Moscow (dpa) – Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has expressed hope for an improvement in relations between Russia and the European Union, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Saturday.
Ties between the powers took a downturn with the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, followed by alleged assassination plots in Europe, claims of election-meddling and, most recently, the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, said that even though relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War, common ground could be found.
“One should not be afraid of negotiations,” Gorbachev told Interfax. “Only negotiations, only meetings at all levels – especially at the highest – can bring positive results. I believe in this.”
“It must be understood that we are all Europeans … this means that we must negotiate,” he added.
In the interview with Interfax, Gorbachev, who turns 90 on Tuesday, also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden to hold a face-to-face meeting and new nuclear disarmament negotiations.
“The main thing today is to prevent nuclear war,” Gorbachev urged. “To achieve progress, it is necessary to approach each other openly.”
He said his experience with US president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s showed that leaders of the two major nuclear powers could achieve much on global security issues, if they wanted to.
Washington and Moscow signed several nuclear disarmament treaties under Gorbachev, who was instrumental in reforming the Soviet Union.
Under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, the US pulled out of most of the agreements.
Washington and Moscow agreed in late January, after Biden took office, to extend the last major nuclear disarmament treaty, known as New START, for five years.
The Strategic Nuclear Arms Limitation Treaty had entered into force on February 5, 2011. The agreement, which would have expired in early February, limits the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States to 800 delivery systems and 1,550 deployable nuclear warheads each.
Russia and the US together possess about 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons.