In a videotaped New Year’s greeting to “all the wonderful people of the Soviet Union,” President Bush offered encouragement Monday to a beleaguered Mikhail S. Gorbachev, saluting the Kremlin leader and his people for undertaking “an arduous journey” toward a new society.
The President, welcoming the Soviets as partners in the Persian Gulf crisis, hailed the U.S.-Soviet “common approach to a new challenge in the name of stability and peace.”
“I applaud, the world applauds, the decisive action of the Soviet Union in strongly opposing Saddam Hussein’s brutal aggression in the gulf,” Bush said, referring to the Iraqi president, whose forces invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Despite their previous close ties to Iraq, the Soviets have supported the United States in the U.N. Security Council. But they have declined to send troops to join an allied army in Saudi Arabia.
On a more personal level, Bush said he was thrilled about the contacts developing between tens of thousands of Soviet and American citizens as a result of the relaxation of old Cold War tensions.
“Barbara and I are thrilled to see our two peoples meeting and getting to know one another as friendly neighbors,” he said, referring to the First Lady.
Gorbachev, in a TV message to the American people, said he expects his Moscow summit with Bush next month to give impetus to the removal of “old obstacles” still hampering U.S.-Soviet relations.
He summed up 1990 as a momentous year: “The Cold War is over. There is no more danger of nuclear catastrophe. The horizons of peace have been widened.”
Bush’s message was taped last week for broadcast today in the Soviet Union. Some U.S. television stations are expected to carry Gorbachev’s message to Americans. Cable News Network said it will air both messages at 10 a.m. PST.
The exchange continues a custom established, at U.S. suggestion, by Gorbachev and then-President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
In this year’s remarks to the Soviet people, Bush praised “the determination with which you are pressing forward with difficult political and economic reforms.”
“It’s an arduous journey,” he said, “but one well worth making, for it is a path that leads to a brighter future for your nation.”
Bush made no reference to Gorbachev’s struggle to keep his nation from splintering under simultaneous political, economic and ethnic crises.