Mikhail Gorbachev Says ‘It Looks as If the World is Preparing for War’

Former head of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev speaks during a ceremony to hand over three paintings by Russian artist Paul Chmaroff including "Paysannes dans les Bois", "Deux Baigneuses" and "Autoportrait", to the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow on December 16, 2016. (Photo credit: VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Former head of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev speaks during a ceremony to hand over three paintings by Russian artist Paul Chmaroff including “Paysannes dans les Bois”, “Deux Baigneuses” and “Autoportrait”, to the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow on December 16, 2016. (Photo credit: VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.

But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.

The current situation is too dangerous.

More troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers are being brought to Europe. NATO and Russian forces and weapons that used to be deployed at a distance are now placed closer to each other, as if to shoot point-blank.

While state budgets are struggling to fund people’s essential social needs, military spending is growing. Money is easily found for sophisticated weapons whose destructive power is comparable to that of the weapons of mass destruction; for submarines whose single salvo is capable of devastating half a continent; for missile defense systems that undermine strategic stability.

Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.

It could have been different
In the second half of the 1980s, together with the U.S., we launched a process of reducing nuclear weapons and lowering the nuclear threat. By now, as Russia and the U.S. reported to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference, 80% of the nuclear weapons accumulated during the years of the Cold War have been decommissioned and destroyed. No one’s security has been diminished, and the danger of nuclear war starting as a result of technical failure or accident has been reduced.

This was made possible, above all, by the awareness of the leaders of major nuclear powers that nuclear war is unacceptable.

In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.

I recall a Politburo meeting in 1986 at which the defense doctrine was discussed. The proposed draft contained the following language: “Respond to attack with all available means.” Members of the politburo objected to this formula. All agreed that nuclear weapons must serve only one purpose: preventing war. And the ultimate goal should be a world without nuclear weapons.

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SOURCE: TIME, Mikhail Gorbachev