Mikhail Gorbachev, a former Soviet leader, has died at the age of 91. Joe Biden paid tributes to him and called him “a man with remarkable vision” that helped to avoid nuclear war.
Mr Gorbachev was one of the most important figures of the 20th Century. He is best known for ending the Cold War with no bloodshed but failed to stop the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The office of Mr Gorbachev stated that he was currently being treated at Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital.
According to news agencies, he died from a long battle with cancer.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his deepest condolences to his family and stated that he would send a telegram to them, a Kremlin spokesperson said.
Joe Biden, the US President, praised Mr Gorbachev for believing in a better world and significantly reducing the possibility of a third world conflict.
“As the leader of the USSR he worked alongside President Reagan to reduce our countries’ nuclear arsenals to the relief of people around the world praying for an end of the nuclear arms race,” stated Mr Biden in a statement.
The US president added, “These were acts of a rare leader.”
“One who has the imagination and courage to imagine a better future, and is willing to take on risk to make it happen.” It was the result: a safer world, greater freedom for millions.
To remove the Iron Curtain, which had divided Europe since World War II, Mr Gorbachev signed arms reduction agreements with the USA and formed partnerships with Western powers.
This led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the unification of Germany. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1990.
In 1985, Mr Gorbachev was elected general secretary of Soviet Communist Party. He set out to revive the communist system and create a new union that would be more equal between the 15 USSR republics.
In six years, however, both communism as well as the Union collapsed.
He tried to simultaneously implement economic and political reforms, but he was too ambitious and unleashed forces he couldn’t control.
He resisted using force as pro-democracy protests spread across communist Eastern Europe, unlike his predecessors who used tanks to suppress uprisings against Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968.
The demonstrations fueled aspirations for independence in the republics and the Soviet leader failed to predict the strength of nationalist sentiment.
Nationalists were encouraged by ‘Glasnost.
Gorbachev’s “glasnost” policy – freedom of speech – allowed for criticisms of the party or the state that were previously impossible, but also encouraged nationalists to push for independence in the Baltics and elsewhere.
His extraordinary reforms quickly took over and led to the fall of the authoritarian government.
He was beaten in a coup attempt in August 1991 and spent his final months in office watching as each republic declared independence, until he resigned the following Christmas.
The Soviet Union was officially disbanded the next day.
PM contrasts with ‘Putin’s aggression’
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of Russia, said that he was saddened to learn of Gorbachev’s death.
He tweeted that he admires the courage and integrity of his efforts to bring the Cold War’s peaceful end.
“In the midst of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, his unwavering commitment to opening up Soviet Society remains an example for us all.”
Many Russians did not forgive Gorbachev for the turmoil that his reforms caused. They felt the subsequent drop in their living standards was too much to pay for democracy.
Later, he stated that he didn’t consider using large-scale force to preserve the USSR because he was afraid of chaos in a nuclear country.
“The country was full to the brim of weapons. He said that it would have pushed the country into civil war.
Jonathan Eyal, a think-tank at the Royal United Services Institute said that he didn’t believe the Soviet Union was an empire made up of nations who did not want to be bound.
“Like all Soviet leaders and dare I say Russian leaders today, he saw Russia as synonymous with the Soviet Union and couldn’t understand why countries wanted to be independent.”