MOSCOW (AP) — Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke to The Associated Press about the collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years ago, Russia's relations with the West, Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election, Russia's domestic problems and President Vladimir Putin's leadership. Here are some excerpts from the rare, hour-long interview:
— ON THE SOVIET COLLAPSE:
"Russia was spearheading the Soviet breakup. (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin was taking part in that (talks on revamping the Soviet Union) and supported it, but he was conspiring behind my back how to get rid of Gorbachev and the (Soviet) Union."
"Yeltsin was primarily responsible for that along with Russia's leadership, they were striving for power. It's bad when people are ill with that desire to grab power, to grab turf. It's impossible to build a democratic society with such people."
— ON HIS REFUSAL TO USE FORCE TO PREVENT THE SOVIET BREAKUP
"The country was loaded to the brim with weapons. And it would immediately have pushed the country into a civil war."
— ON THE WEST'S FAILURE TO PROVIDE AID TO HELP PREVENT THE SOVIET BREAKUP:
"They were rubbing their hands in joy: the (Soviet) Union that had been a concern for decades ate up itself!"
— ON WESTERN POLICY TOWARD RUSSIA:
"They have been badgering Russia with accusations and blaming it for everything. And now there is a backlash to that in Russia. Russia wants to have friendly ties with America, but it's difficult to do that when Russia sees that it's being cheated."
— ON THE NEED TO MEND U.S.-RUSSIAN TIES:
"It's necessary that our leaders meet to discuss how we should develop relations. The relations between us are so important and concern everyone else, so we must take the interests of others into account.
"The world needs Russia and the United States to cooperate. Together, they could lead the world ... to a new path.
"If we don't cooperate, if we don't pull our efforts together and talk to each other, everyone will build up arms. If there is a rifle on the wall in the first act of a play, it will go off in the end."
— ON U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP:
"He has little political experience, but, may be, it's good."
— ON RUSSIA'S PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN:
"I think he's a worthy president, he has proven his worth. He is a strong person."
"I almost fully supported him first, and then I began to voice criticism. I can't renounce my views, and he wants something else."