Mr. Bush, the World Doesn't
Want to Be American
by Mikhail Gorbachev
International Herald Tribune, December 30, 2000
Dear Mr. Bush:
I am writing to you as a citizen of our planet and someone
who beholds the last remaining superpower. Can there be any doubt
that the United States plays a major role in guiding our world?
Only a fool could disregard that fact. To acknowledge this is
a given, even though American spokesmen are perhaps somewhat overly
inclined to press the point home to the rest of the world. .
For while America's role is acknowledged throughout the world,
her claim to hegemony, not to say domination, is not similarly
recognized. For this reason, I hope, Mr. Bush, as the new American
president, that you will give up any illusion that the 21st century
can, or even should, be the "American Century." Globalization
is a given - but "American globalization" would be a
mistake. In fact, it would be something devoid of meaning and
even dangerous. .
I would go even further and say it is time for America's electorate
to be told the blunt truth: that the present situation of the
United States, with a part of its population able to enjoy a life
of extraordinary comfort and privilege, is not tenable as long
as an enormous portion of the world lives in abject poverty,
degradation and backwardness.
For 10 years, U.S. foreign policy has been formulated as if
it were the policy of a victor in war, the Cold War. But at the
highest reaches of U.S. policy-making no one has grasped the
fact that this could not be the basis for formulating post-Cold
In fact, there has been no "pacification." On the
contrary, there has been a heightening of inequalities, tension
and hostility, with most of the last directed toward the United
Instead of seeing an increase in U.S. security, the end of
the Cold War has seen a decline. It is not hard to imagine that,
should the United States persist in its policies, the international
situation will continue to deteriorate.
It is also difficult to believe that, under present circumstances,
relations between the United States, on the one hand, and China,
India and all the rest of the earth that lives in abject poverty,
on the other, could develop in a positive direction. Nor is it
possible, on the basis of its present posture, for the United
States to establish effective, long-term cooperation with its
traditional allies, Europe first and foremost.
Already we see numerous trade disputes, evidence of the conflicting
interests separating the United States and the European Union.
At the recent conference in The Hague, where the participants
were supposed to come up with a common policy on limiting greenhouse
effects, U.S. positions were far removed from those of all others.
As a result, no decision was taken. This is clearly an example
of a failure of "world governance."
From the standpoint of the Old World, the post-Cold War period
ushered in hopes that now are faded. Over the past decade, the
United States has continued to operate along an ideological track
identical to the one it followed during the Cold War. . Need
an example? The expansion of NATO eastward, the handling of the
Yugoslav crisis, the theory and practice of U.S. rearmament -
including the utterly extravagant national missile defense system,
which, in turn, is based on the bizarre notion of "rogue
Isn't it amazing that disarmament moved further during the
last phase of the Cold War than during the period after its end?
And isn't that because U.S. leadership has been unable to adjust
to the new European reality? Europe is now a new, independent
and powerful player on the world scene. To continue to regard
it as a junior partner would be a mistake. Europe's experience
must serve as a lesson for future relations, but it can do so
only if America and Europe build a genuine, equal partnership.
Finally, it is hardly a secret that relations between the
United States and Russia have deteriorated over recent years.
Responsibility for this must be shared between Russia and America.
The present leadership of Russia appears ready to cooperate
with the United States in framing a new agenda for relations.
But it is unclear what your orientation will be. What we heard
during the electoral campaign did not sound encouraging. . If
we truly want to build a new world order and further European
unity, we have to recognize that this will not be possible without
an active role for Russia. This recognition is the necessary
basis for setting future Russian-American relations on the right
The world is complicated, it contains and expresses a variety
of interests and cultures. Sooner or later, international policy,
including that of the United States, will have to come to terms
with that variety.
Mikhail Gorbachev is the last president of the former Soviet