MOSCOW -- Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Thursday that the overwhelming election of Barack Obama shows that Americans want change, and he called on the incoming president to extend his promised changes to U.S. relations with Russia and Iran.
"The entire world felt that America wanted change and was expecting change," Gorbachev, 77, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
He noted that some in Russia have called Obama the American Gorbachev because of his promises to bring change to his country. Obama's detractors in Russia say his policies will lead to the collapse of the U.S., pointing to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 following Gorbachev's reforms.
But Gorbachev said the world needs a strong America, as shown by the current global financial crisis, and he urged Washington to use its power for the good of the entire world.
"America is needed -- an America that is strong, democratic and sure of itself -- for the entire world, not just for Americans," he said. " We are seeing that if it's bad for America, it's bad for us all."
He said many countries in the world, including Russia and Iran, were eager for improved relations with Washington, and he urged Obama not to miss the opportunity.
For many Americans, Russia has moved to the top of the list of rogue nations, Gorbachev said. He expressed hope that Obama would usher in a new period in U.S.-Russian relations when he becomes president in January.
Russia shocked the West with its invasion of neighboring Georgia in August. And when most world leaders were extending congratulations to Obama on his victory, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to station short-range missiles in Kaliningrad on NATO's borders if the United States pushed ahead with missile defense sites in Eastern Europe.
Gorbachev said it was not an attempt to test the young president-elect.
"This was simply something from a past era," he said. "As you do to us, we will do to you. ... We don't need this."