Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, urged a meeting of the World Political Forum, to have greater patience with Russia’s march toward democracy. In referring to recent tensions brought on by American insistence on missile bases in the Czech Republic and Poland, he said: “If you crucify us, we will be unable to cooperate with you. Russia is only halfway through to democratization progress now, but I expect the difference between Russis’s and the EU’s understanding of democracy and civil rights remain in the long run too.” Gorbachev urged Europeans to have more patience and to make greater efforts to understand the forces at play in Russia. His feelings were echoed by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany of Hungary who noted, “The European Union has to build up a mutual conversation with Russia, instead of continuously judging its actions without an intention to understand them.”
Mikhail Gorbachev is a voice of reason, but even he is angry at the missile bases being built by the United States in nations adjacent to Russia. He emphasized that no Russian could accept the Bush claim the bases were there to protect Europe against an Iranian attack and also expressed hope Bush would not do anything as stupid as attacking Iran. There is little doubt Putin has seriously damaged democracy in Russia, but with a new president appearing on the scene this spring, there is hope a positive approach to Russia might reduce tensions. One easy way to assist the new president– who probably will be Dimity Medvedev– is to abandon the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and take up Russia’s offer of creating a missile base which is under joint control of Russia and the United States.