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Former Soviet Union executive president Mikhail Gorbachev said that it was necessary to learn from the past and build ‘a new world order’ during a lecture at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library on Tuesday.
Gorbachev, who is credited with bringing the end to the Cold War and helping to introduce democratic reform to Russia, visited the University of Texas as the latest speaker for the Harry Middleton Lectureship Series co-sponsored by the LBJ Foundation.
“We need a world order that is more stable, more just, and more humane. I think this is the matrix, the framework within which we can develop such world,” he said through a translator.“But it is very important for us to think about the way we respond to the challenges we face like the challenge of security, poverty, and our relationship with the environment.”
Gorbachev said that while the movement toward this new world order could be slow and would require local governance that does not constitute using force and bombs to promote democracy.
He also spoke about turmoil in Afghanistan and Iran, the current leader of Russia Vladimir Putin, and as his support for President Obama whose election, he said, brought a great change for America when the people demanded it.
Recalling his time as the leader of the former USSR, Gorbachev said it wasn’t easy to arrive at the possibility of really changing the country and reforming the Soviet Union into a more democratic country.
“For decades we had been ruled by old people, but everyone repeated ‘We can no longer live like this,’” Gorbachev said. “People demanded change. People wanted change.”
For decades we had been ruled by old people, but everyone repeated ‘We can no longer live like this,’ People demanded change. People wanted change.
He said that his policies perestroika and glasnost, which were enacted while he served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were created after building a team of like-minded people set out to respond to the people of Russia who demanded development of democracy.
Gorbachev also spoke about the Cold War and its most difficult years in which it was of upmost importance that the leaders of Russia and the United States meet to talk about global matters in order to mobilize relations amongst the two countries.
He said that leaders are the people who have in their hands the future of the world and it is a big mistake for them to not talk to each other. Gorbachev said that while negotiations are always difficult process, any issue can be resolved when honesty is involved.
Gorbachev also said that agreements with the US to avoid nuclear war and no longer regard each other as enemies could not have been reached with anyone else besides former president Ronald Reagan, but that opportunities that arose with the end of the Cold War have not been used or fulfilled due to the “arrogant assessment” of the end of the war by the US.
Gorbachev, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, also advised the US to learn from the mistakes of others and exit the Middle East even if it is in defeat.
He said that it is necessary that the US leave Afghanistan in order to avoid making the same mistakes that Russia made when they invaded the country for ten years. He said that continuing an occupation in the Middle East would further create a division of the world and confrontation as Russia had done in the past.
Harry Middleton, former director of the LBJ Library for whom the lecture series was established in honor of, said that it was very important to Lady Bird Johnson to bring leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev to the UT campus.
“In thinking back to the days when I was a college student, I would have been thrilled to hear a leader who actually changed the world. I hope the students who attend get a greater awareness of how the world is changing in their time,” he said.
Mark Updegrove, current LBJ Library director, moderated the lecture and said that while most of the students in the audience were not alive during Gorbachev’s time in office, he hoped that they would realize the impact of his actions.
“History is a fickle lady,” Gorbachev said. “I’m proud of the life I’ve lived, but let history decide.”