For International Conference
Being unable to participate in conference sessions, I still thought it would be impossible for me to be a bystander. Therefore, I prepared this text—approximately what I would have said.
The "new thinking" is habitually associated with foreign policy of perestroika. But neither Gorbachev himself, nor those who were part of perestroika think so. New thinking was even more relevant to the internal transformations.
However, at the conference it was included in the section about the international aspect of perestroika. This is what I will address here—what is left from the new thinking and what continues to work in some fashion.
First of all, one has to state that as a result of the new thinking, its successes and failures, there emerged more than a dozen of new states. This has changed the composition of the international process, its character and its themes.
About the ideas, characteristics, and principles of new thinking.
I would put dialog in the first place.
It not only enriched the negotiating process, but also gave it a new quality, far surpassing the proper diplomatic style and themes. It made reflection about the essence of world politics, about its new level, its prospects and about peacebuilding itself part of contacts between leaders.
What that dialog was-it would be sufficient to look at the conversations between Gorbachev and Shultz, Gorbachev and Gandhi, Gonzalez, Thatcher, Mitterrand, Willy Brandt, Andreotti, Lubbers, Bundtland
I would put trust in the second place. It came together with another factor of the world politics that was emerging at that time—the personal interaction of leaders, who developed normal human relationships, even sincere friendship and sympathy. This factor practically excluded lying, intentions to trick, to take the partner for a ride—which used to be almost obligatory elements of the past diplomatic practice.
Gorbachev formulated the issue in his famous statement of January 15, 1986. Many people here and abroad decided that it was either a utopia, or speculation and demagoguery. But the idea started working and the "process had started" even with all the failures, retreats, violations of obligations, efforts to provoke a resumption of the arms race, with all the generals' rhetoric, including that coming from the mouths of high officials, even with inflation of military budgets and modernization of weapons, with ambivalent efforts to prove-with words and actions-the prevalence of forceful methods . and so on and so forth. But most importantly-new thinking and the corresponding policies of a number of states made the threat of a global thermonuclear war obsolete. Those who were in charge started first of all from the feeling responsibility for the world, which had become mortal. Common sense has triumphed.
More. Thanks to new thinking and those changes in the world, which stemmed from those policies, the willingness to engage in collective action in resolving problems at the supranational level has increased substantially. Not only in intergovernmental alliances, but also at the level of the United Nations. It involved economic and humanitarian issues, and especially cases where one state created security threats for others.
There are still many mistakes and even criminal actions in this area, connected to chauvinistic egotism, great power habits, with prejudices and outrages of past times. But this tendency in itself—to increase the importance of international decisions in comparison with internal, national decisions, has helped the human community to move forward.
This is directly related to the issue of universality of human rights. Some will say that the author of new thinking did not accepted this principle at once, that it was forced on him blackmailing him because of the Soviet interest in stopping the arms race. Yes, this may be true. But very soon "human rights" became an organic and indispensable part of New Thinking.
By the way, the moral component has paramount place in the philosophy of new thinking. It, among other things, alas! played a certain role in the fate of perestroika. Its opponents and critics regarded it as the "weakness" of power. Here too, history will judge.
A few words about the, so to speak, materialized results of new thinking:
The European Home
It emerged, but without the country initiating the new thinking. And even in some ways to the detriment of that country. Moreover, the fate of perestroika, tied to new thinking, brought closer to Europe the far-from-European states of the Caucasus and the Transcaspian region.
The same can be said about the idea of Europe "from Vancouver to Vladivostok," which was recorded in the 1990 Charter of Paris. The European process stalled because of the collapse of its main "player." But the idea survived — not only in the minds of political scientists, but also politicians. Where did Putin's European Project come from, even though it has an opportunistic tint. Of course, plans to revive the plans of Prince Trubetskoy and his comrades are hopeless. But the fact that the idea is coming to life at the governmental level is evidence of an objective need for something of the kind.
The biggest "product" of new thinking is the unification of Germany. It not only irreversibly decided the century-old problem of relations between the two largest nations of Europe; it also marked the end of the Cold War and gave an opportunity for democratic Germany to once again become one of the main players in the world economy and politics. For our country, the German unification turned into — as the result of the Union's collapse — a demonstration of missed opportunities of historic proportions.
The Japanese Question
It has not changed since Gorbachev raised it—it did not change either under Yeltsin, or under the tandem. There is no other "philosophy," besides "let us develop our relations in all spheres, until the conditions are right for a mutually satisfactory resolution.
The Middle East
New thinking meant, above all, that the Arab world is not a zone of national-liberation struggles that could be used in the Cold War. New thinking outlined the course that began at the Madrid Conference in 1991—in principle, it is the only correct and encouraging course. All the other options, including the use of force, proved to be ineffective. The Arab revolutions in recent months do not cancel the Madrid course, in principle. The acceptance of Palestine to the UN, apparently, gives it an extra boost.
Finally, new thinking is unimaginable without an organic connection with the environment, because its goal is to save civilization. Gorbachev's work in recent years has been devoted to this vital connection.
Such is the Summa Summarum.
These ideas and positions were not (in most cases) Gorbachev's invention. But it is thanks to him that they were made into policies, with a new purpose in world politics.
The footprint of these ideas is often hidden, indirect, sometimes even distorted, but it is felt throughout the international atmosphere at the turn of the century.
Many will find my assessments to be idealized, too "abstracted" from real life. Perhaps this is so. But I am convinced that there is no replacement for these foundations of new thinking, if human society wants to live long.