Leaders from around the world are paying tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, after news of his death Tuesday at the age of 91.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called Gorbachev “a one-of-a kind statesman who changed the course of history.”
“The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace,” Guterres wrote on Twitter.
The president of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted: “Mikhail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe. This legacy is one we will not forget.”
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he “always admired the courage & integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion.”
After rising to power in 1985, Gorbachev introduced policies that brought reform and new openness to the Communist regime, ultimately leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet state in 1991. While in office, he and U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.
In a statement Tuesday, Fred Ryan, the chairman of the board at the Reagan Foundation and Institute, wrote about how the two leaders went from adversaries to friends.
“It was General Secretary Gorbachev with whom President Reagan would finally have that long-sought opportunity to form a relationship which led to a lessening of tensions between Washington and Moscow, and eventually to meaningful arms reduction,” Ryan wrote.
He added that former first lady Nancy Reagan was touched when Gorbachev attended her late husband’s funeral in Washington, D.C. in 2004.
The George and Barbara Bush Foundation wrote on Twitter that the leaders “worked closely to ensure the end of the Soviet Union would be peaceful, leading to freedom for millions throughout Eastern Europe.”
“President Bush often said that President Gorbachev ‘stuck his neck out at a critical time in history to guarantee world peace.’ Our thoughts & prayers are with the Gorbachev family,” the foundation said.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also served as national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and was an expert on Soviet affairs, remembered Gorbachev as “a man who tried to deliver a better life for his people.”
“Without him and his courage,” she tweeted, “it would not have been possible to end the Cold War peacefully.”