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Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 1987 Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 1987 

Former Soviet leader expresses fears for global nuclear disaster

Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the world is heading towards a major disaster because of the threat of nuclear weapons. He is concerned about a decision by the United States and Russia to walk away from a historic arms treaty he signed with his then American counterpart.

By Stefan J. Bos

Gorbachev, the last leader of what was then the Soviet Union, is worried.

The man, who in 1990 won the Nobel Peace Prize for reforming his nation and ending the Cold War between East and West, fears a new massive conflict.

One of his most significant achievements was ending Moscow's nuclear arms race with America.

He and then US President Ronald Reagan agreed to reduce their nuclear arms arsenals. The deal both men signed in 1987 limited the development of ground-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

But recently, Russia and the United States walked away from what is known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Nuclear disaster?

Speaking in an interview with Britain's BBC Television Gorbachev warned that the world could be heading towards a major nuclear disaster.

He said, "as long as weapons of mass destruction exist, primarily nuclear weapons, the danger is colossal. All nations should declare that nuclear weapons must be destroyed. This is to save ourselves and our planet."

Gorbachev also described the current standoff between the West and Russia, as in his words "chilly but still a war."

He expressed concerns about skirmishes and shootings. And he said that on both sides, aircraft and ships are being sent to different areas of the world, adding that "this is not the situation we want."

Gorbachev spoke ahead of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That happened following massive protests for freedom in East Germany, a Soviet satellite state.

Then Soviet leader Gorbachev had refused to intervene, allowing the eventual reunification of East and West Germany. But with new tensions between Russia and the West, the now elderly Gorbachev is fighting for his legacy, desperately trying to make the world a more peaceful place.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
04 November 2019, 17:32