Article Image

IPFS News Link • History

SCOTT RITTER: Mikhail Gorbachev, a Vector of Change

• By Scott Ritter

I bore first-hand witness to the birth of the Perestroika "revolution" unleashed on the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev, and to its eventual demise. Love him or hate him, one thing is certain — the first and only president of the Soviet Union has a permanent place in the annals of world history.

Gorbachev passed away earlier this week. He was 91 years old.

I became acquainted with him the way most Americans did, when he emerged as the new, fresh face of the Soviet Union after a succession of old, stolid Communist apparatchiks — Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko — passed away in the span of less than three years, between November 1982 and March 1985.

Gorbachev was unlike any Soviet leader who had come before — brash, modern and surprisingly upbeat about the potential of good relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. This didn't mean that everything was a bed of roses between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — far from it.

My own view as a Marine was that the Soviet Union was still very much the top threat to the United States and I trained hard to close with and destroy the Soviet enemy through firepower and maneuver. In the summer of 1985, I was selected to attend a week-long program entitled "Soviet Military Power Week" hosted by the Defense Intelligence Agency, where I was thoroughly indoctrinated into the threat posed by the Soviet armed forces.

Gorbachev's name was barely mentioned during the conference.