Russia-West’s Ukraine duel may go nuclear: Gorbachev

Reuters, BERLIN

Sun, Jan 11, 2015 - Page 7

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that tensions between Russia and Western powers over the Ukraine crisis could result in a major conflict or even nuclear war.

He made the comments in an interview scheduled to appear in a German magazine yesterday.

“A war of this kind would unavoidably lead to a nuclear war,” the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize laureate told Der Spiegel, according to excerpts released on Friday.

“We won’t survive the coming years if someone loses their nerve in this overheated situation,” Gorbachev, 83, said. “This is not something I’m saying thoughtlessly — I am extremely concerned.”

Tensions between Russia and Western powers rose after pro-Russian separatists took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea early last year.

The US, NATO and the EU have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the separatist uprising, and have imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Russia denies providing the rebels with military support and fends off Western criticism of its annexation of Crimea, saying the Crimean people voted for it in a referendum.

Gorbachev, who is widely admired in Germany for his role in tearing down the Berlin Wall and in the steps that led to Germany’s reunification in 1990, warned against Western intervention in the Ukraine crisis.

“The new Germany wants to intervene everywhere,” he said in the interview. “In Germany evidently there are a lot of people who want to help create a new division in Europe.”

Gorbachev, whose perestroika (restructuring) policy helped end the Cold War, has previously warned of a new cold war and potentially dire consequences if tensions are not reduced over the Ukraine crisis.

The current diplomatic standoff over Ukraine is the worst between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended more than two decades ago.