World pays tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev

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Germany, the US and other countries on Wednesday reacted to the death of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Germany’s Scholz labels Gorbachev a ‘courageous reformer’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised Gorbachev as a “courageous reformer.”

Scholz said that the former Soviet leader’s policies made it possible for Germany to be reunited in 1990 and for the Iron Curtain to disappear.

Germany’s chancellor added that Gorbachev died at a time when democracy had “failed” in Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin was sowing new divisions in Europe. “That’s why we think of Mikhail Gorbachev and know how important he was for the development of Europe and our country in recent years,” he concluded.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Gorbachev was “guided by peace and understanding between people in fateful moments of our history.”

The end of the Cold War and German unity are his legacy,” she said.

“We mourn the loss of a statesman to whom we are eternally grateful,” Baerbock added.

“I bow to the great statesman,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a letter to Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina Virganskaya.

“Germany remains connected to him, in gratitude for his decisive contribution to German unity, in respect for his courage in democratic opening and building bridges between East and West, and in memory of his great vision of a peaceful Common European Home,” Germany’s president said.

Steinmeier said that Gorbachev had in recent years “suffered from the fact that his dream was ever more distant.” This dream was “destroyed by Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine,” he said.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Gorbachev a “unique global politician.”

“Gorbachev wrote world history — he exemplified how a single statesman can change the world for the better,” Merkel said on her website.  

US: Gorbachev a ‘man of remarkable vision’ 

US President Joe Biden said that “Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision.”

“As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals … After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms.”

“The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”

James Baker III, who was US Secretary of State during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, called Gorbachev a “giant who steered his great nation towards democracy.”

“He played the critical role in a peaceful conclusion of the Cold War by his decision against using force to hold the empire together … The free world misses him greatly,” Baker said.

The Reagan Foundation and Institute said that it “mourns the loss of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who once was a political adversary of Ronald Reagan’s who ended up becoming a friend,” referring to tensions between the Soviet Union and the Untied States at the end of the Cold War.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gorbachev family and the people of Russia.”

France, EU, UN remember Gorbachev’s legacy 

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences and called Gorbachev “a man of peace.” He went on to say that the late statesman “opened up a path of liberty for Russians.”

“[Gorbachev’s] commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history,” France’s president said.

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe … This legacy is one we will not forget,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

“I always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion … In a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mikhail Gorbachev, a one-of-a kind statesman who changed the course of history.”

“He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War. The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace,” the UN chief said.

Russia’s Putin expresses ‘deepest condolences’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency that Russian President Vladimir Putin expresses his “deepest condolences,” and would “send a telegram of condolences to Gorbachev’s family and friends.”

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a politician and statesman who had a huge impact on the course of world history,” Putin said. “He led our country during a period of complex, dramatic changes, and large-scale foreign policy, economic and societal challenges. He deeply understood that reforms were necessary, and sought to offer his own solutions to pressing issues.”

Peskov said that “many argue about [Gorbachev’s] role, but the fact that he was an extraordinary, unique person is undeniable,” adding that he gave an “impetus” for the end of the Cold War.

Putin’s spokesperson said that he believed Gorbachev wanted to bring about an “eternal romantic period” between a reformed Soviet Union and the West. “This romanticism did not materialize … the bloodthirstiness of our opponents manifested itself. It’s good that we understood this in time.”

China said Gorbachev “made positive contributions to the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations.”

sdi/wd (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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