The Times has a fascinating interview (£) with former Soviet leader, Nobel Laureate and two-time Man of the Year Mikhail Gorbachev. He
strikes an optimistic tone about the future of democracy in Russia, praising the ‘Moscow Spring’ protesters and saying ‘This is the right moment to start creating as part of this
new situation a strong democratic party.’ But perhaps the most eye-catching comes when he compares Vladimir Putin with Margaret Thatcher:
‘Mr Gorbachev recalled Mrs Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time, telling him that she was leaving a summit in Paris early to deal with the challenge to her leadership from within the
Conservative Party. He said: “I felt that she was confident she would go back and put her house in order. But she failed and she had to leave Downing Street. People asked me later why it
had happened and I gave a very short answer — she stayed too long and society was tired.
“Putin is in a somewhat similar situation. He did quite a few positive things, but there are also flaws and sins that have accumulated. Putin is a religious believer, I think he
prays. But I also think that he understands in his heart that there needs to be a change in the situation.”’
In truth, this comparison probably isn’t much intended as criticism of either. A diary column that George Grieg wrote for The Spectator back in 2006 contained a nice vignette of the ‘intimacy and warmth’ that exists between Gorbachev and Thatcher, and that
has lasted well beyond their premierships. And Gorby’s call for Putin to step aside seems to have the good of the Russian presidential hopeful in mind. As he’s put it before, ‘That way he would be
able to preserve all the positive things he did’.
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