Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that tensions between the major powers have put the world “on the brink of a new Cold War”.
The 83-year-old former leader, who was instrumental in ending the Cold War a quarter of a century ago, also accused the West - particularly the United States - of giving in to “triumphalism” after the collapse of the communist bloc.
“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it's already begun," Mr Gorbachev said on Saturday at an event within sight of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. The event marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
His remarks come amid a time of increasingly tense relations between the United States and Russia.
The on-going conflict in Ukraine, which since erupting in protests in January has seen the country embroiled in a bloody civil war with thousands of civilians killed, has done little to ease the relationship between president Vladimir Putin and American leader Barack Obama.
Mr Gorbachev suggested the West should lift sanctions imposed against senior Russian officials over the country’s support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, while calling for new trust to be built through dialogue between Washington and Moscow.
Prior to his arrival in Germany, the former leader made an explicit declaration of his support for the current Russian leader: “I am absolutely convinced that Putin protects Russia’s interests better than anyone else.”
He warned that the Ukrainian situation offered the US an “excuse” to victimise Russia, in an interview with the Interfax news agency, and added that failure to secure lasting security in Europe would make the continent irrelevant on the world stage.
The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
1/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
East German border guards stand on a section of the Berlin wall in front of the Brandenburg gate on November 11, 1989
2/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
Cars line up at the Pomezy border station, on November 5, 1989 as East German refugees cross the border to West Germany
3/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
East German refugees penned behind barriers outside the West German embassy wait for the buses to take them to the railway station to leave Prague on 4th October 1989
4/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
Thousands of young East Berliners gather at the Berlin Wall, near the Brandenburg Gate on November 11, 1989
5/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
East Berliners climb onto the Berlin Wall to celebrate the effective end of the city's partition, 31st December 1989
6/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
A replica of a watchtower of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) on display in the "Potsdamer Platz Arkaden" shopping mall in Berlin where an exhibition titled "25 Years of the Fall of the Berlin Wall" has been staged
7/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
Berliners from East and West celebrate at the Brandenburg Gate in December 1989
8/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
East German drivers queue at the Schirnding border crossing into Czecho-slovakia five days before the fall of the Berlin
9/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
The Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, watched by his wife Raisa, right, kisses his East German counterpart Erich Honecker in East Berlin in October 1989
10/10 The fall of the Berlin Wall – 25 years on
Police from both sides stand idly by as the Berlin Wall is breached for the first time between East and West, at the Sandkrug Bridge crossing-point on Invaliden Strasse, in November 1989
“As long as Russians and Germans understand each other, as long as our relationship is good, then everyone benefits,” Mr Gorbachev said.
German and Russian relations have also been strained by events in Ukraine, with Chancellor Angela Merkel voicing “grave concerns” over reports of a new Russian military incursion in the region yesterday.
The pro-Russian separatists have long denied they receive any form of aid from Putin’s government.
Earlier this week the Ukrainian government alleged the rebels had received substantial consignments of weaponry and manpower from Russia. Moscow has consistently denied these claims.
Additional reporting by Associated PressReuse content