- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says President Clinton was a foreign policy novice and communism was "pure propaganda."
In an interview first made public this week, Mr. Gorbachev said Mr. Clinton was "a freshman in foreign politics" under whom the United States "wasted" a promising decade after the end of the Cold War.
"My relationship with President Clinton was quite strained, if not downright tense," Mr. Gorbachev said in an interview published in Crisis, a Catholic journal.
Mr. Clinton "is guilty for the fact that the United States has wasted those 10 years following the end of the Cold War," Mr. Gorbachev said. "I think he missed out on opportunities to develop a new world order."
In a speech at Columbia University in New York on Monday, Mr. Gorbachev said the country's backward economic system failed to provide basic consumer goods.
Even as the Soviet Union achieved superpower status and sent cosmonauts into space, Mr. Gorbachev said, the country's communist leaders "were discussing the problem of toothpaste, the problem of detergent, and they had to create a commission of the Politburo to make sure that women had pantyhose."
Mr. Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991, said the communist empire's "unreal system" forced its leaders to govern through lies. "We … were saying, 'Capitalism is moving toward a catastrophe, whereas we are developing well.' Of course, that was pure propaganda. In fact, our country was lagging behind."
Speaking in Russian as he delivered Columbia's annual W. Averell Harriman Lecture, Mr. Gorbachev said Russia entered an "abyss" during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, a situation of "chaos" that current President Vladimir Putin inherited.
In the Crisis magazine interview, Mr. Gorbachev praised Mr. Putin, who he said "has great support among the ordinary people." Mr. Gorbachev also endorsed cooperation between President Bush and Mr. Putin.
"It would be good if no one paid attention to those who criticize Bush in the United States or those who tend to criticize Mr. Putin in Russia," he said, characterizing Mr. Putin's Russian critics as "some scholars and intellectuals who cater to the party interests of the ruling elites."
Mr. Gorbachev was critical of Mr. Clinton's foreign policy, saying the United States missed a chance to cooperate with Russia in the 1990s to improve European security.
"I think Mr. Clinton, as a freshman in foreign politics, was spending too much time on the little details," Mr. Gorbachev told Crisis, "and as a result, none of us was ready for the challenges of globalization."
In particular, Mr. Gorbachev said that under Mr. Clinton's leadership, the United States and Russia "should have worked more on the NATO issues and the issues of European security."
The Clinton administration supported NATO enlargement in Eastern Europe, bringing former Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into the military alliance. Moscow strongly objected to NATO expansion, saying that it threatened the balance of power on the European continent.
Mr. Gorbachev said that the U.S. president failed to adequately address the issue of global poverty.
The post-communist era has been difficult for Russia, where property rights and the rule of law are still weak, the former Soviet leader said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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