoming a hotbed of Islamic terrorism. While Afghanistan and, to some extent, Pakistan continue to pay a heavy price for aftershocks, some analysts say the Afghan debacle has helped accelerate the Russian collapse.

Gorbachev’s policies also provoked a backlash among large numbers of Russians, creating a great sense of loss of national pride over Russia’s fall from a prominent place in the world as a great power. The severe economic crises that followed, partly caused by the sharp drop in oil prices, and highlighted by shortages of food and other daily necessities, large-scale civil unrest and bitter warfare in Chechnya provided fertile ground for the emergence of a strong nationalist leadership. like Putin dedicated to restoring lost glory.

In the war in Ukraine and the attempt to regain influence in a territory deemed necessary to protect the heart of the great Russian nation, one can witness attempts to push back the legacy of the remnants of Gorbachev’s policies. Putin embodies the Russian urge to restore some of the glory and greatness that was given by a man who led to the demise of the USSR.

Will Gorbachev go down in history as one of the great men of peace and human freedoms or will he be seen from the perspective of someone who dismembered a great power. In the final analysis, a fundamental choice must be made between essential norms: are peace and human freedom more important than national power and greatness more significant in the scale of human values? The only desire remains in the domain of the ideals to which men like Socrates and Plato aspired. The other is in the realm of practical politics. The cosmic battle between these two aspirations will last and perhaps clash forever. While the hope for the betterment of the human condition springs eternally in the heart of man, considerations of national power and expansion are things that man still besets as real challenges. While Gorbachev lived a pariah life in his later years, he retained in his old age the implacable courage of his convictions to criticize and rebuke the Russian adventure in Ukraine.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2n/a2022.

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