Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says world at ‘dangerous’ point as US-Russia tensions soar

Former leader says both nations need to resume talks to defuse tensions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 11:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 11:39pm

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the world had reached a “dangerous point” as tensions between Russia and the United States have spiked over the Syria conflict.

Relations between Moscow and Washington – already at their lowest since the cold war over the Ukraine conflict – have soured further in recent days as the United States pulled the plug on Syria talks and accused Russia of hacking attacks.

The Kremlin meanwhile has suspended a series of nuclear pacts, including a symbolic cooperation deal to cut stocks of weapons-grade plutonium.

“I think the world has reached a dangerous point,” Gorbachev, 85, told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.

“I don’t want to give any concrete prescriptions but I do want to say that this needs to stop. We need to renew dialogue,” he said. “Stopping it was the biggest mistake.”

We need to renew dialogue. Stopping it was the biggest mistake
Mikhail Gorbachev

Adding to the tension over Syria, Russia has announced it intends to establish a permanent naval base on the site of an existing facility it leases at the Syrian port of Tartus, Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov, Russian news agencies reported.

Pankov’s statement is the latest sign that Moscow wants to expand its military footprint in Syria where it has been helping President Bashar al-Assad fight rebels since 2015. Moscow last week deployed S-300 surface-to air missiles to Tartus.

“We will have a permanent naval base at Tartus,” Pankov told Russian senators. “The necessary documents are already prepared and are in the process of being

approved by different agencies. We hope we can ask you to ratify these documents soon.”

Senator Igor Morozov told the RIA news agency that the decision would allow Russia to operate more ships in the Mediterranean as they would have an enhanced facility at which they could refuel and resupply.

“By doing this Russia is not only increasing its military potential in Syria but in the entire Middle East and in the Mediterranean region as a whole,” said Morozov.

Russia already has a permanent air base at Hmeymim in Syria’s Latakia province from which it launches air strikes against anti-Assad rebels.

Moscow inherited a Soviet-era naval facility at Tartus when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Russian navy’s sole foothold in the Mediterranean.

The announcement about the base followed Russia’s veto on Saturday of a draft United Nations resolution on stopping Russian and Syrian air force strikes on the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, with the United States calling for a war crimes probe into the carnage.

As the last leader of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev oversaw an easing of decades of tensions with the West that helped to end the cold war, but relations are becoming increasingly frosty. He inked several landmark nuclear disarmament deals with Washington aimed at defusing the standoff

between the two superpowers.

“It is necessary to return to the main priorities. These are nuclear disarmament, the fight against terrorism, the prevention of an environmental disaster,” he said. “Compared to these challenges, all the rest slips into the background.”

Additional reporting by Reuters