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'Ronald Reagan Was a Great President,' says Gorbachev - 2004-06-06

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev recalls the many times he met with Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday in California, and how they formed a friendship that altered world history. Despite former President Reagan's tough anti-Soviet views, he and Mr. Gorbachev came to like and respect each other.

Ronald Reagan is remembered today for his tough line against the Soviet Union, which he called the "evil empire".

Yet, despite this, he forged a close working relationship with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who took power soon after Mr. Reagan's second term started in 1985.

Together, the two men initiated a dialogue that changed world history.

The former Soviet leader praised Mr. Reagan in an interview on Echo of Moscow radio station. "Ronald Reagan was a great president," he said, "with whom the Soviet leadership was able to launch a very difficult, but important dialogue."

Mr. Gorbachev says, despite disagreements between the two countries at the time, Mr. Reagan was a statesman, who displayed foresight and determination to meet the Soviet Union halfway. As a result, Mr. Gorbachev says, the two countries started cutting their nuclear weapons stockpiles, halting the nuclear arms race, and normalizing relations.

The former Soviet leader says Mr. Reagan was willing to take bold steps, something he said a different American president might not have been able to do at the time.

The two leaders are credited with starting a process that ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism.