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Cold War

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The Japanese leader who normalized relations with China 50 years ago feared for his life when he flew to Beijing for the high-stakes negotiations at the peak of the Cold War. That's according to his daughter, a former Japanese foreign minister who spoke to The Associated Press ahead of the 50th anniversary Thursday of the communique Kakuei Tanaka signed with China's Zhou Enlai. Tanaka was confident and ambitious, his daughter says, but his mission to normalize relations with China was a huge gamble. He told her before leaving that he would resign if his mission failed. The visit in 1972 followed President Richard Nixon's visit to China months earlier that transformed the then-isolated nation's position in the world.

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The chairperson of the African Union says that the continent doesn't want to be the breeding ground of a new Cold War. Senegalese President Macky Sall's comments to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday come amid mounting pressure for African leaders to take a side over the war in Ukraine. But Sall says that Africa would rather be a “pole of stability" and he called for a negotiated solution to the crisis. He says that Africa already has suffered enough of the burden of history. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence in Africa, leading to a number of proxy wars.

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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has been buried in Moscow after a ceremony attended by thousands of mourners but snubbed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin’s refusal to formally declare a state funeral reflects its uneasiness about the legacy of Gorbachev. Gorbachev has been venerated worldwide for bringing down the Iron Curtain but reviled by many at home for the Soviet collapse and the ensuing economic meltdown that plunged millions into poverty. Gorbachev died Tuesday at the age of 91. He was buried Saturday at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife Raisa.

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When Mikhail Gorbachev died at age 91, Associated Press journalists began sharing their “Gorby” stories from the collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath. There was his temper: AP correspondent Brian Friedman remembers Gorbachev knocking a tape recorder out of his hand, remarking “This we don't need” when asked a question he didn't want to answer. But there was also plenty of warmth, especially in his later years, combined with opinions freely shared about Russia's fate after he left power as the last Soviet leader. Gorbachev was a man who changed the world, and the AP was there.

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Mikhail Gorbachev stood for freedom, openness, peace and closer ties with the outside world. Vladimir Putin is jailing critics, muzzling journalists, pushing his country deeper into isolation and waging Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II. Such are history’s bookends between the Soviet Union’s last leader and Russia’s president. In many ways, Gorbachev, who died Tuesday, unwittingly enabled Putin. The forces Gorbachev unleashed spun out of control, led to his downfall and the Soviet Union’s collapse. Since coming to power in 1999, Putin has been taking a hard line that resulted in a near-complete reversal of Gorbachev’s reforms.

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The Kremlin treaded carefully Wednesday reacting to Mikhail Gorbachev’s death, praising his prominent role in reshaping 20th-century history, but noting his “romantic” view of the West. The ambivalence was reflected in the uncertainty about funeral arrangements. An iconic central venue chosen for Saturday’s farewell ceremony has been used for state funerals since the Soviet times, but the Russian media reported that Gorbachev will not be given a state funeral. The hesitant stance was mirrored by state television broadcasts that paid tribute to Gorbachev as a historic figure but described his reforms as poorly planned and held him responsible for failing to safeguard the country’s interests with the West.

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Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and is for many the man who restored democracy to many European countries under communist rule. He is being saluted as a rare leader who changed the world and for a time brought hope for peace among the superpowers. But the man who died Tuesday in Moscow at 91 was also reviled by many in his own country who blamed him for the 1991 implosion of the Soviet Union and its diminution as a superpower. The loss of pride and power also led to the eventual rise of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader has spent the past quarter-century trying to restore Russia to its former glory and beyond.

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Richard Fellman writes: "The city of Kyiv reminded me of San Francisco, steep hills, well-tended parks everywhere, with the added excitement of a national capitol with impressive government buildings, major churches and bureaucrats all well-dressed with big black sedans everywhere. That has all changed these last few weeks."

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