Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says Mikhail Gorbachev ‘will be greatly missed’ Pipa News

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OTTAWA – Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, was a “great man” who will be “dearly missed” on the world stage.

Gorbachev, who implemented dramatic reforms during his seven years in power that paved the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, died Tuesday at the age of 91 in a Moscow hospital.

Mulroney said in an interview that while US President Ronald Reagan has been praised for ending the Cold War without a chance, “it takes two to tango,” and Gorbachev was an indispensable leader on the other side.

“President Gorbachev will go down in history as an iconic leader and one who has accomplished a lot for humanity,” he said.

The former prime minister says he first met Gorbachev in March 1985 and found him a breath of fresh air compared to the “stuffy, jaded and unvisionary” Soviet leaders he was used to.

“He was very charming and direct, alert, and you could tell he wanted to do business,” Mulroney said.

He recalls meeting Reagan a few days later in Quebec City and told the president that he expected Gorbachev to be an excellent interlocutor.

“I said, ‘You know, Ron, there’s a new game in town, here,'” Mulroney recalled. “‘This is really a guy that we can get along with and get things done.'”

Gorbachev’s approach to diplomacy stands in stark contrast to the “belligerent, mediocre leadership you see in Moscow today,” Mulroney added. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is “exactly the antithesis of what Gorbachev wanted”.

Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War and reducing nuclear tensions, but he was mocked at home when the Soviet Union fell apart. The land had fallen apart in his hands.

His power was undermined by an attempted coup d’état against him in August 1991. Gorbachev spent his last months in office watching republic after republic declare independence until he stepped down on December 25, 1991, and the Soviet Union wrote itself a day later into oblivion.

Towards the end of his rule, he was powerless to stop the whirlwind he had sown. Yet Gorbachev may have had a greater influence on the latter half of the 20th century than any other political figure.

“I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were needed for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told The Associated Press in a 1992 interview, shortly after he left office.

“I often get the question: Would I have started it all over if I had to repeat it? Yes indeed. And with more perseverance and determination,” he said.

His 1996 presidential election was a national joke and he won less than 1 percent of the vote. In 1997, he resorted to making a TV ad for Pizza Hut to earn money for his charitable foundation.

But outside of Russia, he was praised and Mulroney said they deepened their friendship in the international speaking circuit. In more recent years, they would meet in Houston or New York or Montreal.

“I would see a fair amount of him. And I personally enjoyed him a lot. We had a great personal relationship,” he said. “I witnessed the wonderful relationship he had with his wife and family. He was, in my opinion, a great man.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 30, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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