Gorbachev Vows to Stay Active in Russian Politics
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he has received tempting offers of lecture posts at universities in the United States, Japan and elsewhere but that he intends to retain a role in his country’s political life.
However, Gorbachev, who is expected to resign his now-titular presidency within days, did not rule out the possibility of combining foreign offers with the future work he expects to do at home.
“I will not leave the world of politics” in Russia, he said in an interview taped Saturday in Moscow and broadcast Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I was born in this country. I have lived and will live here and, moreover, I have no plans to break with this country, particularly at a time like this.”
Yet he acknowledged that he has received “serious and interesting proposals,” invitations from “major American institutions,” although he declined to identify them.
Although 11 of the 12 former Soviet republics agreed Saturday to band together loosely in a new Commonwealth of Independent States, effectively abolishing the office of Soviet president, Gorbachev said he will await receipt of the official documents before actually resigning.
Gorbachev gamely saluted Boris N. Yeltsin as the new master of the Kremlin, offering a critical yet respectful assessment of the Russian Federation president who in just a few months has become his nation’s dominant political figure.
“The phenomenon of Yeltsin is still to be revealed for us to characterize him fully as a politician,” Gorbachev told a CBS correspondent. “He has shown he can do a great deal and he has done a lot. We hope he is fully aware of the great responsibility now on his shoulders. . . . He still needs yet to understand that.”
Gorbachev praised Yeltsin, whose Russian Federation has taken physical possession of the Kremlin and has laid claim to much of the national defense and diplomatic apparatus, including the permanent Soviet seat in the U.N. Security Council.
Calling Yeltsin a “sincere man,” Gorbachev added some cautionary words: “I wish he could always be consistent, without vacillating. I wish he wouldn’t give in to pressure, and would wish the same thing for myself . . . because we need success to advance our cause, our great cause. I wish he were more democratic. It wouldn’t hurt him.”
Reminded by his interviewer that his policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) had brought him greater popularity in the United States than at home, Gorbachev stoutly defended his record.
“The system had to change, and to change the system is hard,” he said. “People put all this down to Gorbachev, the reformer, who has not thought this all out and has dragged us into this, but I must tell you, there was no time to waste.”
A tinge of remorse entered his voice when he acknowledged that he had failed to accurately anticipate the economic hardship that would be entailed in dismantling the Communists’ centrally planned economic system.
“I do not call into question the choice of fundamental reform,” he said. “As for the fact that it was accompanied by a severe worsening of people’s everyday life, I think it was not without miscalculations.”
Gorbachev, the first Soviet leader to form a genuine personal relationship with an American chief of state, took a professional politician’s attitude toward President Bush’s recent diplomatic shift toward the victorious Yeltsin.
He even made an indirect reference to the 1992 U.S. elections, in which Bush is no longer regarded as a shoo-in, saying that he hopes the “cooperation we have enjoyed will continue, regardless of where Bush or Gorbachev may find themselves in the near future.”
If Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III changed their position after last August’s attempted putsch, Gorbachev said, they acted only as “realistically minded politicians” who had to adapt to “match the changes that happened in this country.”
But in a slightly accusatory tone, he added:
“If you take a closer look at some of the nuances, the niceties, maybe it wasn’t only us who made miscalculations; not everything was always done by the American Administration with due respect to all aspects of the situation.”
Dismissing the issue, he said that “in the main, we understand each other.” And when asked whether he felt betrayed by the Americans, Gorbachev replied with the single word that once typified Soviet policy toward the United States at the height of the Cold War: