In an interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel & Stephen F. Cohen in the Nation, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said that George HW Bush told him in 1987 “Reagan is a conservative. An extreme conservative. All the blockheads and dummies are for him, and when he says that something is necessary, they trust him. But if some Democrat had proposed what Reagan did, with you, they might not have trusted him.”
Reagan’s supporters were famously unsupportive of Bush, who ran hard against him in the primaries, and only got the VP nod when negotiations with Ford fell apart.
Gorbachev said that he was passing that on as a gesture of appreciation for Reagan’s part in bringing on perestroika and normalization of relations between the US and Russia, which he describes in an only Nixon can go to China way. Personally, though, he said that he described Reagan at the time as a “dinosaur,” and Reagan described him as “a diehard Bolshevik.”
He blames the decay of the former Soviet Union on what he says is a mistaken impression that the end of the Cold War was a win for the United States, rather than for both parties, and says that Washington’s view of Yeltsin as a vassal rather than a partner exacerbated the neglect that destroyed more than half of russian industry. He also seems to suggest that the same attitude has led us to make the same mistakes he made in Afghanistan (and to some extent, he blames us for those too).
I’m guessing, though, it’s the Bush quote that makes the biggest news.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 31, 2009