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Gorbachev: Putin Acting in National Interest - 2001-11-25

Mikhail Gorbachev is back in the spotlight in Russia, addressing the founding congress of a new social democratic party.

Mr. Gorbachev praised Mr. Putin for his stand in supporting the war against terrorism and developing closer ties with the NATO alliance. The 70-year-old former president said Mr. Putin is acting in Russia's national interests, and should lead the country into a "post-industrial information society."

Mr. Gorbachev also said Russia could become an associate member of NATO while continuing to strengthen ties with countries such as India and China.

Mr. Gorbachev was speaking at the founding congress of a new social democratic party, which he says may help build what he calls a "third way" between capitalism and socialism.

He says social democrats seek a compromise between socialism and the runaway "wild" capitalism he claims has taken hold in Russia during the past decade.

Throughout the 1990s Mr. Gorbachev frequently criticized former President Boris Yeltsin for allowing a small clique of Kremlin insiders to seize control of much of Russia's wealth while the majority of Russians descended into poverty.

On the other hand, many Russians blame Mr. Gorbachev himself for the economic chaos by setting the stage for the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Gorbachev has long been scorned by his fellow citizens even as most of the world praised him for the collapse of Soviet communism. Next month marks the 10th anniversary of his resignation from office, on December 25. Mr. Gorbachev failed miserably when he tried to make a comeback in 1996 presidential elections, taking less than 1 percent of the vote.

He's been busy with a "think tank" known as the Gorbachev Fund and a smaller United Social Democratic Party which joined with a similar political group to form the new party.