ARCHIV - 21.12.2004, Schleswig: Der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin (r) spricht mit dem ehemaligen sowjetischen Präsidenten Michail Gorbatschow zu Beginn einer Pressekonferenz im Schloss Gottorf. Gorbatschow, der russische Friedensnobelpreisträger und ehemalige sowjetische Staatschef ist tot. Er starb im Alter von 91 Jahren in Moskau. Foto: Heribert Proepper/AP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

You read and marvel. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Federal President, also sent his condolences. On the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, he recalled his “great vision of a common and peaceful house in Europe”. So far so good.

But then Steinmeier writes: “Anyone who has experienced him in recent years could sense how much he suffered from the fact that this dream was becoming ever more distant. Today the dream lies in ruins, shattered by Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev wanted a different future, we want a different future.”

For real? Gorbachev has always emphasized that Crimea is part of Russia. The former Soviet president defended the illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula. “The truth is that you can’t tear Crimea away from Russia,” he said on a visit to Berlin in November 2014. Because: “We are a strong nation and we have something to say.” If he were president now, he would have done it exactly like Vladimir Putin.

Crimea was annexed by Russia in March 2014. In addition, Putin ordered support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine. US President Barack Obama – like Gorbachev, a Nobel Peace Prize winner – denounced both of these in a September 2014 speech at the United Nations. Russia has to pay dearly for its aggression, he said, and criticized the country as a global threat – in one sentence with the Ebola epidemic and terrorism.

Gorbachev reacted spontaneously. “There is only one essential fever in the world – the United States and its claim to leadership,” he said. Ukraine is only being used by the US government as an excuse to continue striving for supremacy. There are signs of a new Cold War. “The world stands on the precipice of a great calamity.”

Seven years later, in December 2021, tensions between Russia and the West had escalated again. Putin had ordered a massive deployment of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. An attack on the neighboring country was feared.

In this situation, Gorbachev gave an interview to the Russian news agency Ria Novosti. He accused the West of having acted “arrogantly and autocratically” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A “triumphant atmosphere” prevailed, especially in the USA. As a “winner” it was decided to build a “new empire”.

Gorbachev, a pioneer of German unity? yes he was But he was also a propagandist of Great-Russian unity. When in doubt, he placed this unity above international law. As Steinmeier writes, did Putin destroy Gorbachev’s great vision of peace through Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine? Steinmeier should have thought about this sentence, which insinuates an unbridgeable ideological distance between Putin and Gorbachev, and then at least reformulated it.