One of the most baffling developments of the 1980’s was the Cult of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev had his qualities. He was one of the few leaders in the Soviet Union who understood that the system wasn’t working and was absurdly corrupt (I met a general who identified Gorbachev as a potential reformer back in 1983). He reigned in some of the worst parts of the police state and, unlike his predecessors, did not use military force to hold the Communist Bloc together. There’s a famous story of him meeting Reagan and asking if Reagan really did think the Soviet Union was an evil Empire. Reagan was impressed because Gorby’s predecessors hadn’t cared whether it was or not. He deserves credit for the role he played in winding down the Cold War.
But that’s enough for some people. Gorbachev has to be a visionary who saved the world from the nuclear fire that the evil Ronald Reagan was driving us toward. He was the messiah who delivered freedom to Eastern Europe. He was the visionary who ended half a century of antagonism from Western imperialists.
This line of thought ignores that Gorby was and is a supporter of communism who truly believed in Marxist-Leninism. He was sad that the advance of Marxism faltered — an advance played out in dozens of devastating civil wars. He has said, repeatedly, that the collapse of the murderous Soviet Union and the loosening of its stranglehold over Eastern Europe was a bad thing. He is a critic of the Washington Consensus that had led the world to the greatest prosperity in its history and thinks China’s economic model — see Alex’s posts on that subject — is the example to the world.
I’d like to think that this will rattle a few misconceptions:
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev hailed Crimea’s vote to join Russia as a “happy event” on Tuesday.
In remarks carried by online newspaper Slon.ru, the last leader of the U.S.S.R. said Crimea’s vote offered residents the freedom of choice and justly reflected their will.
You know, it’s like if we invaded Quebec and had a plebiscite for them to become our 51st state. Everything would think that was legit, right?
It gets more ominous.
Gorbachev added that the Crimean referendum has set an example for people in Russian-speaking in eastern Ukraine, who also should decide their fate.
I expect that Gorby-worshippers will resolve this cognitive dissonance by deciding that Gorbachev is right: that the Crimea should be part of Russia and the US is wrong to oppose it. Of course, that would put them in conflict with Kerry and Obama. Good God, whose Cult of Personality do you follow?
Gorbachev has always been an imperialist who believe in a greater Marxist-Leninist state. That he eased up on enforcing that state with gulags and murder — the only way any such state has ever survived — is to his credit. But maybe we should reconsider his canonization.