Mikhail Gorbachev Warns Of A New Cold War

by Lulu Chang

The Berlin Wall may have fallen 25 years ago, but former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev believes that the tension it represented remains as prevalent today as it did decades ago. At his appearance at a symposium on Saturday morning, Gorbachev warned of a new Cold War, delivering a chilling message to audiences who had come to celebrate the end of the conflict decades ago. The fault, the famous 83-year-old politician said, is with the West, particularly the United States, which he believes disastrously mishandled the fall of the Iron Curtain, and resowed the seeds to ongoing conflict without any real signs of resolution.

Speaking near the Brandenburg Gate, a famous landmark of Germany's reunification, Gorbachev said, "The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it's already begun." The problem, he noted, stemmed from a "breakdown in dialogue" that led to immense "bloodshed in Europe and the Middle East," a reference to the violence in Ukraine and throughout ISIS-controlled areas that has dominated the world news outlets for much of the year. Gorbachev's remarks seem to be reflected by reports of renewed violence in Ukraine, as his speech coincided with reports that Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine may be preparing for another round of bloodshed with soldiers in Kiev.

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Following the former USSR leader's speech, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, took to the podium to echo Gorbachev's remarks, saying that a lack of respect amongst key nations could lead to disaster. Said Dumas, "...everything could start over again tomorrow. Even everything we used to know and what we called the Cold War."

Even American President Barack Obama has noted the precarious situation the world finds itself in once again, but placed the blame squarely on Russian shoulders in his statement on Friday:

Nations across central and eastern Europe stand tall as proud democracies. Europe is more integrated, more prosperous and more secure. But as Russia’s actions against Ukraine remind us, we have more work to do to fully realize our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.

Gorbachev, however, disagrees with Obama's analysis, and instead believes that it is "euphoria and triumphalism [that] went to the heads of western leaders," creating a delicate balance of power that seems all too ready to tip and fall into chaos.

"Claims of domination"

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According to the former leader, the fall-out from the Cold War was never properly addressed, and rather than "building new mechanisms and institutions of European security," Americans instead became obsessed with the notion of victory, and became careless in the face of destabilizing conditions. Rather than "pursuing a major demilitarization of European politics," Gorbachev said, "The west, and particularly the United States, declared victory," and allowed the pieces to fall where they may. Similar criticism has often accompanied American exit strategies, or lack thereof, in a number of wars, most recently and notably, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Collapse of Trust"

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Another key issue that has led to escalating tensions between the United States and Russia and perhaps the world at large, Gorbachev said, has been the "collapse of trust" between world superpowers. Citing the expansion of NATO, the Kosovo dispute, the continued conflict in regions like Iraq, Libya, and Syria, as well as missile defense systems, the 83-year-old noted that the US and Russia have returned to Cold War-like notions of distrust and suspicion, spelling trouble for the rest of the world. Said Gorbachev, "To put it metaphorically, a blister has now turned into a bloody, festering wound."

Putin's prerogative

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Despite previous instances in which the former Russian leader issued harsh criticism of the current Russian leader, Gorbachev seems to have reversed his opinion on Putin and the "sham" democracy he previously accused the Russian president of running. Instead, Gorbachev noted last week that he was "absolutely convinced that Putin protects Russia’s interests better than anyone else." As such, he urged the US and the European Union to lift strict sanctions imposed on Russia following the Ukrainian crisis, and offered his full support of Putin's handling of the situation. He said,

Despite the harshness of his criticism of the west, and of the United States in particular, I see in his speech a desire to find a way to lower tensions and ultimately to build a new basis for partnership.

Europe's irrelevance

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Despite his accusations of the West, Gorbachev spared no European feelings either, saying that Europe was in danger of becoming a global joke in terms of political power. American power, Gorbachev seemed to suggest, was likely a product of European complacency. The former leader stated, "Instead of becoming a leader of change in a global world, Europe has turned into an arena of political upheaval, of competition for spheres of influence and finally of military conflict." This, Gorbachev believes, will lead to the eventual devolution of European power as a whole. He concluded,

The consequence inevitably is Europe weakening at a time when other centers of power and influence are gaining momentum. If this continues, Europe will lose a strong voice in global affairs and gradually become irrelevant.
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Despite Gorbachev's talk of gloom and doom, attendees of Sunday's festivities will no doubt be greeted with a decidedly un-Cold War-esque celebration, complete with the release of 8,000 balloons and the opening of a new exhibition center. Two million people are expected to be in attendance of a large street festival, complete with music from the Berlin State Orchestra, led by the legendary Daniel Barenboim, as well as an East Berlin rock band that will perform David Bowie's "Heroes." So if the Cold War is coming, it's not happening just quite yet.

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