NEW YORK — Former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev warned Monday that extremism and separatism are fueling a "chaos of conflicts" in the post-Cold War world, including his own country.
In a somber address to the graduating class of Emory University in Atlanta before traveling to New York, where he conferred with Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali and was cheered by U.N. staffers, Gorbachev stressed the world was still far from stable.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 13, 1992 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Gorbachev degree--The Times incorrectly reported in Tuesday's editions that Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn presented former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev a doctor of laws degree at Emory University. Emory President James T. Laney conferred the degree on Gorbachev.
"We have evaded a major war, but as it appears, we are sinking into a chaos of conflicts of a different order," he told Emory's 2,646 graduates after being introduced by former President Jimmy Carter, a distinguished professor at the historic Southern university.
Carter praised Gorbachev as "still a great world leader" who "personifies those highest ideals of leadership."
Gorbachev said: "The immediate cause of conflicts may seem varied, at least from the outside, but they always involve giving full vent to extremism and separatism, furious armed clashes and terror, many deaths and streams of refugees.
"Such a disaster has even affected my own country. As president of the U.S.S.R., I warned about giving in to the thoughtless and emotional urge to declare sovereignty. Where peoples and countries are so interdependent, making sovereignty an absolute value leads to tragedy."
Gorbachev cautioned the graduates that human activity is provoking "global processes which threaten the very existence of civilization, even of life on earth."
"The individual can become, indeed, is becoming hostage to his own technological prowess, the uncontrolled consequences of his activities," he added.
"Is there full awareness of the seriousness of this threat? Warnings have long been voiced, and with increasing urgency. Alas, we tend to become reconciled to warnings and to bad news, failing to take them too seriously when they refer to the more or less distant future."
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), an Emory alumnus, presented Gorbachev with an honorary doctor of laws degree.
"Mikhail Sergevich Gorbachev, visionary leader, bold as your Cossack forerunners of the Stavrapol Steppes, you streaked across the field of history and changed the world," Nunn said. "Confronted by the toll of a 50 years' arms race, you led East and West to halt their fruitless course."
Gorbachev was later greeted by cheers when he arrived at the United Nations on the New York leg of his first U.S. tour since resigning the presidency of the former Soviet Union last December. Hundreds of U.N. staffers and diplomats crowded the driveway and the main lobby of the secretariat building when he entered. Many applauded as he smiled and waved and walked hand-in-hand through the crowd with his wife, Raisa.
As a private citizen, Gorbachev is in New York to raise money for his Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies. He is seeking $3 million. His itinerary includes the 75th anniversary party of Forbes magazine, a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, a trip to the world headquarters of Pepsico in suburban Westchester County and an address to the Economic Club of New York.
After addressing a joint session of Congress and a private dinner at the White House on Thursday, Gorbachev will travel to Boston before returning to Moscow.