America is in urgent need of its own 'perestroika' and its days as the world’s superpower have ended, according to former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
America is in urgent need of its own 'perestroika', says
By Amanda Andrews
Last Updated: 7:08PM GMT 12 Mar 2009
“America needs perestroika right now. I did a lecture in the US and said the country needs its own perestroika and I got a 10 minute standing ovation,” said the man whose own policies helped trigger the collapse of the Soviet Union. “
(President) Obama’s proposals will be bigger than perestroika. I want to wish success to Obama and his Cabinet, because
the problems he has to deal with are not easy ones.”
The Soviet Union’s own perestroika - which means reconstruction in Russian - was adopted by Mr Gorbachev in an effort
to reform the Soviet Union and prevent its collapse. However, the former Soviet leader underestimated the power of the
nationalist forces he unleashed by loosening the grip of Moscow’s central command on the sprawling Soviet empire.
President Obama has arrived in the White House during the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and, according to Mr
Gorbachev, this is not a crisis that the US can fix on its own.
“Everyone is used to America as the shepherd that tells everyone what to do,” Mr Gorbachev said on a visit to London
with Alexander Lebedev, the new majority owner of the London Evening Standard newspaper.
“But this period has already ended. That’s why there must be solidarity and partnerships. One single country can never
rule the whole world,” he said.
His comments come before a critical G20 summit in London next month which will see the governments of the world’s
major economies come together in a renewed effort to fix the financial crisis.
Mr Gorbachev said the world needs to find “a new model”, and major changes are needed to the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), the World Bank and a string of other international institutions.
He added that there has been “excessive consumption” in recent years and the world’s biggest issue is the large divide
between rich and poor. Mr Gorbachev said he has not met President Obama, but hopes to on an upcoming visit to
Washington with Mr Lebedev, with whom he runs a political party.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s handling of the financial crisis also won support from Mr Gorbachev as he criticised the
Conservatives’ response to the downturn.
Mr Gorbachev - who spent Wednesday night with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a concert to
raise money for the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Gorbachev Foundation - attacked the Conservative party’s focus on
“Maybe the Conservative party is not ready to give up the methods they have used – such as Reaganomics. They need to
change their mind set first. Maybe they [the Conservative Government] would like to take the initiative but they’re not
ready for that yet,” he said.
The former Soviet leader and Mr Lebedev last year set up a new opposition party in Russia with a plan to field candidates
in the next parliamentary elections in 2011. Mr Gorbachev said today that he does believe that Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin poses a threat to democracym saying “Putin also wants to solve the problems of democracy – and he’d like
to do it as quickly as possible.”
Mr Gorbachev - who co-owns Novaya Gazeta, a “free” newspaper in Russia with Mr Lebedev - spoke of the lack of press
freedom in Russia, with the major television channels under state control.
“Russia’s had less time to build up its democracy. We’ve got to get through this journey step-by-step. We need to change
the mind set and psychology within Russia,” he said.