tv Book Discussion on The End of the Cold War CSPAN September 14, 2015 7:00am-8:01am EDT
us on the end of the cold war. [applause] >> thank you very much, mark, for that very 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. it's about of cold war rather than a hot water. although it was a cold war, in the sense that there was the threat of military conflict throughout its existence, it was the non-war, the single non-war, the third world war which could have obliterated human and animal life on the entire planet
all around the earth. it really was a truly dangerous phenomenon, the cold war. there have been many cold war's in history. the british and the french were in cold war most of the centuries back to the norman conquest if they engaged in many hot wars with each other, but the cold war, the war that we know as the cold war, that was the most dangerous war of all. and thank god it 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. there were wars in many states of africa between allies of one side and allies of the other side, but america and the ussr never went to war with each other. even though it came very close to that at times. for example, in 1962 and again in 1983. the accounts for the end of the cold war tend to be one-sided, tend to concentrate either predominantly on the american side, or predominantly on the soviet side. and the reason i thought it was worth writing a new book about the end of the cold war was that it seemed to me that very few people have looked at the end of the cold war as a two-sided
process, as a bilateral process, and look properly at the interaction between the two superpowers. that's extremely important because the cold war didn't end with a peace treaty because there was no hot war. it didn't and in the way that wars normally and. because it's state as a cold war, if it was going to end as a cold war, it was always going to end with a fundamental process of interaction. and so i concentrated on looking at a number of materials, sensibly here. i did look at materials in
moscow. we do have some very good gorbachev administration of materials in oxford. there are some marvelous materials in simi valley in the reagan presidential library, but above all it was the materials inside the institution over there, the hoover institution archives, that i used more than anything else. and they are so rich in showing us a way to look at the en end f the cold war, it is very, very dangerous period in world history. not just through memoirs. because as we know, politicians write memoirs so as to look good for posterity. and anyway, they are bound to be somewhat one-sided.
interviews are very, very helpful. i did have a disastrous interview with mikhail gorbachev in the mid '90s before he even thought of this book. and i remember him saying at an early point in the conversation, well, what are you interested in? and i said well, i'm writing a biography of lyndon at the moment, -- linen. and he said -- very interesting to continue quickly cut the conversation short a test for him, soviet ideology and particularly the figure of lyndon remained and remains a sensitive topic. i have to say i got much more out of secretary shultz and my interviews with him over the years. he didn't have the same sensitivity to marxism, leninism that gorbachev did.
it's possible here to look at diaries from the ministry of foreign affairs, the soviet ministry of foreign affairs. quite extraordinary diaries by aides to foreign minister shevardnadze, particularly a man called -- but also the diaries of the man who eventually became a deputy minister in the soviet administration. but also the party defense official, who kept maps, kept copies of discussions that the military-industrial complex had to all the years of the late 1980s. now, if you add those materials
to the materials of the american side, we can now have marvelous access to the papers of ronald reagan, to some extent george shultz, bill casey, then we can get away forward to understand how this terrible threat of a third world war was avoided by that particular generation of leaders. and i picked out four leaders as being cardinal figures in the process of ending the cold war. on the american side, ronald reagan and george schultz. on the soviet side, mikhail gorbachev and his foreign
minister eduard. and one of the questions that one has to ask about the process of ending the cold war is what was it that made the u.s. as our job. why did they resist western pressure, particularly the american pressure? for so many years in the 14th -- '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, and yet they started to make massive the concessions in the second half of the 1980s. what i found was that contrary to what mikhail gorbachev likes to suggest, the change of attitude to the problems of the soviet internal crisis did not
occur only when he came to power in 1985. the materials show that the politburo repeatedly looked at the fundamental economic, social, religious, and, indeed, imperial problems with relation to eastern europe that it confronted. problems that it couldn't afford to solve in the old way because the soviet economy was going through a pluggable. it was draining away resources, particularly occupation of afghanistan at the end of 1979. -- plughole. repeatedly in the first half of the 1980s the politburo was looking at matters that it had edged away from in earlier
decades. but what it did was look at the symptoms. it didn't faceup to the possible realistic options of two or. so it had -- of two or. at a crisis on its hands. it knew things were very, very bad that it turned its face away from options that might have led to a realistic internal cure to all of those problems. now, if you look at the national histories of recent years, the french claimed to have spotted or which offer early. the british repeatedly -- gorbachev early. the british make the same claims. the canadians have a very good case are being the first to
predict that if gorbachev came to power he would be the one who would make the big transformation. it doesn't really matter who spotted him first. 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 is waiting in the wings and was an important man to befriend and to enable. the crucial selector at the open of this great changer of the soviet history was the politburo itself, and it was the politburo that on balance decided after half a decade of crisis in the early 1980s to make gorbachev the general secretary, and then
the reforms began. and then the process of fundamental reform began under his general secretary ship, which began in march 1985. so the second question to answer is why did he get away with it? my answer to this is partly that the problems have piled up so vividly -- visibly that practically everyone in the politburo knew that something drastic has to be done. it wasn't just his magician in the kremlin, mikhail gorbachev, who alone could since the movement of history. the entire politburo was becoming demoralized. he got away with his program,
really a foreign policy i think it's fair to say, the documents to suggest that he got away with what he wanted to do in foreign and security policy as late as 1989. there was practically no dispute in the politburo about the general orientation towards our approachment with america. he wasn't tracking the politburo by its head of hair. the politburo went along with them. they went along with it because he constantly said he was a communist believer, that he would conserve communist rule. it 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 politburo recognized, and this comes out of its minutes in the hoover archives, again and again and again. the politburo went along with this not because they wanted quite the scale of internal reform that gorbachev eventually plumped for in the ussr, but because for various reasons the leaders of each of the big public institutions saw the need for the ussr to have a breathing space in which to conduct some kind of internal adjustment of the soviet political, economic and social system. so for some of them it was a moral matter, but for most of
them it was a very, very practical pragmatic political and economic matter. the ussr is looking more and more dead on its feet. something drastic needs to be done. so the politburo went along with this change in foreign policy for those reasons. one of the cardinal features of the negotiations between the americans and the soviets was the strategic defense initiative. we can now see if we look at the party defense department discussions that a lot of soviet officials thought it was a shame.
it did seem to be provoking fundamental change in attitudes to international negotiations. the soviets, most of them, gorbachev among those people, didn't really believe the strategic defense initiative would work. gorbachev thought that he could build a much cheaper version of it and not wreck the soviet economy. he latterly decided it would wreck the soviet economy, but the point is that the soviet leadership couldn't take the ri if they thought that the fbi was a shame. 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 break in michigan to place pressure on the soviet union. most of the big public institutions went along with the reconciliation with america for the reasons i have just described. and this is really quite striking to me. that included the general staff. when there were problems with the arms negotiations, the general staff was often very, very obstructive to gorbachev. he handled them really brilliantly. he nursed them along.
they made the chief of the general staff into his own military advisor. they did a lot of things to nursed them along, but even the general staff recognize that if the ussr was going to remain a world military power, there have to be a change in the soviet economy. that had been also that concessions had to be made from the old principle that what the general staff wants, it has to get. so even the general staff was less obstructive to gorbachev then it might have been your he got into problems with eastern europe broke away in 1989 and 1990. it was then that element in the politburo and the ruling elite
started to question whether the reconciliation with america was really worth continuing with. and one does have to say that the records show that he retreated into a kind of sofa government. they took a decisions on german reunification in the summer of 1990 mainly on the basis of discussions with his own close aides and can't do, rather than ventilating in advance what is going to agree with tom cole regarding -- helmet kohl regarding reunification and germany's future, nato membership. so things went well for him because he had a good start. he was wished her well -- wished
well by the politburo, and when he ran into difficulties he was a far from the ruler. he made lots of errors. is management of the economy was catastrophic. the ruination of the soviet economy was really dramatic. i remember going to moscow in 1990, went into a gigantic dairy supermarket where nothing was sold but butter, milk, yogurt and associated products. they were about 20 dairy counter assistance in the supermarket and there was absolutely no milk. not a single bottle or can or tub of milk in the whole of the 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. now, i said that i wanted to focus on interaction as much as possible. where do the americans come into all of this? well, the strategic defense initiative did make a difference. what also made a difference was that they succession of american presidents had maintained more or less in its entirety the technological transfer embargo
on the ussr. this didn't have an immediate impact, but it had an impact that meant that the soviet union was cut off for really cardinal new technological innovations that were then spreading through the western economies. the i.t. revolution more unless left the ussr gasping. and the only way that they use as our could acquire this new technology was to steal it through industrial espionage. so that the u.s. as our was left gasping i the embargo, and then in addition to that, along comes reagan. he certainly sells them grain but he will not sell them apple computers.
he won't sell them microsoft. and the leadership recognizes that it is being left behind, and it has been told by secretary shultz you are being left behind. you are a backward power now. he really, he's really direct with them in negotiations with shevardnadze and with gorbachev. don't you realize you are being left in the economic dustbin of history? the american demands are tied not just to the need for disarmament, but also to the demands for disengagement from military intervention in africa, disengagement from the alliance with cuba, and probably the most
important demand was for an end to reform of the ussr. reagan administration was very, very for about this, that it had to have a reliable partner in these negotiations, antitotalitarian system such as the one party one ideology state was your even to some extent under gorbachev. that wouldn't make for reliable negotiations. so time and again the bait was put on the hook to the fish, the big fish, gorbachev. if you want disarmament to each are economic problems, you've got to do something about the internal political situation in the u.s. as our, and there's going to be no concessions on
the americans come from the americans on this. so the americans were very, very crucial in moving this process forward. they were crucial in another way, that they would limit the economic assistance. this really didn't crop up too often in the negotiations when reagan was in power. it crop up often under george bush. and bush and his secretary of state baker were frequently as by the soviet side to bail out the soviet economy, and they refused. baker was very, very direct with shevardnadze, even with gorbachev. to the effect that until the
reform their economy, this will be money wasted which indeed i think personally i think it would have been wasted. gorbachev related know-how to waste money. it was a great figure, a great political figure in history. he would form the ussr, destroy the u.s. as our in the process of reforming it. as an economic manager, he was really quite appallingly inept. the leaders didn't always help the process along as well as they might have done. thatcher, having welcome the accession to power of gorbachev and started to regarded as a dangerous enemy. it was only in the middle of 1987 that thatcher had any time
for gorbachev et al. in the early period of the rapprochement between america and the u.s. as our, the preeminent leadership was in washington. this was very striking to me when looking at the french records and the british records. and to the extent that the germans played a cardinal role, it was mainly as we now can see because they were very close with washington kentucky kirby but all the steps they took in 1989 and 1990 towards german reunification. so i think europeans have tended to over play their role when they wrote their memoirs.
alas general zinni opening their archives as the americans are over here. urge bush was very slow to continue the foreign policy line of ronald reagan pashtun george bush. he engaged in what the soviets dubbed -- a euphemism for the reinfection, a very frosty relations between washington and moscow in the first half of 1989. but once it came clear that gorbachev was willing to countenance the independence of these two european states, and even the communist nation, then george bush changed his stance, sharpened it and basically
became a reaganite. and the malta summit of decemb december 1989, he pushed a 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, continuing to pile on the pressure, but making friendly enough gestures for reconciliation to take place. the interaction, however, was a very, very far from being a smooth process. gorbachev was insistent in the way he made announcements without prior consultation with
reagan. in the first year or two he delighted in embarrassing reagan. in the january 1986 declaration on nuclear disarmament, he promised global nuclear disarmament by total disarmament around the world by the year 2000. anti-americans naturally said, what does he really intended to? and they found that he had frontloaded the stages of disarmament in such a way as to conditionally benefit only the ussr at the expense of the u.s. a. this was a very ham-fisted way of going on. sometimes the american side over did it. as we can see from the soviet records of conversations, ronald
reagan could make jokes on inappropriate occasions. he liked making irish jokes which he thought were inoffensive. they were extremely offensive -- my father was irish so i like irish jokes, but they were not funny to shevardnadze, the foreign minister. they were not at all funny to them because he's a georgian national, and he didn't like the little peoples of the world being mocked. so he didn't look at these jokes with the same spectacles that westerners look at irish jokes. and he actually said this to reagan. i really wish you would stop these irish jokes. and george shultz actually mildly rebuked his own president about this way of going on. so he wasn't a perfect
negotiated. i do think he was a brilliant negotiator. he wasn't old trade unionist. he really did know how to hang out for a deal. well, if reagan sometimes over did it, weinberger and casey always over did it. always said to reagan, you shouldn't be dealing with these people. just keep piling on the pressure. there is no deal yet that is acceptable to u.s. and nato interests are and this made it extraordinarily hard for the state department to go on conducting a disarmament agreements. and george shultz really had to
fight very, very hard to keep the show on the road. the reykjavík summit of octobe october 1986 was a failure in the sense that a comprehensive nuclear disarmament deal, which was within distance, slipped away right at the very last because of gorbachev's formulation about the strategic defense initiative. this interaction though was still a positive process and george shultz got back. he went around the country saying that although no deal had been findable, no deal should
ever been signed on the terms of i've had insisted upon. so many recessions were all relieved that the emphasis should be on keeping the soviets to those concessions in the near future. and he we come to a part of the process that is really impressive. the politburo, -- pressed the case for altering the soviet negotiating package on gorbachev himself. we usually think of gorbachev as a man who is always leading the charge for sensible
negotiations. in the winter of 86 and 87, it was the rest of the politburo. it was people like, even like granita, the old foreign minister of the postwar years, and shevardnadze who pressed his case on gorbachev. and in february 1987 he cracked, and he gave way to his own politburo. and he does seem that he was pretty reluctant to do this. that this wasn't just some sort of show of false politics. it really does, if you read the record of the politburo 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 it had many broad aspects. for example, not all of reagan's jokes were in at the site. a lot of his jokes were about the nature of the soviet system and the way of life in the u.s. as our come as compared to the way of life in america. and they get home. because gorbachev and to some extent shevardnadze started as communist believers. they started as people who thought they could save the communist system of rule. gradually it became demoralized in their philosophical principles, and reagan's jokes had the impact. so, too, did george shultz is
economic charts. on one occasion he went over the atlantic with a load of pie chart and bar charts to prove to gorbachev and shevardnadze that if they use as our didn't reform, diffraction, the portion of the world economy that the ussr was going to occupy would shrink steadily through to the year 2000. now, this kind of friendly acquaintance chip -- acquaintanceship, this instructional, educational aspect of the interaction was a very, very important in altering the balance of opinion inside what i call the big four, reagan, shultz, gorbachev and shevardnadze. the americans are very graceful
in the way that the way they did this and the way they achieved this. it was always though a bruising contest. it was a bruising on both sides. the politburo was always come especially from 1989 onwards, a hard institution to control. the reagan administration was notoriously internally divided, and the state department had real problems with the cia and the defense department. so that were men, and let's give -- and these four men, 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, just terrible phenomenon, the cold war, to an end. i think we live in and the generation now where we think of the ussr as having been a pack of cards that was just waiting to be blown over. and we forget just how consolidated it was, and how easy it would have been for soviet leaders to turn back to a more repressive and internal policy and a more dangerous international policy. it really was important that the first nuclear reduction agreement took place in the second half of the 1980s. no longer a arms limitation agreement but arms reduction
agreements. in 1989 eastern europe was free from the grasp of the u.s. as far. that was a stupendous change in world history. the world communist movement practically fell apart. it wasn't just a fantasy of a few apologists for the u.s. as our by the end of the 1980s -- u.s. s. r. this was another stupendous achievement. and the end of 1991, more or less peacefully the ussr now 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 where with the new oil revenues pouring in to the kremlin's coffers, russia has become more and more assertive and dangerous, especially towards
its near memoirs, and there's 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 u.s. and the ussr in bringing that to in and. and i hope that my book is something to explain why we still should be looking for reflections on our own age in what happened in that momentous era. thank you very much. [applause]
>> thank you, bob. we have a few moments now for questions and answers. so the floor is yours. i believe we have a roaming mic. has. 32 would like to raise your hands, microphone will come to you. >> putin is blackmailing the west with nuclear weapons, and i wonder if you found in gorbachev the document assume approach, this tactic, to blackmail without maybe some ground, but to use this as a negotiating tactic? >> i think that he quickly gave up and he thought of nuclear
blackmail. i think is priority was always to get a deal with the u.s. the really dangerous period in the cold war was when i drop off -- were in power and they certainly responded to reagan's new pressures by becoming more dangerous, more dangerously anti-american than brezhnev had been. so nuclear blackmail i would say wasn't part of, i don't think it was part of gorbachev's agenda. and increasingly he is going camping han and to the western powers. timing, he started off as a brilliant leader, the equal of any american president in his
own few. by the end, for example, at the london summit of 1991, he was taking off his hat and begging for money, and he didn't get it. >> before that excellent discussion of your book. i couldn't help but think about the recent and also extraordinary effort between the u.s. and iran over negotiating and arms limitation are also reduction agreement in a way. and a story that you told, i would like to hear more about both sides, the dynamics of the so-called hardliners. in fact, you said in the politburo you had communist lifers are then pushed gorbachev to make more concessions. and in the white house and in other parts of washington you at people who of course they will never change.
we know how their mind works. and pushback on reagan and his close aides. could you talk a little bit more about the dynamics of both sides that forced through the shift? think you. >> thanks for that question. i think the answer to that is, it lies in looking at what was happening in the political leadership before gorbachev came to power your and when you look at politics or economics or religion or ethnicity or eastern europe, they knew they couldn't afford to hold on to eastern europe, but they didn't want to let go in the early half of the 1980s. so this wasn't a contentious internal matter for the politburo. so if you're talking about the
military leadership are what i think you called the hardliners, there was a pragmatic, this is a case by making. there was a pragmatic acceptance that something was basically wrong. what they hadn't got until gorbachev came to power was an idea of a realistic cure. actually i don't think, i personally don't think gorbachev to her was realistic. if you start allowing people to say what they think without being arrested, they choose to let him listen to radio and television from abroad, if you let them go abroad and then come back, you let the press say openly things about the system that had never been said before, you are going to un-glue the
whole system. so gorbachev got what any old hardliner could have told them what had happened, which was the self-destruction of the ussr. but if it had not been for him, it might've been destruction. it might've been a popular revolt and -- or an internet make -- the good of all sorts, it could have been war with the west. so we have to count ourselves lucky i think that he came to power and that he was greeted by an american president who into it if understood -- intuitively understood he could make peace with this man.
>> thank you for excellent doctor i've questioned about learning. so i'm curious whethe would gorv learn his knowledge about international relations. and do you think he had a good understanding of the history of soviet foreign policy? i ask this question because i noted that gorbachev was the first real soviet man. he was born in 1931 and in the environment of -- [inaudible] and freedom of discussion were suppressed, and so i don't know how this shape his point of view. >> some really interesting question. gorbachev was always something of a secret reformer. he was with the soviets used to call a child at the 20th party
congress. so when nikita khrushchev denounced joseph stalin, then people like gorbachev said iraq your but then for two more decades they had to say hoorah behind the palms of their hands. he learned to keep his opinions to himself. he was a brilliant courtier under leonid brezhnev, the general secretary. i think he, like reagan, made up his mind on the basis of his own opinions, but he was willing to change his mind. gorbachev distrusted the reports that he got from the kgb. he made up his mind on the basis
of what he saw in the west. so he beamed the italy. he very much admired the italian communist party which was steadily becoming a non-communist party. but i think he's learned a lot from face-to-face discussions of all those reagan jokes, from those shultz economic charts. he learned a lot from them. there was a moment when james baker and the bush administration was flying on the same plane as shevardnadze, and baker as secretary of state turn to shevardnadze and said, could you tell us what the military budget is in the u.s. as our? because this would be really helpful for negotiations. and shevardnadze said, look, we don't know what the military budget is.
we know that much better than we do. what do you think? so the soviet leaders were learning from their western counterparts, and diplomacy really mattered. so i think that the particular individuals who ruled that two great superpowers at the time made a difference. there were long-term, chronic underlying features, factors that push towards reconciliati reconciliation. but it required leaders to recognize the opportunities. added to think that that was to the world's great and lasting benefit that such leaders were in existence. >> i'm going to take two more questions.
>> how would you calibrate the influence of the dissident movement in all this mix of influences? was that development as a sideshow, or was it central? how would you evaluate it now that we have some perspective? >> that's a really tricky question to answer. i think the dissidents as a practical threat to soviet power had been beaten. however, their ideas were making their way into the the soviet political elite, into the heads of soviet political elite. so that gorbachev himself had ideas that were not so very different from dissidents in the
1970s in many positive ways. so that i think, i personally think that dissidents were informed in helping the process of making the ussr begin to rot from the inside. i don't think that the kgb had all that much problem in arresting people. even in the early 1980s. but what they couldn't do was stop the process of social modernization, which meant that soviet people said why do we put up with this? why do we have this system? we are not going to revolt against it because we are choose scared, but we're not going to say we love it anymore. as i think that dissidents did have a major part in that
indirect way. >> the last question. >> a thanks very much. i just want to ask about the final two years of appeared you were covering in your book. you talk about the western european lives. i'm curious if the transitional with the new leadership of the eastern european countries they came out in 89 affected i lateral u.s.-ussr relations than your estimate? >> i think that's one of the wonderfully interesting questions, and that's something i do with to some extent in the book. because when the ussr started to allow eastern europe to break away, shevardnadze idea, the first thing he does after the fall of the berlin wall and
execution in romania is applied to romania. -- is to fly to romania. soviet foreign policy was not totally dead yet, and the desire was in moscow this summer drag something out of it again for the ussr to remain a guarantor of international security in eastern europe, so that for a year or two after the fall of the berlin wall, soviet diplomacy still was not entirely bereft of optimism. it was bereft of realism, except
that the poles were scared of the germans. so there was something to run with there. the poles thought to themselves will the new germany except the old borders, or will they want a bit of old in the back now that they are becoming a region divided country. so it wasn't totally unrealistic. it was this dynamic process right to the end of the ussr. >> thank you, bob, for showing us the end of the cold war from both sides. [applause] >> thanks for coming along. [laughter] [inaudible conversations]
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