Former President Ronald Reagan said in an interview released Saturday that he doubts Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev can survive unless he seizes the initiative and introduces true democracy.
In an interview with the West German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Reagan called on the West to help Gorbachev in his efforts to introduce widespread economic and political reforms.Reagan made the comments in discussing his reunion with Gorbachev in San Francisco last Monday.
The former president said that when Gorbachev came to power, he soon learned that the main Soviet problem was not the government's fumbling implementation of communist doctrines but the system itself.
"I think Gorbachev must continue to seize the initiative," he said. "He should lead the Soviet Union and its citizens to economic and political reforms. In other words, to democracy. If he does, he will remain in power. If he doesn't, I have my doubts."
Reagan praised Gorbachev as the first Soviet leader to discard the doctrine that the whole world must become communist and who agreed to abolish a whole category of weapons - medium-range missiles.
The former president warned against dissolving NATO. He said the military threat has diminished but has not disappeared. The revolutionary changes in Eastern Europe, he said, easily could lead to a new, dangerous situation.
"I am convinced there will be a reduction in weapons, but the (Western) alliance must continue to exist," Reagan said.