Kremlin Criticizes Gorbachev's 'Romantic' View of the West

It's not clear whether Soviet leader will get a state funeral
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 31, 2022 5:02 PM CDT
Kremlin Criticizes Gorbachev's 'Romantic' View of the West
Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the start of a news conference at the Castle of Gottorf in Schleswig, northern Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004. .   (Carsten Rehder/dpa via AP)

The Kremlin treaded carefully Wednesday reacting to Mikhail Gorbachev's death, praising his prominent role in reshaping 20th-century history but noting his "romantic" view of the West. The Kremlin’s ambivalence was reflected in the uncertainty about funeral arrangements. An iconic central venue chosen for Saturday’s farewell ceremony has been used for state funerals since Soviet times, but Russian media reported that Gorbachev won't be given that honor. The hesitant stance was mirrored by state television broadcasts, which paid tribute to Gorbachev as a historic figure but described his reforms as poorly planned and held him responsible for failing to safeguard the country's interests in dialogue with the West, the AP reports.

The criticism echoed earlier assessments by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has famously lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." In a telegram of condolences released by the Kremlin, Putin praised Gorbachev as a man who left “ an enormous impact on the course of world history.” "He led the country during difficult and dramatic changes, amid large-scale foreign policy, economic and society challenges," Putin said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Gorbachev as an "extraordinary" statesman who will "always remain in the country's history," but noted what he described as his idealistic view of the West.

"Gorbachev gave an impulse for ending the Cold War and he sincerely wanted to believe that it would be over and an eternal romance would start between the renewed Soviet Union and the collective West,” Peskov said. "This romanticism failed to materialize. The bloodthirsty nature of our opponents has come to light, and it's good that we realized that in time." Peskov wouldn't say if Gorbachev would be given a state funeral and whether Putin would attend any ceremony held for the late Soviet leader. While avoiding explicit personal criticism of Gorbachev, Putin in the past repeatedly blamed him for failing to secure written commitments from the West that would rule out NATO's expansion eastward.

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Members of the Kremlin-controlled parliament followed a similar path, hailing Gorbachev's historic role but lamenting the Soviet collapse in 1991. Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house, the State Duma, hailed Gorbachev as "the most remarkable politician of his time," but noted that his reforms “played into the hands of those who were trying to wipe the USSR off the world's map." Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal Yabloko party, praised Gorbachev for "offering freedom to hundreds of millions in Russia, its neighborhood, and half of Europe.” "It's our responsibility how we in Russia have used that freedom, that great opportunity," he said.

(More Mikhail Gorbachev stories.)

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