Gorbachev, an unforgettable effort | International
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Just two days ago one of the most important historical figures of the 20th century died. Although he was not successful in many of his aims, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev deserves to be remembered as a great person, who put his great human qualities at the service of his country and world peace.
Gorbachev was a person of humble origin. Born in the small town of Privolnoye, in the Stavropol region of Russia, his peasant origins would have a great impact on his life.
Despite coming from a humble background, Gorbachev had the opportunity to study law at the best university in the Soviet Union, Moscow State University. Motivated by the political activism of his father and his grandfather, during his university period he joined the ranks of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Upon his return to his native Stavropol region, it was in his capacity as head of the regional administration that he would meet Yuri Andropov, then director of the KGB, who would be one of the great promoters of the figure of Gorbachev in the ranks of the Communist Party.
After the death of Leonid Brezhnev, who was general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for 16 years, it seemed clear that Andropov would succeed him. That’s how it went. However, Andropov died just 15 months after taking office, and faced with the dilemma of choosing a successor, the Committee opted for Chernenko, from the hardest wing of the Party. In terminal health throughout his tenure, Chernenko would only last 11 months in the post, with Gorbachev eventually becoming general secretary.
Although his legacy will be remembered positively by much of Western thought, it should be remembered that the Gorbachev period was not without its failures. On the one hand, even if he succeeded in carrying out some political reforms (glasnost), Gorbachev encountered enormous difficulties in carrying out his program of economic reforms, also known as perestroika. In addition, he had to manage the human catastrophe caused by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, as well as the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989.
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Gorbachev found in Reagan a staunch anticommunist, but despite their great differences they were able to agree on the fundamentals. At the 1985 Geneva Summit, the two leaders’ commitment to averting a nuclear conflagration was made clear when they jointly declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be waged.” Together with Reagan, Gorbachev had the courage to approve the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 —later suspended by Donald Trump— and pave the way for the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as START I.
Furthermore, Gorbachev was a great friend of Spain. In 1990, Gorbachev visited Spain, and during that trip, his contribution to world peace was recognized with two appointments. honorary cause by the Autonomous University of Madrid and the Complutense.
Gorbachev’s decline was the personalized expression of the fall of a political system that needed to be reformed, but whose internal dynamics made any attempt at change impossible. Even if he survived the 1991 coup, Gorbachev’s continued efforts to make the Soviet Union a socialist regime with a human face were not enough to counter the growing influence of Boris Yeltsin. With the Belavezha Treaty of 1991, Yeltsin, as the representative of Russia, would bring together the representatives of Ukraine and Belarus to formally dissolve the Soviet Union.
In these times in which the most aggressive and irrational Putin we have ever known sits in the Kremlin, the figure of Mikhail Gorbachev is, without a doubt, the most lucid political leader Russia has ever had. Gorbachev was a great friend of dialogue, whose contribution to Russia and the world has not been duly recognized by his political successors. In Europe, we will remember him for ending the Cold War and reunifying Germany. Ultimately, he will be remembered as a European.
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