August 26, 2009
Associated Press -
Originally published on Oct. 16, 1990.
LONDON -- World leaders said Monday in congratulating Mikhail Gorbachev that the Soviet leader's courage, boldness and role in ending the Cold War make him the rightful winner of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize.
Gorbachev "has been a courageous force for peaceful change in the world," President Bush said, joining in a tide of warm praise from leaders ranging from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the 1983 winner, Poland's Lech Walesa.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher termed the award "terrific" and "richly deserved," and others said it may help President Gorbachev's efforts to boost the sagging Soviet economy.
"I am of the opinion that if ever an award was justified, this was it," German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said in an interview with the Cologne-based Deutschlandfunk radio station.
In awarding the prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Gorbachev for his decisive role in the East's and West's drawing closer together, and allowing greater openness in his homeland.
Echoing the committee, Bush said Gorbachev "has brought historically signficant change, both political and economic, to the Soviet Union and to Eastern Europe."
Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., said Gorbachev "would have been my choice.
"His selection is long overdue. In my opinion, in this hemisphere, no one else alive or who has lived in this century has so beneficially changed the world political society as has Mikhail Gorbachev.
"He got the Vietnamese out of Kampuchea (Cambodia). He got his Soviet troops out of Afghanistan. He brought freedom in a great degree to the people of the Soviet Union. He's made possible the liberation of Eastern European countries. He's been a strong enforceable leader even when the United States opposed bringing about nuclear arms reductions, so in many ways, he's superlative."
Polish trade union leader Walesa said he wished Gorbachev "further persistence and successes on the road to democracy that you have outlined."
It was the first peace prize awarded to a Soviet or U.S. chief executive since President Woodrow Wilson won in 1919.
Israeli President Chaim Herzog said he believed Gorbachev's policies "will bring freedom and happiness to many peoples and advance peace throughout the world and particularly in the Middle East."
Herzog said Gorbachev's role in opening the way for more Jews to emigrate to Israel, "will be remembered for many generations and the entire Jewish people is full of gratitude."
From Los Angeles, former President Reagan congratulated his "friend," calling the prize a "well-deserved tribute to his bold and courageous leadership.
"Under President Gorbachev, the Soviet Union is making fundamental and necessary changes in its political and economic systems -- changes which will give the Soviet people the freedoms they deserve," he said.
Germany's Kohl said in a telegram to Gorbachev: "Your personal contribution to the improvement of relations between East and West, to overcoming the division of our continent, to breakthroughs in disarmament and arms controls and solutions of regional conflicts is worthy of highly deserved praise."
In Spain, Foreign Minister Fernandez Ordonez called the award an "act of justice."
Italy's Premier Giulio Andreotti said the announcement "filled me with joy."
United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar told reporters Gorbachev had not only contributed "in a remarkable manner" to detente, but to enhancing the role of the U.N. "as a peacemaking and peacekeeping center."
"It won't help him out of his economic predicament," London School of Economics Soviet expert Margot Light said. "But it may make his political position slightly more stable."
Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari said in a message of congratulations, "Your leadership and historical vision have decisively contributed to strengthening peace and detente in the world."
Bulgaria's president, Zhelyu Zhelev, told Gorbachev he deserved the reward for his "extraordinary contribution to the dismantling of the totalitarian system" and for "the creation of a new political climate in europe and the world in which peace and cooperation among all peoples are the most cherished values."
Not all reaction was positive.
Latvian historian Jan Saltsmanis, whose homeland is among the Baltic republics fighting for independence from the Soviet Union, said the West was too impressed with Gorbachev.
"I reacted with dismay," he told the radio in Sweden, where he has lived since 1945. "Gorbachev has opened up borders, he deserves a certain merit for the development. But you ... should not overestimate his significance in the context."