Mikhail Gorbachev's Chilling 2014 Warning About The Ukraine

The last leader of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev died on August 30, 2022, at the age of 91 from a long illness, according to CNN. Known for many social and economic reforms, Gorbachev's death comes in the midst of an ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine. That tension threatens to reignite the so-called Cold War between Gorbachev's home country, Russia, and the West, most notably the United States, which Gorbachev's "glasnost" and "perestroika" policies helped to end in the late 1980s.

As early as 2014, in fact, Gorbachev warned that if the West didn't change course in how the long-simmering Russia-Ukraine conflict was handled then renewed tensions between Russia and the United States were all but inevitable, based on reporting from The Independent. The fall of the Berlin Wall is often considered the symbolic end of the Cold War period, and speaking at the 25th anniversary, Gorbachev warned that it could be too late: A new Cold War may have already started, as The Independent notes.

2014 saw a major flare-up in tension between Russia and Ukraine

At the time Mikhail Gorbachev made his prescient comments regarding the role Western interests played in the ongoing Russian and Ukrainian conflict and how they might shape the outcome, then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych (pictured), had recently declined an offer to integrate his country more closely with the West, as Vox reports. As a result, the divides deepened within Ukraine between those who supported Ukrainian independence and those who wished to remain aligned with Moscow.

At that time, the U.S. sided with Ukrainian separatists while the Kremlin-backed Ukrainian rebels fought to remain a part of Russia, and Western support of Ukrainian separatists came largely in the form of sanctions, as Vox notes. Shortly thereafter, Russian forces under Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula. Around that same time, Gorbachev said (via The Guardian), "We must make sure that we get the tensions that have arisen recently under control."

Gorbachev called for dialogue

In the post-Cold War period, Gorbachev warned the U.S. against triumphalism while speaking in Berlin, according to The Guardian. He also encouraged the U.S. to lift all sanctions against Russian officials, and to pursue dialogue between the two countries, instead, per The Independent. Around that same time, Gorbachev also said (via The Independent) that Russian President Vladimir Putin, though not above reproach, had Russia's best interests at heart. As The Guardian goes on to note, the Ukrainian conflict at that time simply provided an excuse for the West to "victimize" his home country, Gorbachev said.

The Ukrainian-Russian conflict not only worsened tension between the U.S. and Russia but also between Russia and Germany. On that note, Gorbachev said (via The Independent), "As long as Russians and Germans understand each other, as long as our relationship is good, then everyone benefits." As late as 2019, Gorbachev remarked the Ukraine situation could mean the beginning of a so-called "hot war" which could result in the end of civilization as we know it. "This must not be allowed," the former Soviet leader said (via CNN).