"They were rubbing their hands, saying, 'How nice! We had been trying to do something about the Soviet Union for decades, and it ate itself up!'" Gorbachev said.
He blasted what he described as Western "triumphalism," saying it remains a key factor in tensions between Russia and the West.
Ties between Russia and the West are worse than they have been at any time since the Cold War following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and its support for a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and the European Union responded with several rounds of economic sanctions, which along with low oil prices have driven Russia's economy into recession.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. of trying to isolate and weaken the nation, pointing to the deployment of NATO forces near Russia's borders as a sign of hostile intentions. The war in Syria, where Russia has waged an air campaign in support of the President Bashar Assad, has added to the tensions.
Gorbachev said Russian and U.S. leaders must sit down for talks and "stay at the table until they reach agreement."
"The world needs Russia and the United States to cooperate," Gorbachev said. "Together, they could lead the world ... to a new path."
He defended Russia's action to annex Crimea, pointing out that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily transferred Crimea from Russian to Ukrainian administrative control in 1954, a decision that mattered little until the Soviet collapse.
He also noted that the annexation followed a popular vote in which the residents of the Black Sea peninsula overwhelmingly backed joining Russia.
"When people say yes, a decision must be made," he said.
The Crimean referendum was held after Russian troops flooded the peninsula, and the West has rejected the vote's outcome due to the troops' presence.
While he squarely backs Putin on the Ukrainian crisis, Gorbachev, who was born in southern Russia, is full of admiration for Ukrainian culture. After an interview, he sang a Ukrainian song he learned from his mother, who was Ukrainian.
Gorbachev also praised outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama. But he deplored what he described as a misguided policy toward Russia pursued by the U.S. and its allies both during his presidency and now.
"They have been badgering Russia with accusations and blaming it for everything," Gorbachev said. "And now, there is a backlash to that in Russia. Russia wants to have friendly ties with America, but it's difficult to do that when Russia sees that it's being cheated."
Gorbachev pointed to the productive relationship he built with U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s and the arms control agreements they reached despite sharp ideological differences.
"We accomplished a lot," he said. "We could talk openly, in a real partner-like way. It's necessary to take that approach again."
Asked his opinion of Putin's leadership, Gorbachev said he sees him as a "worthy president," even though he has criticized some of his policies.
In the past, Gorbachev assailed the Kremlin for a crackdown on freedom of speech and rigid political controls. He also was critical of Putin's return to the presidency in 2012 after term limits forced him to switch to the premier's seat for four years.
"I almost fully supported him first, and then I began to voice criticism," Gorbachev said of Putin. "I can't renounce my views."
He added, however, that he approved of Putin's recent state-of-the-nation address. The speech sent a conciliatory message to the West, and some observers also saw signs that the Kremlin may ease some of its rigid domestic policies.
"It was different from his previous speeches," Gorbachev said. "The speech showed that he's strongly worried."
Gorbachev has received global accolades for his policy of "perestroika," which eased government economic controls, and his role in ending the Cold War. At home, he has faced stinging criticism. Many held him responsible, and still do, for economic hardships, political turmoil and the loss of superpower status resulting from the Soviet Union's collapse.