Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022) passed away this week at the age of 91. He was the last president of the Soviet Union, resigning in 1991. He is considered one of the world’s topmost leaders of the 20th century. He led the Soviet Union through a peaceful ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ so that the Cold War could end and the former empire could be dissolved and the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) by some of the countries, led by Russia, could be formed. Alas, in the years and decades that followed, the leaders of Russia and the West seem not to have shouldered their tasks as well as Gorbachev and Western leaders that time, evidenced among other things by the now over six-month-old ‘Russian War in Ukraine’, a war which should better be called ‘Russia’s and the West’s War in Ukraine’. After his resignation, Gorbachev was many times critical of developments at home and also regarding the West’s policies towards Russia, and he complained that the US seemed not to give Russia room to develop towards new greatness. When I last week wrote about the faults of the West in avoiding the Russian War in Ukraine, I underlined that there should have been a much deeper dialogue between the West and Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. I will write more this today, not directly about Gorbachev, but rather about the fact that there was room for establishing a much better relationship between Russia and the West since the 1990s—which would certainly have been in Gorbachev’s spirit, too. The war in Ukraine should have been avoided. I have in earlier articles called it the ‘Russian War in Ukraine’, which remains true, yet, it is also becoming the ‘West’s War in Ukraine’. Russia is obviously directly responsible for the aggression and war, but the West is indirectly responsible, too, since it failed to implement a dialogue—with results. There was plenty of time to dialogue over the recent three decades, during President Boris Yeltsin’s quite erratic leadership of Russia from 1991-1999, with collapse of much of the social and economic structures at home, aggression against some former Russian republics, on the one hand, and letting Ukraine go, on the other. There was also opportunity for dialogue during the rule of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev from 2000, not only initially after Putin had taken over, but also later. The West let opportunities pass without taking advantage of them. Important, too, there was an opportunity for the West to try to understand better the Russian soul and politics, a wounded and humiliated superpower; alas, the West seems not to have realised the situation and its task. The West had become arrogant, and maybe also ‘sleepy’, not realising that it would have to give in order to receive, or simply, hold honest conversations, trying to understand the reasons for disagreement when that occurred, and politically that was often. There were also times when Russia actually wanted to include Western ideas and traditions, yes, many times, I believe—but the West didn’t realise it, or did not follow up in ways that would have given results and brought Russia and the West closer, to the benefit of both. Well, to talk about two parties may not be quite correct because the several Eastern European countries, which had now become Western countries, opposed much dialogue with Russia, remembering having been forcefully ‘annexed’ into the Soviet empire. They became ultra-Western and ultra-American when they had become free, soon joining the EU and NATO as well. True, the West was not alone at fault; both sides would have had to contribute to real dialogue and closer cooperation, even integration in many fields, between the former superpower of the Soviet Union led by Russia, and the West, led by the US and EU. Since the West won the Cold War, or so we say, it has had the upper hand ever since, certainly in the initial years, but also later, till this day—when there is a showdown in Ukraine. The European-American defence alliance, NATO, has played a key role throughout, yes, probably a more prominent role than is realised by the people in the West, with the US in the driver’s seat, probably rather obstructing dialogue with Russia than working for its realisation, which also Gorbachev pointed out. This has become more evident in recent years, when NATO has spearheaded the West’s policies, with NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg talking on all issues, also such that should have been under the political leaders. I have written about it before, and I would like to repeat it today, namely that the civilian politicians in the European countries, indeed in the EU, and leaders of other organisations, such as the Council of Europe, should have played more prominent roles, not NATO. In democracies, we have elected politicians to lead, and we have cooperation organisations with their own mandates, but under the political leaders. The United Nations should have played a clearer role, not being so much under the thumb of THE US and NATO. I don’t think all of this was deliberate, at least not by the Europeans. But the politicians had become too comfortable and secure in their roles and overall thinking, knowing they were the leaders of the world, in spite of China rising, at least economically. Often, especially the last year or two before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I felt that the politicians listened to NATO’s analyses rather than NATO being told to listen to the politicians’ analyses. Old political thinking was there among the established politicians, and the young politicians, and young people in general, focused on their new technologies and all things modern, sometimes with the populists their selfish agendas. There was little time to be self-critical about the West’s direction. I must also take a swipe at the university and research institutes, the think tanks, the media and others offering expertise and counter-expertise to the leaders and the public. Alas, they seem not to have played the role they should have played so that the West could have understood Russia better, and also so that Russia could have understood the West and moved closer to it in many fields—and how they could have stayed different, but with an understanding of reasons for it, with a peaceful world outlook regionally and globally. In hindsight, I would criticise the politicians for not having played their roles and done their jobs as they should have. The politicians must never become technocrats and administrators; they must always be above that, giving leadership and visions. It was a lack thereof that led to Russia’s sad invasion of Ukraine, and a terrible ‘old fashioned war’ now raging for over six months, and it would probably be too optimistic to expect it not to last for another six more months, or more. It is a war between Russia and the West—and it should never have been.