Point-blank: The West’s Gorbachev

Mohamed Salmawy
Thursday 8 Sep 2022

The former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who passed away last week at the age of 91, is the model foe the kind of non-Western political leader that the West turns into a hero or a legend – not for what they have done for their people or country but for helping to solve problems that plague that same West.


The West has always been opposed to regional leagues and blocs elsewhere because such entities, whether Soviet, Arab or Afro-Asian, create counterweights that diminish its unipolar hegemony. 

After becoming general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, Gorbachev contributed to the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. He oversaw the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact much as the Arab bond disintegrated after the October 1973 War thanks to some of our leaders. He almost singlehandedly ended the Cold War, which had caused the West to lose as much sleep as Arab-Israel conflict.

In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, Gorbachev refused to intervene on the grounds that it was a domestic German concern. And, just as we paraded our revisionist policies beneath the banners of openness to the world and a desire for peace and an end to wars – for which our own leader was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize – Gorbachev introduced perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) for which he earned the same prize in 1990. 

When we consider the achievements for which the Western press is extolling him today, we find that they have benefited the West alone. He abolished the Warsaw Pact while the West perpetuated NATO which is currently making war against Moscow via Ukraine.

He gave up the nuclear arms race, allowing the West to continue to build its arsenals. He withdrew from Afghanistan while the American military remained there until President Biden withdrew the US troops only last year. Gorbachev’s call to renounce violence as a means to resolve international conflicts applied only to him. The West never felt bound by it and continued to use violence as a conflict resolution instrument in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya – and Ukraine. 

When Gorbachev ran for president in 1996 he won only 0.5 per cent of the overall vote. Yet the West ranks him among the giants of the 20th century. It is a misleading list, although some of our own leaders are on it too. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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