LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Sig Rogich had kind words for Mikhail S. Gorbachev as news came that the former leader of the Soviet Union died at 91 on Tuesday.
Rogich, now 78 and long known as a “kingmaker” in Nevada politics, was communications adviser to President George H.W. Bush as history was unfolding in 1990. He accompanied Gorbachev on a cross-country trip from Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis, and finished at Stanford University, where Gorbachev delivered a speech.
He praised Gorbachev’s understanding of economics and mathematics, and his ability to direct the Soviet economy. “Gorbachev provided an economy that was working,” Rogich said.
“I grew to like him,” Rogich said. He described Gorbachev as gracious and smart, and said he had a great sense of humor. Gorbachev was “particularly perfect at the time,” he said.
As he recounted the journey, Rogich talked about themes — Glasnost and Perestroika — that made Gorbachev popular in the United States, but made him a lightning rod in the Soviet Union.
But mostly, he remembered the flights aboard the equivalent of “Air Force One” — the Soviet plane that carried the diplomatic mission across the country. Aboard “Aeroflot One,” Rogich wasn’t sure he would live to see the journey completed. “They don’t build really good planes,” he said.
“That was my introduction to Gorby,” he remembered on Tuesday.
Rogich, who is involved in helping businesses navigate international issues as president of Rogich Communications Group, said he stayed in touch with Gorbachev in the years that followed.
He said he was on hand for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks known as START I and START II.
“I always felt privileged because what he did was so revolutionary,” Rogich said. The unraveling of the Soviet Union was an “unintended consequence,” Rogich said.
The Stanford speech fell in the middle of a timeline that now defines the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He said Gorbachev loved President Bush.
The contrast between Gorbachev and Russian leader Vladimir Putin demonstrates the KGB’s influence on the way Putin rules, Rogich said, pointing out that Putin is a hard-line communist.
“I learned to understand we are products of our environment,” Rogich said.