Gorbachev throws shade at Putin: ‘Russia can succeed only through democracy’

Decisions made by Russian President Vladimir Putin were “justified” and successfully stabilized his nation, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in Time magazine, but have proven costly in the longer term.

“In the initial phase, certain measures of authoritarian nature—a kind of manual control—were justified,” Gorbachev wrote in Time’s annual 100 most influential people edition, published online Thursday. “The costs: a diminished parliament, judiciary and civil society and less media independence. With time, the flaws became more evident.”

Gorbachev said Putting arrived in office, his second time as president, with a crisis inherited from his predecessor. But Putin’s solutions to that crisis left Russia with worsening relations with western nations and slower economic growth.

Relations with the U.S., in particular, have deteriorated over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursions into eastern Ukraine, as well as Putin’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Following raised expectations that relations between the U.S. and Russia might improve under President Donald Trump, who spoke warmly of Putin and Russia on the campaign trail, Russian and U.S. officials have both said in recent weeks that relations between the two nations are at a low point.

Beyond international issues, Gorbachev wrote in Time that domestic issues are “equally urgent. Under Putin, Gorbachev said living standards in Russia are declining and poverty and corruption are rampant. Education, healthcare and science systems are all worsening, he said.

Putin’s pledges to fix these problems are empty, Gorbachev wrote, because “they cannot be solved without a change in the system of government.”

“I am convinced that Russia can succeed only through democracy,” he said. “Russia is ready for political competition, a real multiparty system, fair elections and regular rotation of government. This should define the role and responsibility of the President.”

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