Gorbachev urges caution in Rice's call for action - Philadelphia News

September 18, 2008 6:41:49 PM PDT
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to use more caution in her call for the West to stand up against Russia, which she said has become "increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad." "I believe that the secretary of state should be more careful and should show greater calm and responsibility for her judgment in calling for the West to unite against Russia," Gorbachev said through an interpreter at a press conference held before the Liberty Medal ceremony at the National Constitution Center.

In an unusually scathing criticism earlier Thursday, Rice condemned Moscow for "putting Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance. She also denounced Russia for a "worsening pattern of behavior" that she said the U.S. and Europe must confront following last month's war with Georgia.

As U.S.-Russian relations become increasingly chilled, Gorbachev was in Philadelphia to receive the medal for his role in ending the Cold War.

He said that Russia had to respond to Georgia's military action in breakaway South Ossetia, and that the Bush administration's backing of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the conflict is further worsening already strained relations between the two countries.

Gorbachev received the Liberty Medal, which comes with a $100,000 prize, from former President George H.W. Bush, who was commander in chief at the time of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

"Regardless of the dividing lines between us, President Gorbachev opened up new possibilities for the world to come together and solve its problems in the pursuit of liberty," Bush said.

The Soviet Union's eighth leader, Gorbachev transformed the country's political system in the late 1980s with reforms he likened at the time to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution "without the gunshots."

The key changes - perestroika (restructuring), which reduced central planning and allowed entrepreneurs to open quasi-private cooperatives, and glasnost (openness), which allowed candid discussion of social problems - released democratic forces that led to the Soviet collapse.

Gorbachev's energy and engaging political style enchanted crowds at home and fueled "Gorbymania" abroad.

Gorbachev, 77, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in arms treaties and ending the Cold War. Since leaving government, he launched Green Cross International, a nonprofit that works on global ecological law. He is also the president of the Gorbachev Foundation, a Moscow-based think tank.

The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to honor individuals and organizations whose actions represent the founding principles of the United States.

Last year, Bono received the award for his humanitarian work in Africa. Other winners have included Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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