It took Putin 15 hours to publish a restrained condolence message



Mikhail Gorbachev was mourned in the West on Wednesday as a towering statesman who helped to end the Cold War, but his death received a cool response in Russia, engaged in a war with Ukraine to regain some of the power it lost when he presided over the Soviet Union’s collapse.
In six years between 1985 and 1991, he forged arms treaties with the US, and partnerships with Western powers to remove the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since WWII and bring about the reunification of Germany. But his internal reforms, combining economic and political liberalisation, helped weaken the USSR) to the point where it fell apart.
US President Joe Biden called Gorbachev “a man of remarkable vision” and emphasised the freedoms he introduced. “As leader of the USSR, he worked with President (Ronald) Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals … After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms,” he said.
It took President Putin more than 15 hours to publish the text of a restrained condolence message in which he said Gorbachev had had a “huge impact on the course of world history” and “deeply understood that reforms were necessary” to tackle the problems of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. However, it appeared that Gorbachev would be accorded the same honour as previous Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev – a funeral in the Hall of Columns of the House of Unions, within sight of the Kremlin. The ceremony will take place on Saturday.
French President Emmanuel Macron called Gorbachev “a man of peace”. German ex-chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, said she had feared that Gorbachev’s Moscow would crush an uprising against communist rule in 1989. “But… no tanks rolled, no shots were fired.” Merkel’s successor Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Gorbachev’s “perestroika” reforms had made it possible to bring down the Iron Curtain and reunify Germany, adding: “He died at a time when not only has democracy in Russia failed … but also when Russia has dug new graves in Europe and begun a terrible war.”
Russian media were far less interested in Gorbachev’s passing. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told an educational forum that Gorbachev’s “romanticism” about rapprochement with West had been misplaced. “The bloodthirstiness of our opponents showed itself,” he said. Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said: “Perestroika’ has long become history, but today we all have to deal with its consequences. It fell to Gorbachev to lead the country in a very difficult period, to face many external and internal challenges, for which an adequate response was not found.”


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Date: September 1, 2022