tv Book Discussion on The End of the Cold War CSPAN October 17, 2015 10:00am-11:01am EDT
>> i am i am a research k-kilo at the hoover institution and it's my pleasure to introduce robert. robert is going to tell us about his new book, "the end of a cold war." his book will be published by publicaffairs in the u.s. and in great britain. he's a senior fellow at the hoover institution and america's professor at the college oxford in england. he is the author of biographies in the russian revolution. he discovered america only in the year 2004. ever since then he's been delving in the soviet state in communist and communist records held by the communist institution. it was the hoover archives so a few words about the time and
place. across the portrait party of courtyard behind your documentary records of communism and dictatorship in many countries. every year scholars from around the world to take part in the annual per institution regimes directed by hoover fellow paul gregory. the scholars are all here today in the audience. this presentation is one of the keynote events of the program. robert will now address us all with the end of the cold war. [applause] >> thank you very much for that generous introduction. what i want to talk about today is the subject of my new book which is about a war that never
became a war. although it was a cold war in the sense of the threat of military conflict throughout its existence it was the non- war over the third world poor which could have obliterated human and animal life on the entire planet on around the earth. it really was a truly dangerous phenomenon of the cold war. there had been many in history. the british and french were in cold war or most of the centuries back to the norman conquest. they engaged in many with each
other but the cold war that we know, that was the most dangerous war of all and god is never became a hot war. there were wars between the principal allies of the principal agents of the cold war, namely the soviet union and the united states of america. they were in africa between allies on one side and allies on the other side of america into the ussr never went to war with each other even though it came very close to that for times for example in 1962 and again in
1983. the account for the end of the cold war tended to be one-sided and concentrate either predominantly on the american side with the soviet side and the reason i thought it was worth writing a new book about the end of the cold war was it seemed to me very few people have looked at the end of the cold war as a two-sided process, as a bilateral process. and looked properly at the interaction between the two superpowers. pay is extremely important because the cold war didn't end with a peace treaty in because there was no hot war.
because the state has a cold war if it was going to end as he called for it was always going to end with a fundamental process of interaction. and so i concentrated on looking at a number of materials and i did look at materials in moscow. we do have some very good administration materials in oxford. there were some marvelous materials in the sunny valley in the reagan presidential library that above all as was at once the material inside the institution over there in, the
hoover institution archives to use that i use more than anything else and they are so rich in showing us a way to look at the end of the cold war, this very dangerous pinko in world history not just through memoirs but because as we know politicians write memoirs so as to look good for posterity and they are bound to be somewhat one-sided. interviews are very helpful. i had a disastrous interview in the '90s before i even thought of this book and he said what are you interested in and i said i'm writing a biography of lenin at the moment and he said it's
very interesting and then he cut the conversation short because for him to it remained in remains a sensitive topic. they didn't have the same sensitivity to mark the gorbachev did. it's possible to look at the binaries from the ministers of affairs. quite extraordinary by a aids to the foreign minister but also the diaries of the deputy
how this terrible threat to the third world war would avoid that particular generation of leaders and i picked out for her leaders in the process of ending the cold war. on the american side, ronald reagan and george schultz. on the soviet side, mikael gorbachev and his foreign minister. one of the questions one has to ask about the process and of ending the cold war is what was it that made the ussr jump? why did they resist western pressure to the 50s, 60s and
70s and yet they started to make massive concussions in the second half of the 1980s. when i found is that contrary to what they kill gorbachev likes to suggest the change of attitude to the soviet internal crisis that did not occur only when he came to power in 1985. the material showed the public bureau repeatedly looked at the fundamental social, religious and imperial problems with relation to eastern europe.
problems that couldn't afford to solve in the old way because the soviet economy was going through it was draining away resources particularly after the invasion of afghanistan at the end of 1979 so that repeatedly in the first half of the 1980s they were looking at matters that it had inched away from an earlier decades but what but what they did is look at the symptoms and it didn't sink up to the realistic options of what the cures that have a crisis on its hands. he knew things were very, very bad about it turned its face away from options that might have led to a realistic internal
viewer to those problems. if you look at the national histories of their recent years, the french claim to have spotted orbit shop early. the british repeatedly make the same claim. the canadians have a very good case for being the first in two predictive gorbachev came to power he would be the one who would make a big transformation. perhaps margaret thatcher had the most influence in recommending gorbachev to ronald reagan. but a number of countries knew that this was a man who was waiting in the wings and was an
important man to friend and to enable. the crucial selector it was the bureau if south that on balance decided after half a decade of crisis in the early 1980s to make corporate child the general secretary and then the reforms began. and then the process of fundamental reform began under his generals if a ship which began in march of 1985. so, the second question to answer is why did he get away with it?
my answer to this is partly that the problems had piled up so visibly that practically everyone in the bureau knew that something drastic has to be done. it wasn't just this magician in the kremlin. they have become demoralized. he got away with his program really in the foreign policy i think it's fair to say that the documents suggest he got away with what he wanted to do in foreign and security policy until 1989. there was practically no dispute about the general orientation
towards america. he wasn't dragging the bureau is by the head of hair. they went along with him and they went along with him because he constantly said he was a communist believer that he would consume the communist rule. so happened that he destroyed the ussr in the end but that wasn't how he presented himself or was thought of in the early years of his rule. the bureau recognized and this comes out to its minutes in the archives again and again and again not because they wanted
quite the scale of internal reform that gorbachev eventually went for it because for various reasons the leaders of each of the big public institutions solve a need to have a breathing space in which to conduct an internal adjustment of the soviet political economic and social system so that for some of them it was a moral matter and from most of them it was a very practical pragmatic political and economic matter it something drastic needs to be done. so they went along with the foreign policy for those reasons and one of the cardinal features
of the negotiations between the americans and the soviets was a strategic defense initiative. we can now see if we look at the party defense department discussions a lot of officials thought it was a sham. a lot of american officials even in the reagan administration thought it would never work. they tended to endorse the strategic defense initiative because it did seem to scare the soviets. and it did seem to be provoking fundamental attitudes towards international negotiations. the soviets, gorbachev among those people didn't believe the strategic defense initiative
would work. he thought he could wreck the soviet economy and he decided it would wreck the soviet economy had but they couldn't take the risk of acting on the basis that it was not going to work. there was always a possibility however outlandish that it would work and from that point of view the reagan administration did place an additional crucial pressure on the soviet union. most of the big public institutions went along with the
reconciliation with america for the reasons i just described. and this was really quite striking to me. that included the general staff. when there were problems with the arms negotiations, the general staff was often very abstract as to gorbachev. he handled them really brilliantly, he nursed them along. he made the chief of the general staff into his own military advisor. he did a lot of things to nursed them along that even the general staff recognized that if they were going to remain a world with three power, there have to be a has to be a change in the soviet economy that had to mean also the concessions had to be
made from the old principle of what the general staff staff wants it has to once it has to get. so even the general staff was less obstructive to gorbachev then it might have been. he got into problems in eastern europe when they broke away in 1989 and 1990. it was then the elements in the bureau started to question whether it the reconciliation with america was worth continuing with. and one does have to say that the records show he retreated into a kind of government. he took decisions on german reunification in the summer of
1990 mainly on the basis of discussion with his own aides rather than ventilating in advance what he was going to agree with regarding german reunification and germany's future nato membership. so things went well for him because he had a good start. he was pushed well by the bureau and when he ran into difficulties, he was a far from weak ruler. he made lots of errors. his management of the economy was catastrophic. the nation of the economy was dramatic. i remember going to moscow in
1990 going into a gigantic dairy supermarket where nothing was sold but butter, milk, yogurt and associated products. there were about 20 dairy counter assistants in the supermarket and there was absolutely no milk, not a single bottle, can work of the milk in the whole supermarket. it was an absolutely catastrophic period of management of the economy. but on the side of international relations, gorbachev got his way right towards the end of the soviet union's entire existence. i said i wanted to focus on
interaction as much as possible. where do the americans come into all of this? the strategic defense initiative did make a difference. what also made a difference as the succession of american presidents have maintained more or less in its entirety the technological transfer. this didn't have an immediate impact but they had an impact that the soviet union was cut off from cargill technological innovations that were then spreading through the western economies. more or less left the ussr
gasping and the only way that the ussr could acquire this new technology was to steal it through industrial espionage so the ussr was left gasping he sells the ingrained that he won't sell them computers. he won't sell them at microsoft and the leadership recognizes that it's been left and it's been told by the secretary you are being left behind. you are a backward power now. he is correct with an initiation
don't you realize that you are being left in the economic dust of history? america demands that tied not just for the need for disarmament but also the demand for disengagement from military intervention in africa, disengagement from the alliance with cuba and probably the most important demand for the internal reform of the ussr. the reagan administration was very firm about this that it had to have a reliable partner in these negotiations and a two to teller. systems such as the one party one ideology state was.
that wouldn't make for reliable negotiations. so time and again, the date was put on the hook for the big fish. if you want disarmament treaties your economic problems, you've got to do something about the internal political situation in the ussr, and there's got to be no concessions on the americans side so the americans were very crucial in moving this process forward. in another way they would limit their economic assistance. this didn't really come up too often in the negotiations when
reagan was in power. it cropped up often under george bush, and bush and his secretary of state were frequently asked by the soviet side to bail out the soviet economy and they refused. baker was very direct to the effect that until they reform their economy does have the money wasted which indeed i think personally it would have been wasted. gorbachev really didn't know how to waste money. it was a great political figure in history. he reformed the ussr. he destroyed the ussr in the process of reforming it.
as an economic manager he was quite appallingly inept. european leaders didn't always hope the process along as well as they might have done. having welcomed the power to gorbachev decided to regard him as a dangerous enemy. it was only in the middle of 1987 that thatcher had any time for gorbachev at all so in the early period of the rapprochement between the ussr, the preeminent leadership was in washington. this was very striking to me when looking at the french records and the eight british records and to the extent that
the germans played the cardinal rule, it was namely and we now can see because they were leaves them very closely with washington about practically all the steps that they took in 1989 and 1992 words the german reunification. so i think that they have tended to overplay the rule when they wrote memoirs opening their archives as the americans are over here. george bush -close-brace -- george bush was very slow to realign. he engaged with a dumped a euphemism for the reinfection of
the very frosty relations of washington and moscow in the first half of 1989. but once it became clear that gorbachev was willing to counter the independence of east european states, then george bush changed his stance and basically became a reaganite. and at the summit in december, 1989, he pushed the line that ronald reagan would have pushed if he had still been president. now you have therefore the soviet leadership responding to
pressure, responding to its own internal crisis, you have the americans piling on the pressure continued to pile on the pressure but making friendly enough gestures for the reconciliation to take place. the interaction, however, was very far from being a smooth process. gorbachev had insisted in a way that he made announcements without prior consultation with reagan reagan and in the january january 1986 declaration on the nuclear disarmament, he promised global nuclear disarmament by total disarmament around the world by the year 2000 and the
americans naturally said what does he really intend to do and they found that he had frontloaded the stages of disarmament in such a way as to -- only benefit only the ussr at the expense of the usa. this is a very ham-fisted way of going on. sometimes the american side over did it as overdid it as we can see from the soviet records in the conversations ronald reagan could make jokes on inappropriate occasions. he likes making irish jokes which he thought were not offensive but were extremely offensive. my father was irish. i like irish jokes about they were not funny to the foreign minister. they were not at all funny to him because he was a georgia
national and he didn't like the little people of the world being mocked so he didn't look at these jokes with the same spectacles that westerners looked at and he actually said this to reagan i really wish you would stop these jokes come and george shultz rebuked his own president about this wave going on. so he wasn't the perfect negotiator. you mustn't engage in this. i do think he was a brilliant negotiator. he was an old trade unionist and he really did know how to hang out for a deal. if he sometimes overdid it, weinberger and casey always overdid it can always save to
reagan you shouldn't be dealing with these people. let's just keep to the old way that we had in the early 1980s just piling on the pressure. there is no deal yet that is acceptable to the u.s. and nato interests into this made it extraordinarily hard for the state department to go on conducting the disarmament agreement and george schultz really had to fight very hard to keep the show on the road. the summit in october, 1986 was a failure in the sense that a comprehensive nuclear disarmament deal which was in
reaching distance slipped away at the very last because of gorbachev's formulation of the strategic defense initiative. this interaction though was still a positive process. when george shultz got back he went around the country saying that although no deal had been signed of all, no deal should have ever been signed on the terms that gorbachev insisted on so many concessions have already been made by the soviet side that the emphasis ought to be on keeping the soviets to those concessions in the near future and here we come to a part of
the process that is really impressive. the bureau, including the terrible old cold war era pressed the case for altering the soviet negotiating package on gorbachev himself. we usually think of gorbachev as a man that is always leading the charge for sensible negotiations in. in the winter of 86 into 87, and 87, it was the rest of the bureau, people like the old foreign minister of the postwar years who pressed his case on gorbachev and in february, 1987,
he cracked and he gave way to his own bureau and it does seem that he was pretty reluctant to do this. but this wasn't just some sort of show of false politics. if you read the record of the period in february, 1987, you will see what i mean. people said some pretty strong things to force gorbachev. this process then was becoming a positive process of reconciliation and had many rod aspects. for example, not all of ronald reagan's jokes were an appetite. they were about the soviet system and the way of life in the ussr as compared to the way
of life in america. and they hit home because gorbachev and to some extent they started the communist believers. they started those people that thought they could save the communist system of rule. gradually they became demoralized in the philosophical principles and reagan's jokes have their had their impact, so too did george schultz economic jokes. on one occasion he went over the atlantic with a load of pie charts and charts to prove to gorbachev that if the ussr didn't reform the portion of the world economy that the ussr was going to occupy which shrank
steadily through to the gear 20s because you. now, this kind of friendly acquaintance of, this instructional educational aspect was very important in altering the balance of opinion inside what i call the big poll. they were very subtle in the way that they did this into and the way that they achieved this. it was always though a bruising contest. it was bruising on both sides it's a hard institution to
control. the state department had real problems with the cia and the defense department so bees for men come and let's give george bush is due after he put an end to the pause in the middle of 1989 he more or less acted constructively to bring this terrible phenomenon to an end. i think we live in a generation now where we think the ussr as having been a pack of cards that was just waiting to be blowed over and we forget how
consolidated it was and how easy it would have been for soviet leaders to turn back to the more repressive internal policy and a more dangerous international policy. it really was imported that the first nuclear reduction agreement took place in the second half of the 1980s. no longer are there arms limitation agreement arms reduction agreements. in 1989, eastern europe was freed from the grasp of the ussr and that was a change in history. the world communist movement drastically fell apart. it was just a fantasy of a few apologists for the ussr by the end of the 1980s. this was another stupendous
achievement. and at the end of 1991, more or less, the ussr put itself into the biggest dustbin of history and communist rule completely ended. since the turn of our century, we have been living in a period with new oil revenue pouring into the kremlin russia has become more and more assertive and dangerous especially towards its memoirs and this talk of a new cold war. at the moment i feel that this is to belittle the scale of the dangers that face the entire world from the late 1940s through to the mid-1980s.
it belittles the astonishing achievement of the ussr in bringing that to an end, and i hope that my book does something to explain why we still should be looking for reflections on our own age and what happened in that momentous era. thank you very much. [applause] >> we have a few moments for questions and answers. i believe we have a roaming microphone. if you would like to raise your hand the microphone will come to you.
>> putin is blackmailing the west with nuclear weapons and i wonder if you found in gorbachev's document and a similar approach without some ground to use this as a negotiation. >> i think that he quickly gave up any thought of nuclear blackmail. i think that his priority was always to get a deal with the u.s.. the dangerous period in the cold war is when they were in power and certainly responded to the new pressures by becoming more
dangerous, dangerously anti-american impression it had been. so nuclear blackmail i've got to say wasn't part of the agenda. and increasingly, he is going n. hand it to the western powers. he started off with a brilliant leader. but by the end the summit in 1991 he was begging for money and he didn't get it. >> thank you for that excellent discussion in the book. i couldn't help but think about the recent extraordinary effort between the u.s. and iran --
click here about the dynamics of the so-called hardliners. they didn't push gorbachev to make more descriptions and in the white house and other parts they will never change and we know how the mind works and push back on ronald reagan and his aides. they talked about the dynamics on both sides that forced through the shift. looking at what was happening in the political leadership before
gorbachev came to power for the politics or economics or religion or ethnicity or eastern europe and they knew they couldn't afford to hold onto eastern europe they didn't want to let go in the early half of the 1980s. this wasn't a contentious internal matter for the bureau so if you are talking about the military leadership for the hardliners, there was a pragmatic -- this is the case i make a difference that something was happening wrong. when they came to power it was an idea of a realistic your.
actually i don't think that gorbachev's cure was realistic. if you start allowing people to say what they think without being arrested, if you stop loving them listening to radios and televisions from abroad and if you let them go abroad and then come back and let the press say openly things about the system that have never been speakable before, you are going to include the whole system. so gorbachev got what any old hardliners could have told him what would happen which is the self-destruction of the ussr. but if it hadn't been for him, it might have been distraction, a popular revolt or interethnic
so we have to count ourselves lucky that he came to power and that he was greeted by an american president that he could make peace with this and >> i have a question about the learning. i'm curious where did the gorbachev learned his knowledge about international relations and do you think he had a good understanding of history and the policies and they ask you this question because i know that
gorbachev was the first real soviet airborne in 1931 and in the environment of the political sociology, freedom of discussion were oppressed so i don't know how this shapes their view. >> a really interesting question. gorbachev was always something of a secret reformer. when nikita khrushchev announced joseph stalin than then people like gorbachev said the butt for two more decades they had to say this behind.
i think that he liked reagan made up his mind on the basis of his own opinions but he's willing to change his mind. gorbachev distrusted reports that he got from the kgb and he made up his mind on the basis of what he saw in the west. he had been to italy and he admired the communist party that was steadily becoming a non- communist party but i think that he learned a lot from face-to-face discussions with all of those jokes.
there was a moment when james baker in the bush administration was flying on the same plane and baker the secretary of state turned to him and said could you tell us what and the military budget is. you know that much better that's much better than we do, what do you think? so they were learning to promote western counterpart that particular individuals but ruled to great superpower at the time made a difference. there were long long-term chronic features and factors
that pushed towards the reconciliation but it required of the leaders that recognized the opportunities and i do think that that was to the greater lasting benefit that such things were in existence. >> two more questions from the workshop a few years ago to let you would you calibrate the influence of the movement and the mix of influence with was it a sideshow or was it the central? how would you evaluate it now that we have some perspective? >> that is a tricky question to answer. i think the dissidents as a
practical threat to soviet power had been beaten however the ideas were making their way into the soviet political elite. they have ideas that were not so different in the 1970s in many positive ways. so i personally think they were important in helping the process of making the ussr began to rot from the inside. i don't think that they have all that much problem even in the
early 1980s but what they couldn't do was stop the process of social modernization which meant why do i put up with this? why do we have this system? we are not going to remove against it because we are too scared but we are not going to say that we want it love it anymore and so i think they did have a major part in that indirect way. >> i just want to ask about the final two years but you are covering in the buck. and you talked about the western european leaders and i'm curious if the transitional or the new
leadership of the eastern european countries that came to power and 89 affected by lateral relations in your estimate. >> that's a wonderfully interesting question and that is something i deal with to some extent because when the ussr started to allow eastern europe to break away, the first thing he does after the fall of the berlin wall and the execution is a romania is to fly to romania because the foreign-policy wasn't dead yet and the desire was in moscow to somehow drag something out of this and remain
to the international security and eastern europe so that for a year or two after the fall of the berlin wall the soviet diplomacy still was not entirely on the rest of optimism. it was of realism except they were scared of the germans. so there was something to work with. will will the new germany accept the old borders or will he want a bit of pulling back to a couple wind -- poland back so it wasn't totally unrealistic.