The United States is in need of its own dose of perestroika, or restructuring, Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who brought such reforms to the Soviet Union, said Tuesday. The former Soviet leader said he had suggested the idea to a group of Americans at a speech last year and they agreed. Gorbachev, who has been critical of the Iraq war and what he has called a Western "superiority complex," did not specify what he believed needed changing in America.
Speaking at a gathering of political and business leaders, Gorbachev said a global lack of leadership was to blame for many of the world's problems, the AP reports.
"The world needs a new vision, new policies," he said, opening a two-day conference in London. "I support the movement that says a different world is possible."
Although he did not comment on specific events, Gorbachev said democracy and tolerance were crucial principles.
"The world will not accept dictatorship or domination. We need dialogue," he said, speaking through a translator.
Also scheduled to address the Leaders in London Summit are former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
When asked what he thought about political leaders expressing religious beliefs, Gorbachev responded: "Every person is free to be religious and that includes leaders. But a leader should never disrespect other religions and people of other religions."
Leaders should also be able to evaluate situations, formulate goals and convince people of their plans, he said.
After initiating wide-ranging changes as president from 1985 until 1991, Gorbachev was forced to step down when the Soviet Union broke up. Boris Yeltsin defeated him when he ran again in 1996.
Gorbachev attributed his fall from power to the pace at which he dealt with the country's increasing instability.
"I acted too slowly," he said. "When one does not keep pace with the events, one gets punished."
Gorbachev also advised leaders in the audience to stay in good physical shape.
"I am almost 75 years old but I've been trying to exercise every day," he said. "That will enable you to take the blows," he added. "We're no longer high priests who just discuss ideas."