Washington Post’s The Trail blog discusses an op-ed written by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev,1 in which he points out the Bush administration’s use of military power or the threat of military action as its primarily means of addressing world problems. Gorbachev argues that neither major presidential candidate has proposed anything different from continued military aggression and arms buildups. This is despite the rhetoric of change that has propelled Barack Obama to his status as likely Democratic nominee, though it is no surprise at all coming from John more-of-the-same hot-head McCain.
(Has Obama proposed doing anything to directly reduce defense spending? I’m curious. Despite being an Obama supporter, I don’t know what he’s said on this. Something else to look into. Was that what McCain and Hillary Clinton called him “naive” over?)
Mr. Gorbachev’s comparison of U.S. strategy to the Cold War is quite valid. He writes, “[the U.S.] runs over 700 military bases across the world and plans to build more as if the Cold War were not a thing of the past, and the country were surrounded by enemies.” With the upstart of the missile defense program several years ago, there was a question in some circles as to whether the Cold War had actually ended, or if it was being started anew, given the stark differences between Bush and former Russian President Vladimir Putin on the matter of missile defense. While Condoleeza Rice’s statement that there was no new cold war served only to underline the validity of belief in there being one, that came well after I had started the blog, once entitled “The New Cold War,” but later renamed it “The New Bear: 21st Century Russia — Post-Soviet Russia and its growingly complicated with the United States, Europe, and itself.”
While he presided over the end of the Soviet Union, America’s former hated enemy, we would be wise to listen to his insight on this topic. The Soviet Union collapsed partially due to its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, partially because it tried to keep up with America’s breakneck military spending and nuclear missile building in the 1980s, but especially because Mr. Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestrokia reforms gave the Soviet people the freedoms they had never had before, many of the same ones that we take for granted in America. Because of this freedom, the long-subsumed political and social pressures of the hugely diverse Soviet republics was able to bubble up to the surface, leading to the USSR’s disintegration in 1991, and the
terrorist self-sovereignty uprisings in Chechnya and Georgia. The Soviet Union’s collapse occurred not just under the weight of its sprawling military, but of its stagnant economy and fragmenting society.
1That Gorbachev wrote this in the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta seems a bit odd to me, as Gorbachev is not well-liked among his countrymen despite being the key player in ending the Cold War.)