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The XXI century will be a сentury either of total all-embracing crisis or of moral and spiritual healing that will reinvigorate humankind. It is my conviction that all of us - all reasonable political leaders, all spiritual and ideological movements, all  faiths - must help in this transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance.

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2 December 2019

Mikhail Gorbachev answered questions of The Times of Malta

 People have nicknamed it the “sea-sick summit” because of the bad weather. Do you remember that factor?

We never called it a sea-sick summit. But it’s true that the weather changed for the worse on the eve of the meeting – a storm broke out, and what a storm! We therefore had to give up the idea, proposed by President Bush, of holding the talks on naval ships. The Soviet ship and the U.S. Navy ship were lying outside the harbor, but we could not even board them because of high waves. The good thing was that the cruise liner Maxim Gorky was moored in La Valetta’s port to serve as the Soviet delegation’s residence. So we invited the President of the United States to that ship.  

What can you remember about your tour of Malta at that time?

I had a meeting and a brief talk with your country’s Prime-Minister. However, because of the very full schedule of talks with George Bush, which continued for two days, I didn’t have a chance to really see the island. But I am grateful to Malta, and I think the world should be grateful to it, for it was there that the final lined was drawn under the Cold War.

Were you confident going into the meeting that you would be able to negotiate an end to the Cold War?

Negotiating at the highest level, particularly at a time when the course of history sharply accelerates, is very complicated business, so one can never be absolutely certain what will transpire and how it will end. For me and President Bush, it was very important to look each other in the eye, to clarify each other’s intentions, and to evaluate the proposals that the two sides brought to the negotiating table.

On behalf of the Soviet leadership, I said to the U.S. President that the Soviet Union was ready not to regard the United States as an enemy, and to say so publicly. In response, George Bush rose and held out his hand to me.

The two days of intense discussions convinced us that U.S.S.R. and the United States were ready and willing to engage in cooperation. And the events that followed, which severely tested our new relationship in Europe and in the Middle East, confirmed that our two nations were no longer enemies but partners.

With countries like Hungary rebuilding new walls, 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, are you concerned about a divide between East and West mentalities again?

In the world today, I am concerned about many things. After the end of the Cold War, the new generation of leaders has failed to build a reliable security architecture, with mechanism for preventing and resolving conflicts, particularly in Europe. We had started this work, but it was broken off after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And then Western leaders succumbed to triumphalism and declared victory in the Cold War. But we had ended it by joint efforts, so it was a common victory! What was needed is to continue along the path of cooperation and build relations of partnership, as was promised in the Charter of Paris, signed by all European countries in 1990. I am sure that would have prevented the conflicts we are now witnessing in Europe – some of them smoldering, and some actually aflame. We must not put up with this! I therefore urge world leaders to resume cooperation in the spirit of Malta, in the spirit of the Paris Charter.

Do you still regard ending the Cold War as your greatest professional achievement?

As I said, the end of the Cold War was our common achievement. I believe that the generation of leaders that put an end to confrontation acted courageously and responsibly. There were so many obstacles and unexpected turns along the way that it sometimes seemed that the process would go off the rails and confrontation would resume. But we had enough self-control and perseverance not to allow it to happen. And now we must not allow things to go downhill, towards a new Cold War.
How do you spend your days now?

I am following the developments very closely, I try to react to the events in Russia and the world, and I stay in touch with veterans of international politics. My book What Is At Stake:The Future of a Global World has recently been published in Russia and other countries. I am now re-reading the many letters I received over the past years. In my new book, I will include both the letters and my thoughts after reading them.

Do you feel the world is a better or worse place 30 years later?

I think, first of all, that none of us should feel nostalgic for the Cold War. We ended it, and the world is better for it. 85 percent of the nuclear arsenals that existed at the height of the arms race have by now been destroyed. But, on the other hand, the remaining weapons of mass destruction are still enough to destroy human civilization. Instead of continued movement towards disarmament, we are witnessing militarization of international relations. This is cause for grave concern. So every one of us should think what we can do to preserve peace and to move towards a world without nuclear weapons, without violence.