Russia and US tensions have left world on 'dangerous threshold', warns former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

'We need to stop. Stopping the dialogue has been the biggest mistake'

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The Independent Online

Tense relations between Russia and the US have left the world on a “dangerous threshold” and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons remains strong, according to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mr Gorbachev said “dialogue should be resumed” between countries, after a sustained period of high tension over the Syrian conflict and Russia’s intentions in the Baltic states.

“I think the world has approached a dangerous threshold. I would prefer not to suggest any particular schemes, but I want to say: we need to stop,” he told Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“Stopping the dialogue has been the biggest mistake. Now we must return to the main priorities, such as nuclear disarmament, fighting terrorism and prevention of global environmental disasters. Compared to these challenges everything else is a second priority.”

Mounting tensions between the US and Russia have led to a global political situation which is “more dangerous” than the Cold War, German foreign minister Frank-Walker Steinmeir said recently.

On October 3, the US suspended their dialogue with Russia on bringing an end to the war in Syria, a move which seemed to deepen the tensions between the two nations.

The US government then accused Moscow of war crimes following the bombardment of the city of Aleppo, sending diplomatic relations to a new low.

In May, a former senior Nato general warned the alliance risked nuclear war with Russia “within a year” if actions were not taken to protect the Baltic states from invasion. 

Mr Gorbachev said the idea of a nuclear-free world is “not a utopia, but rather an imperative necessity”, in spite of the associated difficulties. The concept could only be achieved, he argued, through “demilitarisation of politics and international relations”.

In early October, the Russian government launched a nationwide civil defence training exercise involving 40 million civilians, to ensure the country is properly prepared in the event of a nuclear, chemical and biological attack from the West.

Mr Gorbachev ruled the Soviet Union from 1985 until it broke up in 1991. He is credited with ending the Cold War and building the architecture of nuclear arms control in a series of summits with US president Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik.