An Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev

Candid views about U.S.-Soviet relations and his goals for his people

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A. As far as preparations for the upcoming meeting, let me assure you that we certainly attach tremendous importance to it. We have high hopes and serious hopes about the outcome, even though we do hear from the other side that they are taking a much more modest view of the meeting. They are not giving it that much significance, and we hear words to the effect that it is going to be an introductory meeting, only an agenda for the future, things to that effect. Well, we believe that to travel all the way to Geneva just to get acquainted, just to look at the beauties of Lake Geneva, the beauty of Swiss mountains, that is not adequate to the leaders of two such great nations. It is an expensive luxury. We will do all in our power to make the summit meeting instrumental in improving relations between the Soviet Union and the U.S.

Q. In an article to be released this weekend in Foreign Affairs magazine, former President Nixon says that an agreement reducing arms, but not linked to restraints on political conduct, would not contribute to peace. In effect he is saying that the first priority of a summit should not be arms control, but potential flash points and pressure points between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Do you share that view?

A. It is interesting for me to hear what President Nixon is doing these days. As for the topics that we are going to take up in our discussions with President Reagan, we are working on that right now. We are in contact with the State Department, the White House, and this is an ongoing process. I would not like at this point to go into any of the details of this preparatory work.

Your mentioning Nixon certainly gives me some associations and some memories of a different kind. After all, it was in a very difficult period of our relationship that we managed to find, with Nixon when he was President, the solutions to some very important issues. I recall still further back in 1961 the meeting between Khrushchev and President Kennedy in Vienna. That was a very difficult time as well. There was the Caribbean crisis, yet in 1963 we saw the partial test-ban treaty. Even though that was again a time of crisis, the two sides and their leaders had enough wisdom and the boldness to take some very important decisions. History is very interesting in that way, when you attempt to draw lessons from it.

Q. You have, at least in the view of the world press, started a quite new style of politics in the U.S.S.R. You have gone out and met many people, mingled with workers, and been very visible. Do you enjoy this kind of activity? What benefits do you see deriving from it?

A. Well, first of all, it is not just my own personal style. This is something that we all learned from Lenin. It goes back to Lenin. He said on quite a few occasions that to know life you must live as the masses do, live among the masses, learn from the masses, feel their pulses at work and reflect their thinking, their mood in your policies. I would give priority in that to Lenin. It is not my invention.

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