Mikhail Gorbachev warns of new Cold War with US-Russia arms race 'in full swing'

Former Soviet leader says world leaders becoming 'militant' as relations worsen

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Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the world could be heading for a new Cold War as tensions between Russia and the West continue to mount.

The 86-year-old former Soviet leader, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the union’s dissolution, accused the US and its allies of moving away from peace agreements on nuclear weapons and other central issues.

“The language of politicians and the top-level military personnel is becoming increasingly militant,” he told Germany’s Bild newspaper.

“The relationship between the big powers continues to worsen. This creates the impression that the world is preparing for a war. So all the indications of a Cold War are there.”

Asked whether the situation could “turn hot”, Mr Gorbachev cautioned that “anything is possible if we just keep watching, sit back and do nothing”.

The Soviet Union’s last leader, who has made several public warnings over rising tensions since last year, said that an arms race between Russia and the US was “already in full swing”, citing the deployment of Nato troops in eastern Europe.

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Mr Gorbachev said he shared Donald Trump’s formerly stated view of the alliance as “obsolete”, calling for a political instead of military union to help improve relations and further peace.

Large-scale military exercises have seen Russian and Nato troops, tanks and weapons stationed ever closer in neighbouring countries amid disquiet over the Kremlin’s intervention in the Ukrainian war.

Mr Gorbachev dismissed fears over Russian military deployments in Crimea and eastern Ukraine as “propaganda” and said he trusted Vladimir Putin, while admitting that Russia was only “halfway” to democracy.

His remarks came amid heightened anti-US sentiment in the country’s state-controlled media, which has performed a swift U-turn on its former adulation for Mr Trump.

The President’s decision to attack an airbase belonging to Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad, drop a giant bomb on Afghanistan and stick with Barack Obama’s policies and sanctions over Crimea have diminished hopes of improved relations.

Following Mr Trump’s decision to send a nuclear-powered “armada” of warships towards North Korea, a prolific pro-Kremlin pundit declared him more dangerous than Kim Jong-un.

Dmitry Kiselyov, the anchor of Russia's main weekly news show Vesti Nedeli, claimed the “world is a hair's breadth from nuclear war”. 

“War can break out as a result of confrontation between two personalities; Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un,” he said on Sunday. “Both are dangerous, but who is more dangerous? Trump is.”

North Korea said it would continue nuclear and missile tests in violation of UN sanctions, following a huge military parade and attempted missile launch over the weekend.

One of Kim’s top officials vowed to “annihilate” the US if it moved to strike, while Mr Trump has threatened to “properly deal” with North Korea if China fails to rein in its ally.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, criticised Pyongyang for its “reckless nuclear actions” on Monday, but made clear Moscow wanted Mr Trump to de-escalate his stance.

“I really hope that the kind of unilateral action we recently saw in Syria won't happen (in North Korea) and that the USA will follow the line which President Trump repeatedly set out during his pre-election campaign,” he said.

A survey by state polling company VTsIOM showed that the percentage of Russians with a negative view of Mr Trump has jumped to 39 from seven per cent in a month, and that feelings of distrust and disappointment towards him have also grown.

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