I could be the only (non-Russian) person alive who thinks Mikhail Gorbachev, accidental destroyer of the Soviet empire, is a one of the most overrated historical figures of the last half century. I outlined some of my objections here, quoting Robert Service's observation that Gorbachev intended glasnost as "a renaissance of Leninist ideals" and that his books on glasnost and perestroika "still equivocated on Stalin." But periodically, Gorbi gets it right. Having previously endorsed Vladimir Putin's autocratic rule, the former Soviet dictator (a word rarely, if ever, used to describe a man who never allowed his leadership to be democratically challenged) has offered some guarded criticism of the Medvedev-Putin tag team.
"The current authorities haven't become leaders for me yet," said Gorbachev, who usually avoids criticizing President Dmitry Medvedev, 45, and his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 58. Gorbachev said the so-called tandem rule of the two politicians is "legitimate and legal," though something "unexpected" may happen in the 2012 presidential election, when both men are eligible to run.
"Our government fears its own citizens," Gorbachev said, warning the patience of Russians with "a swamp of stagnation, indifference and corruption" may eventually snap. "When people finally realize that their opinion is ignored and that nothing depends on them, they'll go out on the street," he said.
In the same interview, Gorbachev identifies the Russian leader to whom he "feels closest" as Yuri Andropov, the humorless thug who violently suppressed the 1956 Hungarian uprising.
In other Moscow-related news: According to a report from Russia's Interfax news wire, the spies thrown out of the US earlier this year (including tabloid darling Anna Chapman) were presented with the Kremlin's "highest honors" yesterday. Meanwhile, in Washington, officials are furiously hitting that "overcharge" button, shouting something about "no whammies."