‘One of a kind’: World reactions to death of Mikhail Gorbachev

The last Soviet leader brought an end to the Cold War, but his reforms accelerated the break up of the USSR.

Gorbachev in black hat, coat and gloves with a red ribbon on his lapel waves from the parade review stand of the Lenin Mausoleum in November 1987
The last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died aged 91, has been described as 'one of a kind' [File: Boris Yurchenko/AP Photo]

Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms brought about the end of the Cold War but led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died at 91.

Gorbachev, the first and only president of the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday after a long illness, Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital said in a statement.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is seen as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century.

Here are some of the reactions from across the world:

Russian President Vladimir Putin

He expressed “his deepest condolences,” his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency. “Tomorrow he will send a telegram of condolences to his family and friends.”

US President Joe Biden

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision. As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race. After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms. He believed in glasnost and perestroika – openness and restructuring – not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.

“These were the acts of a rare leader – one with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it. The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.

“We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and to people everywhere who benefited from his belief in a better world.”

East Germans scramble over the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the divided continent for some 30 years
Gorbachev was celebrated by many outside Russia for bringing an end to the Cold War [File: FAB/ZDC/Reuters]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a one-of-a-kind statesman who changed the course of history. The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace. I’m deeply saddened by his passing.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe … This legacy is one we will not forget.”

French President Emmanuel Macron

“My condolences on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, a man of peace whose decisions opened a path to freedom for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history.”

The Reagan Foundation and Institute

“The Reagan Foundation and Institute mourns the loss of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who once was a political adversary of Ronald Reagan’s who ended up becoming a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gorbachev family and the people of Russia.”

Former US Secretary of State James Baker III

“History will remember Mikhail Gorbachev as a giant who steered his great nation towards democracy. He played the critical role in a peaceful conclusion of the Cold War by his decision against using force to hold the empire together … The free world misses him greatly.”

Gorbachev (left) and Reagan (right) signing the he Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty at the White House
Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty at the White House with then US President Ronald Reagan [File: Dennis Paquin/Reuters]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“I always admired the courage & integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion … In a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all.”

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

“He was a good friend, surprising as that might seem … He was a very pleasant man to deal with and he had great vision for the future of his country which is antithetical to that being articulated now. History will remember him as a great transformational leader.”

Jim Chalmers, Australian Treasurer

“The curtain has come down on one of the world’s most significant leaders. He was a pivotal figure at a defining moment. When the world saw conflict and stalemate, he saw peace and possibility. He was the epitome of courage and vision and he was a reminder that it takes more courage to end a war than to start one and his gift looks even more remarkable in the contemporary world. There is no history of the 20th century that doesn’t have him playing a central role in it. So, the world mourns his passing today.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies