October 11, 2016 – RFE/RL
Former Soviet leader and Nobel laureate Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the world has reached a “dangerous point” as tensions between Russia and the United States have soared over the Syria conflict.
Relations between Moscow and Washington — already at a post-Cold War low over the Ukraine conflict — have deteriorated sharply since the United States abandoned attempts with Russia to negotiate a cease-fire in Syria on October 3 and formally accused Russia of hacking U.S. political targets during the elections.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has suspended a series of nuclear cooperation pacts and built up its military forces in Syria and near the border with Europe, most recently by stationing nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, on NATO’s doorstep.
“I think the world has reached a dangerous point,” Gorbachev, 85, told state news agency RIA Novosti on October 10. “I don’t want to give any concrete prescriptions, but I do want to say that this needs to stop. We need to renew dialogue. Stopping it was the biggest mistake.”
As the last leader of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev oversaw an easing of decades of tensions with the West that helped to end the Cold War.
He inked several landmark nuclear disarmament deals with Washington aimed at defusing the standoff between the two superpowers. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his reform efforts.
“It is necessary to return to the main priorities. These are nuclear disarmament, the fight against terrorism, the prevention of an environmental disaster,” he said. “Compared to these challenges, all the rest slips into the background.”
Separately, Gorbachev called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in an address in Iceland on October 10.
“The worst thing that has happened in recent years is the collapse of trust in relations between major powers,” he said. “The window to a nuclear weapon-free world…is being shut and sealed right before our eyes.”
“As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used as a result either of accident or technical failure or of evil intent of man — an insane person or terrorist,” Gorbachev said.
But instead of curbing the development of nuclear weapons, world powers are creating new ones, improving the old ones, and adopting missile-defense systems in ways that have actually made a nuclear proliferation and conflict more likely, he said.