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No Place for Chauvinism in U.S.-Soviet Relations

'NEW THINKING FOR OUR COUNTRY AND THE WORLD': Third in a series

December 01, 1987|MIKHAIL S. GORBACHEV | 1987 Mikhail S. Gorbachev, adapted from "Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World," a Cornelia and Michael Bessie book (Harper & Row)

MOSCOW — The United States is a power with which we shall have to live and build relations. This is a reality. For all the contradictory nature of our relationships, it is obvious that we can do nothing in terms of securing peace without the United States, and without us the United States also will accomplish nothing. There is no getting away from each other. Contacts and dialogue are needed; we must look for ways to improve our relationship.

Let me add that we do not intend to shape our relations according to the political situation inside the United States. Today the Republicans stand at the helm in the United States, tomorrow it will be the Democrats or the Republicans once again. There is no particular difference. But there are the interests of the United States as a state to consider. And we shall maintain relations with the Administration that is in power. Let American affairs remain American, and our affairs ours. Such is our basic stand.

We certainly do not need an "enemy image" of America, neither for domestic nor foreign-policy interests. An imaginary or real enemy is needed only if one is bent on maintaining tensions, on confrontation with far-reaching and, I might add, unpredictable consequences. Ours is a different orientation.

For our part, the Soviet Union has no propaganda or hatred toward Americans or disregard for America. In our country you won't find this anywhere, neither in politics nor in education. We criticize a policy we do not agree with. But that's a different matter. It doesn't mean that we show disrespect for the American people.

Yet some people in the United States, it turns out, need the Soviet Union as an enemy image. Otherwise it is hard to understand some films, the spate of articles and programs full of insults and hatred toward the Soviet people. All this dates back to the 1940s, if not earlier.

I would not idealize each step in Soviet foreign policy over the past several decades. Mistakes occurred. But very often they were the consequence of an improvident reaction to American actions, to a policy geared by its architects to "roll back communism."

We are sensitive and, frankly, cautious about the efforts to give the Soviet Union the image of an enemy, especially as they do not just involve ideological exercises along the lines of the usual fantastic stories about a "Soviet military threat," "the hand of Moscow," "the Kremlin's designs" and an absolutely negative portrayal of our internal affairs.

I do not even want to point out the absurdity of such assertions, but neither can we ignore the fact that everything in politics has its own aim. It is thus a question of political practice with certain intentions and plans behind it. We must get rid of any presence of chauvinism in our countries, especially considering the power they both possess. Chauvinism can bring into politics elements that are inadmissible.

It is a sad, tragic fact that Soviet-American relations have been slipping downhill for a long time. Short periods of improvement gave way to protracted spells of tension and a buildup in hostility. I am convinced we have every opportunity to rectify the situation, and it appears that things are moving that way. We are prepared to do everything to bring about changes for the better.

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