PITTSFORD — The U.S. invasion of Iraq undermined international law and destabilized world order, according to Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union.
In a wide-ranging speech on global issues before 2,000 people at St. John Fisher College Oct. 7, Gorbachev touched upon the war in Iraq, highlighting it as an example of the type of unilateral actions governments take to the detriment of world security.
“No country can assure its security alone,” Gorbachev said through a translator. “Security in our day can only be collective and common.”
Gorbachev, who was invited to Fisher as part of an annual lecture series featuring former heads of state, called for many collective actions to be taken by nations to enhance world order. For example, he noted that all nations must continue to work to abolish nuclear weapons because such weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists. About 30 countries are on the threshold of having nuclear weapons, he added. Noting that he led the Soviet Union during the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in Ukraine, he said one land-based nuclear missile used by terrorists could lead to “a hundred Chernobyls.” He added that none of the members of the world’s “nuclear club” — including the United States and Russia — are helping the situation by refusing to destroy their arsenals.
“Other countries are wondering, ‘What do these nuclear powers want? What is their agenda?” he said.
As for Russia’s own war with terrorists from Chechnya, Gorbachev noted that Chechen and Russian leaders originally agreed that Chechnya would have autonomy in the Russian federation, rather than the independence insurgents currently want. He blamed outside forces for funneling money into Chechnya to destabilize the primarily Muslim region and fuel a bloody war for independence. He noted that Russia cannot tolerate having an Islamic republic in its southern region because of the instability it would create. He added that he believes Russia made mistakes in handling the Chechnya situation, but that those mistakes have been exploited by terrorists and their supporters.
“For many people, terrorism has become a way of life,” he said.
To stabilize the world, Gorbachev said he wants governments to work much faster to end world poverty and stem environmental crises. Both threats to human life may become so overwhelming that they will lead to even more wars as governments fight to protect such limited natural resources as fresh water, he said.
“The Third World … is a ticking bomb that could be more powerful than all the weapons,” he said.
As one example of international cooperation, he pointed out that the Russian cabinet on Sept. 30 approved the Kyoto treaty designed to reduce air pollution emissions, and he called on the United States to do the same. One-hundred-twenty nations have approved the accord, but, until two weeks ago, Russia stood with America as being among the biggest polluting nations that had resisted approving it.
Gorbachev, whose meetings with Pope John Paul II contributed to the Cold War’s end, approvingly cited the pope’s call for a “more democratic, more stable, more just and more humane” world order.
“These are the goals with which I fully agree, and the political leaders should take these goals as their objectives,” he said.