Comment: Declassified documents shed light on closing Cold War stages

The National Security Archive has posted a brief analysis of declassified documents relating to the last official meeting between Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan. The meeting, which took place at Governor’s Island, New York, in December 1988, was also attended by then US President-Elect George Bush, Sr. The released documents consist of three separate batches, namely previously secret high-level Soviet memoranda, CIA reports and estimates, as well as detailed transcripts of the meeting. According to the report’s editors, Soviet memoranda reveal that at the time of the meeting “Gorbachev was prepared for rapid arms control progress leading towards nuclear abolition”. The extent of the Soviet leader’s commitment stunned even the CIA, whose estimates had not anticipated such massive unilateral offer to disarm. The Archive’s press release blames the then President-Elect George Bush, Sr., for failing “to meet Gorbachev even half-way”, thus essentially preventing “dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons, fissile materials, and conventional armaments, to the detriment of international security today”. Bush’s reluctance to reciprocate Gorbachev’s disarmament moves is hardly surprising, considering the larger picture, namely that the foremost priority of American foreign policy at the closing stages of the Cold War was not nuclear reduction or disarmament, but rather affecting Soviet economic collapse. In reality, of course, the celebrated causal link between the intensification of weapons proliferation by the Reagan Administration and the collapse of the Soviet system, which lies at the center of post-Cold War neoconservative rhetoric, is at most speculative. Informed studies have shown that “[t]he facts do not support such a relationship”. Essentially, Gorbachev’s desperate attempt to minimize the impact of national defense on the Soviet economy was destined to failure, since “Soviet economic problems were fundamentally structural [and] could not have been solved by rearranging the allocation of resources between defense and the civil economy”. As a result, the Soviet system was brought down by the very people who lived under it and -in many cases- even by those who worked for it, not by the West and certainly not by Ronald Reagan. Thus “[i]n 1989 the West merely watched in amazement, as powerless to influence events [...] as it had been in 1956, 1968, and 1981-82″. If anything, the aggressive American foreign policy of the Regan years, based on political demonization and religiously inspired language (“evil empire”, etc), probably delayed the collapse of the Soviet Union by radicalizing the Soviet military and reinforcing the Soviet regime’s ability to associate domestic dissidence with foreign-instigated sabotage. [JF]

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

2 Responses to Comment: Declassified documents shed light on closing Cold War stages

  1. breandmike says:

    I am a 8th grade teacher in NC and came across your site while researching some information about the cold war for my class this year. I just wanted to thank you first of all for the great information and articles about the cold war, and let you know about a site we are putting together for teachers.

    We would love it if you could write a few articles for us, or link to some of the current articles to help us spread trusted resources to other teachers. I have included a link to the site below in hopes you might want to write some articles for us or link to it.

    Thanks and keep the great resources coming :)

    Bre Matthews

    http://www.thefreeresource.com/a-brief-history-of-the-cold-war

  2. intelNews says:

    Your positive feedback and encouragement are very much appreciated. Due to our heavy teaching and writing schedules, it will be difficult to actively participate in your worthwhile project. Be certain, however, that we will spread the word as much as possible. Thanks again. [JF]

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