Mikhail Gorbachev said that Europe still misunderstands Russia nearly two decades after the Soviet collapse, and he dismissed as nonsense portrayals of his country as an aggressive force.
Gorbachev, who resigned as the Soviet Union's last president when the Cold War superpower disintegrated in 1991, said
Russia does not want military conflict but suggested it should be treated as an equal. "We must achieve an understanding of Russia by Europe. This is absent," Gorbachev told a news conference, according to excerpts posted on the Web site of his charitable foundation.
"Russia as an aggressor, Russia as an imperialist this is all nonsense," he was quoted as saying. "Russia is a self-sufficient state that has everything it needs to conduct its long-term policy. Russia does not want to fight anyone."
At the same time, he said that Russian leaders sometimes err by "reacting too sharply" to events, possibly referring to the tough anti-Western rhetoric that deepened Western wariness about Russia's intentions during Vladimir Putin's eight-year presidency.
Gorbachev said he likes President Barack Obama's "point of view" on US-Russian relations. "He has said, 'Yes, we have differences, we don't agree on everything, but we will work with Russia," Gorbachev said.