In a ground-breaking one-on-one Newsmax interview with CEO Christopher Ruddy and the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev — prescient in its coverage of Russia's current president, Vladimir Putin — Gorbachev, then 78, honored the life of former President Ronald Reagan, who would have turned 100 years old in February 2011.
In honor of President Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at age 91, Newsmax looks back at the one of the world's most celebrated leaders — credited for no less than reshaping global politics.
In an interview to prepare for Reagan's February 2011 birthday anniversary (Reagan died at age 93), Ruddy met with Gorbachev in December 2020, inside the Moscow-based Gorbachev Foundation office, where discussion covered the gamut from world leaders to nuclear tensions.
The televised event also celebrated how Reagan and Gorbachev came together in the 1980s to dramatically ease worries of nuclear war, while also ending the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (now Russia).
President Gorbachev rarely gave interviews and this was one of the few he gave in his final years; but on this day, he was eager to share his recollections of dealing with Reagan — at the height of worldwide nuclear tensions.
On the early days of the Gorbachev-Reagan relationship:
"I'm very pleased to talk about Reagan ... He was a great president ... After our first talk, he called me a 'dyed-in-the-wool Bolshevik,' and I called him a 'dinosaur' — so that was our first meeting."
But eventually, "we became good partners, in the best sense of that word."
On negotiating with Reagan in the early days of talks:
"The first steps are always the most difficult in whatever one is doing," he said.
Gorbachev then credited George H.W. Bush — Reagan's vice president at the time — for launching talks with American officials.
"We agreed it wasn't good that two superpowers ... had not been in contact for such a long time — six years."
Gorbachev recalls Reagan responded positively to the notion of talks and negotiations.
"I must tell you: There were quite a few opponents who objected to President Reagan's desire to meet," he said, adding that White House senior official Casper Weinberger actually wrote a letter to Reagan — that was eventually leaked to the press — insisting he did not meet.
"There was a lot of resistance then."
Regarding the initial summit meetings:
"It was quite an interesting summit," Gorbachev said, noting there were two dates.
And after the first meeting, Gorbachev said about Reagan: "He's just not conservative — he's a dinosaur."
And then through the media, Gorbachev caught wind of Reagan calling him a "dyed-in-the-wool Bolshevik."
"The discussions were dramatic, and sometimes harsh," he said, "dignified, but nevertheless harsh."
But two days later, though, both parties agreed to sign a joint statement "that reflected the results of the meeting."
Two major agreements were reached, according to Gorbachev:
- The most important thing: "A nuclear war cannot be won and can never be fought," said Gorbachev, revealing that Americans and Soviets had thorough data on just how costly a hypothetical nuclear would be for the world.
- Neither country would seek "military superiority" over the other. "I think that we're not yet there; nuclear weapons still exist," Gorbachev said, noting two powers were working on abolishing all nuclear weapons.
On how other world leaders viewed the concept of nuclear disarmament:
They mocked the idea then, but they "were also against German unification," Gorbachev said. "I think that most people in those countries are responsible enough to know that having nuclear weapons is dangerous, because you also become a target."
On ending the Cold War:
Only the military industrial complex benefits from instilling fear of a large-scale or nuclear war, according to Gorbachev.
"So, don't jump to conclusions" when dealing with the Americans, he added.
"We need to develop a new economic model that's not dependent on all the weapons ... Why grow the economy by making weapons, selling weapons, arms trade ... without knowing where those weapons will end up? ... The healthy and reasonable judgment will prevail."
On a turning point in the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship:
Gorbachev noted how President Reagan had been born the same year as his mother. But the younger Gorbachev did not let Reagan project superiority, just because of a 20-plus-year gap in ages.
"There was a moment when President Reagan started lecturing me," Gorbachev said, "and I had to stop him, object to that, and say, 'Mr. President, you're not the teacher, and I'm not the student. You're not a prosecutor, and I am not the accused'
"We must work as equals," he concluded.
After that, Reagan suggested they deal with another on a first-name basis.
"And this is how our relationship evolved, this is how it became more and more human," Gorbachev said. "President Reagan was a great American, and a great man for all mankind."
On today's military battles fought between countries:
"There is still an arms race in the world, and I am concerned," Gorbachev said.
"Today's conventional weapons are powerful enough to be extremely dangerous, and therefore, we need a real end to the arms race.
"Our two countries set the example, and others follow."
On the long-term impact of the nuclear pact:
"Both of us had the moral position that we objected to the existence of nuclear weapons," he said.
"It was perhaps a stroke of luck that two such persons were together" working on the deal.
Back then, Gorbachev said the Western media embraced the Soviet Union being the "evil empire" and Reagan serving as a "political hulk."
That aside, Gorbachev said, "Nevertheless, we were able to transcend and go beyond that."
"We must pay tribute to Ronald Reagan. He was a great man, and I'm very proud of the work we did together."
On Gorbachev presiding over the Soviet Union's fall of communism:
"Certainly the process of change in a country like ours involved changing and modernizing all the fears of life in our society," Gorbachev said. "There [was] no person, no scientist, no genius who could have predicted what would happen ... in our main traces, we were right. We did all that we could to put an end to the totalitarian regime, put an end to the Stalinist system.
"Of course, this is still not over, but we were able to give [the Russian] people freedom, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion — all of those freedoms that" our people wanted.
"Where are we now? We are in the process of transition ... and I think that we are halfway down that road. When Americans criticize us, don't forget that we are only halfway. When we are through 100%, then we'll talk again."
Gorbachev's thoughts on critics who say Russia is "backsliding" into communism under Russian President Vladimir Putin:
"We have certainly gone past the point of no return," Gorbachev said. "There can be no return to the past of an old order. That's no longer possible. The new generation is starting its life."
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