In a SPIEGEL interview, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discusses morals and politics in the nuclear age, the crisis in Russian-American relations and his fear that an atomic weapon will some day be used.
SPIEGEL: Did you really believe at the time that you could achieve a world free of nuclear weapons?
Gorbachev: We not only proclaimed a nuclear weapons free world as a major goal — we also named concrete interim goals. In addition, we aspired to the destruction of chemical weapons and are now close to achieving that goal. Limiting conventional weapons was also on our agenda. That was all inextricably linked to a normalization of our relations. We wanted to move from confrontation to cooperation. We achieved a lot, which shows that my approach was completely realistic.
SPIEGEL: Many accused you of using your demand as a tactic to present the Soviet Union as a peace-loving country.
Gorbachev: No, there was no propaganda at play and it was not tactical. It was important to get away from the nuclear abyss our countries were marching toward when they stationed hundreds of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.
SPIEGEL: You were unable to convince Reagan to abandon his SDI project, which aimed to create a defensive shield against nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. Did that upset you?
Gorbachev: Reagan wanted it no matter what. That’s why in Reykjavik we weren’t able to turn our agreements on intercontinental missiles and intermediate-range missiles into treaties. In order to break the impasse, we offered the Americans concessions and uncoupled the negotiating package. We agreed on a separate treaty addressing the intermediate-range missiles. Reagan and I signed it in Washington in December 1987.
SPIEGEL: The stationing of American intermediate-range missiles led to mass demonstrations by the peace movement in Germany …
Gorbachev: … and Helmut Kohl then played a very positive role in the establishment of the treaty with the elimination of the Pershing 1A missiles.
SPIEGEL: The nuclear warhead belonged to the Americans, but the missiles were German. Kohl declared that the missiles could be destroyed if the US and Russia came to an agreement on the destruction of the intermediate-range missiles.
Gorbachev: If Kohl had not dispensed with them, we would not have signed.
SPIEGEL: Was there actually resistance to your disarmament policies within the Soviet ruling elite?
Gorbachev: Every member of the leadership at the time understood the importance of disarmament. All the leading politicians had experience and a sober view of things. Just think about Foreign Minister Andrei Gromkyo
Full article: Mikhail Gorbachev: US Military an ‘Insurmountable Obstacle to a Nuclear-Free World’ (Spiegel Online)