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The last premier of the former Soviet Union and celebrated architect of the glasnost and perestroika that allowed the empire to collapse through democratization, Mikhail Gorbachev, gave current Russian president Vladimir Putin a moderate endorsement yesterday, even as Putin moves to erase Gorbachev's legacy of openness:
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered cautious support for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, while also acknowledging that mistakes have been made in the country's uneasy transition from communism to democracy following the end of the Cold War.
"I support Putin, while I, of course, see both his achievements and mistakes," Mr. Gorbachev said at a news conference through a translator before delivering a speech at the Red Cross Power of Humanity Dinner.
"I very much would like to see him succeed, but in order to succeed, he needs to renew his policies."
"We have had some backtracking as regards democracy. There have been some blunders, some mistakes in social policies. Now is the decisive moment when really it is being decided where we are moving, in which direction we will be moving during President Putin's second term."
Of late, the Left has settled on Gorbachev as the true hero that ended the Cold War, allowing them to minimize the efforts of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. In their telling of history, the economic and political pressures coming from the West had nothing to do with the Soviet collapse. Gorbachev allowed the people a breath of freedom through his enlightened socialism, and the people got carried away -- and Reagan, Thatcher, and the Pope all happened to coincidentally be there when it happened.
They attach no significance to the Politburo promoting a reformer after several elderly hardliners had successfully been outmanuevered by the West, whose reinvigorated defense spending had pushed the Soviet economy to the breaking point. These critics from the Left believe that glasnost and perestroika sprang whole and new from the forehead of Gorbachev, instead of because of internal pressures for change such as Poland's successful Solidarity movement and the massive efforts of Reagan and Thatcher to fan the flames of democratization behind the Iron Curtain, instead of the shallow "peaceful co-existence" toadying of the Carter administration.
One has to wonder now about Gorbachev's fans in the West and how they feel about his endorsement of the increasingly autocratic Vladimir Putin. During George Bush's re-election, he received criticism for maintaining a close relationship with the Russian president, but has now openly disagreed with Putin during his last European trip and outmanuevered Putin in Ukraine and elsewhere along the former Soviet border. Will the Left suddenly discover a soft spot for Vladimir too? Or will they finally see Gorbachev for what he really was -- a typical Communist functionary who had enough Western pretensions that the ruling class vainly hoped would mollify the array of powers aligned against them long enough to keep their empire from melting away?Sphere It View blog reactions
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