Gorbachev's Nobel

October 15, 1990

It's hard to imagine two more different men or two more different approaches to peace than the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet who won last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and this year's winner, Mikhail Gorbachev. Yet peace is a tantalizingly elusive goal, one that will only be reached imperfectly -- and only when all kinds of people, from spiritual leaders to heads of state to ordinary men and women, use their imagination, vision and power in ways that lessen the tensions that breed hatred and violence.

In announcing the award to Gorbachev this morning, the Nobel committee cited his role in the breathtaking reforms that have transformed Eastern Europe and put an end to the Cold War. Critics will argue that Gorbachev had no choice, since he presides over a bankrupt economy and a disintegrating country no longer capable of keeping satellite nations in check. Yet the task of dismantling a military empire is as susceptible to violence as the process of putting one in place, and so far the changes in Eastern Europe have been more peaceful than anyone ever dreamed possible. That is due in large part to Gorbachev's willingness to recognize the inevitability of change and to meet it with negotiation rather than confrontation. Through this approach Gorbachev has transformed the global power struggle and made room for the idea that peace is possible between East and West.

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