Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, who embarked on a path of radical reform that brought about the end of the Cold War, reversed the direction of the nuclear arms race and relaxed Communist Party controls in hopes of rescuing the faltering Soviet state but instead propelled it toward collapse, died Aug. 30 in Moscow. He was 91.
More than any other single figure, Gorbachev devised the end of the Cold War. He did so at great cost to his own hopes and expectations. But he saw both that mutually assured destruction was madness, and that the Soviet Union could not continue to exist in the form he inherited when he took over as General Secretary in 1985.
The Russia that emerged from the collapse of his attempt to reform that state would not be his to shape. He thus escapes blame for what it has become. He was, in my mind, a citizen not just of the nation in which he was born, but of the world for which, for a time, he could choose life or death. He chose life.