Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union who received a Nobel Peace Prize for presiding over the collapse of communism, gave a rare interview to the BBC the other day.
He lamented the rising tension between Russia and the West and warned that if unresolved poses a “colossal danger” to the world peace.
The darling of the world as he systematically dismantled the once mighty Soviet Union (USSR) through his policy of “glasnost” (openness), during which he decentralized power and democratized the country’s political system, Gorbachev remain a trusted voice of reason on global affairs.
His major concern over a protracted stand-off between Russia and the West is the ever-present possibility of the use of nuclear weapons by either side. A reputable man of peace, Gorbachev has in fact called on all the nations of the world to denounce nuclear weapons.
His deep sense of apprehension is not without a sound base. US president Donald Trump recently pulled out of a Cold War-era treaty known as Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF Treaty, accusing Russia of continuous surreptitious disregard of the terms of the accord. The INF Treaty was signed by Gorbachev and his US counterpart at the time, Ronald Reagan. It was a cooperation that paved the way for the eventual end of the Cold War between the West and the USSR.
But now, with the INF Treaty torn and thrown in the rubbish bin BY THE Trump administration, Gorbachev and many peace-loving world leaders fear the dawn of a new nuclear arms race.
In the light of the growing schism between Moscow and Washington, it is not difficult to see why Gorbachev is fearful of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, reignited by unnecessary stand-off between the world’s nuclear powers.
NATO, a key US allay, has constantly begged Washington to rethink her hostile stance towards the INF Treaty, but to no avail. This is a great pity. A great pity because as traditional allies, Washington ought to appreciate the fears NATO harbours that should a situation of confrontation with Moscow arise, there would be no winners. Geographically, NATO members, most of who are situated in Western Europe and others on Russia’s door-step in Eastern Europe, stand in harm’s way.
I believe that it is incumbent upon the Trump administration to appreciate that in any war there are no winners. Gorbachev gave the West the greatest gift of hope and optimism that peace is both possible and achievable. Today’s Russia has been rebuilt on the ashes of the USSR with a renewed international relations outlook of peace, security and cooperation. If Gorbachev could join hands with Reagan and bring-about an end to the Cold War and a halt to the nuclear arms control at a time when the world stood on a precipice, surely today’s leaders ought to redouble their efforts in an endeavour to find one another for the sake of securing a world of peaceful co-existence?
I am majorly concerned that Washington’s foreign policy is spearheaded by the warped logic that only America can annihilate her opponents, assuming that those opponents possess no weapons of self-defense. In the 21st century wars are fought in a complex manner. No one is immune from suffering casualties. We’ve seen with home-brewed terrorists in the UK, Scandinavia and the Americas that anyone can sleep with their enemy without being aware. No amount of weapons, no matter how sophisticated, can insulate anyone from harm. President Trump must return the US to the INF Treaty without any further delay. His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, has said he is ready to resuscitate treaty. It is dangerous and fool-hardy to believe that the US can ride rough-shot over any country in the world, and not face serious reprisals. The era of impunity is long gone. Once again, as things stand, America’s foreign policy is akin to penny-wise, pound-foolish mental state. It’s never too late to change course for the better.