Thursday, May 14, 2009

Europe misunderstands Russia, says Gorbachev

Nearly twenty years have passed since the end of the Soviet Union, but Europe still doesn’t understand the new Russia – that’s the word from the Soviets’ last leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“We must achieve an understanding of Russia by Europe. This is absent,” Gorbachev said at a news conference on Wednesday. He said that common Western views of Russia as aggressive and imperialistic are “nonsense” and that Russia only wants to be treated as an equal by Europe.

Relations between Russia and the rest of Europe hit a low point last summer after the conflict between Russia and Georgia flared up, stoking left over fears from the Cold War of a new Russian Empire set on conquering Europe. And just as those fears started to ebb as more evidence emerged that Georgia’s actions actually started the August conflict, a dispute over natural gas flared up with Ukraine, resulting in Russian gas supplies to large parts of Europe drying up in the middle of winter - sparking another bout of Russophobia.

Gorbachev sounded a more hopeful tone on the future of US-Russia relations, saying that he appreciated President Obama’s “point of view”.

Domestically, Gorbachev again said he was planning to launch a new political party in Russia to challenge the United Russia party of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister (and former President) Vladimir Putin. In March Gorbachev said that United Russia had become the “worst version” of the old Soviet-era Communist party because of its dominance of modern Russian politics.
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