Former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev has written
President-elect George W. Bush a letter. Printed in The
Washington Post on Christmas morning, the letter, which
begins by acknowledging the influential role the United States
plays on the world stage, is a well-argued request--at once
respectful and pointed--that America back off.
'While America's role is acknowledged throughout the world,' Gorbachev writes, 'her claim to hegemony, not to say domination, is not similarly recognized. For this reason, I hope, Mr. Bush, as the new American president, that you will give up any illusion that the 21st century can, or even should, be the 'American Century',' he writes, alluding to a phrase Bush employed in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last August. 'Globalization is a given,' he adds, 'but 'American globalization' would be a mistake.'
In warning against U.S. domination, Gorbachev implies that America's present prosperity is purchased at the expense of the rest of the world. '...[I]t is time for America's electorate to be told the blunt truth: that the present situation of the United States, by which a part of its population is able to enjoy a life of extraordinary comfort and privilege, is not tenable over the long run as long as an enormous portion of the world lives in abject poverty, degradation and backwardness.'
Gorbachev also criticizes the Cold War mentality that has gripped the U.S., citing the expansion of NATO, the Yugoslav crisis, and U.S. rearmament (specifically, the Anti-Missile National Defense System) as supporting examples. 'From the standpoint of the Old World,' he writes, 'the post-Cold War period ushered in hopes that now are faded. Over the course of the past decade, the United States has continued to operate along an ideological track identical to the one it followed during the Cold War--but now without a cold war.'
Gorbachev sincerely believes that a cooperative relationship between Russia and the U.S. is necessary for 'a new world order' and 'European unity'; however, he is wary of President-elect Bush's plans; '...it is unclear what your orientation will be. What we heard during the electoral campaign did not sound encouraging.'
And, it doesn't sound encouraging now, either. With the recent appointment of Donald Rumsfeld--secretary of defense under President Ford and 'a leading cold warrior,' as the New York Times recently put it--as defense secretary, who can blame the Russians for being a little worried?