An interview with former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev

MW: Mr. Gorbachev, we seem to be experiencing another arms buildup, and military expenditures at levels similar to the Cold War. The US Navy just ordered 10 new nuclear submarines, yet these do little to address what is on everyone’s mind, the threat of terrorism.
What do you feel are now the real threats to security?

MSG: I think that there are certain points that really require our special attention. First of all, the arms race is a threat. There isn’t enough focus on the need for nuclear arms reduction.

We see that many of the treaties that have played and must continue to play a very important role in the nuclear area have been abandoned. The danger of the spread of nuclear weapons is a very real danger. If that happens, nuclear weapons could easily fall into the hands of terrorists. And this will recreate a very dangerous nuclear threat.

One nuclear warhead, for example a Russian SS20 missile, is equal to 100 Chernobyl explosions. Just one missile. We cannot allow any nuclear weapons to be used. Not just this powerful weapon from this big missile, but any kind of nuclear weapons must never fall into the hands of terrorists.

This we must make sure, that the nuclear arms reduction remains in effect, and that these reductions are implemented.

MW: What are the steps that will get us out the other side?

MSG: We need to do is put an end to old conflicts, particularly in the Middle East. We need to stop the arms race. We need to develop a regime of control over the arms trade and to build international relations, not on force, but on a balance of interests.

If we do so, we will be able to pull ourselves, and the world, out of this very difficult situation.

We also need to make the UN Security Council the real focus for security in the world. This can be done.

We must not allow any country to view the Security Council as something obsolete. Some people feel that the Security Council can, or would, stand in their way. So they reject the Security Council. And they have violated international law, at times ignoring the protests of millions of people around the world, as the US did in invading Iraq.

We know what happened. And this is a lesson to all of us. Certainly, above all, to Americans, but also to all of us.

I am confident that today, the atmosphere of debate that we see at various meetings and conferences focusing on these issues and also problems such as Iraq, Iran and the Middle East, all of this will ultimately move us closer to solutions to these problems, through diplomatic and political means. I continue to have confidence in this process.

We have the resources to address these problems peacefully. I believe this is the way to go. I believe that no pressure, no threat of force, can change the situation for the better. It can only worsen the situation.

MW: What do you feel should be the priorities for building a better, more peaceful world?

Generally, I believe the most important security challenges we are facing today are the global challenges, the ones that no country can address alone, that require cooperation.

These include the problem of nuclear terrorism, certainly, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But they also include the challenge of poverty, the fact that half the population of the world live on one or two dollars a day.

And finally, this challenge of the global environmental crisis. We are near the red line beyond which we will destroy the environment. Already many ecosystems have already been destroyed. The atmosphere, the air that we breathe, has been polluted. Our rivers and our oceans. Deserts are advancing and forests are receding.

All of these challenges must be addressed by all countries together.

MW: There is a growing feeling that climate change is beginning to overshadow other security issues as it approaches a crisis point for the planet. What will get us moving together on this issue?

MSG: I understand and welcome the demands of the European Union, the fact that they demand very specific requirements to be placed on nations as regards emissions, as regards pollution. They have said they will not sign any agreement that is just a declaration.

I believe there has been progress, in that practically all countries have supported this position. We need the United States to support this position, too.

So once again it comes down to the US.

I visit the United States frequently. I see that people there have the same attitudes as we have here.

It is just a matter of the US administration being too much influenced by the military-industrial complex, and by some others.