tv The Presidency Reagan George H.W. Bush Gorbachev CSPAN March 31, 2018 1:20pm-2:41pm EDT
miller center convened scholars for a conference looking up a complicated history between u.s. and russian leaders over the last century. the discussions included assessments of franklin d. roosevelt, jfk, george h.w. bush and bill clinton, as well as their russian counterparts. this is about an hour and 20 minutes. >> we have a great panel. philip is going to chair the panel. i think everybody knows philip. he has written a terrific book on the end of the cold war, the principal author of 9/11 commission report, and many other books. he is right now in the middle of writing a terrific book on sort of decisions for war in ways that illuminate old crises and old decisions, like going to war in or wilson's decision for war 1898 in world war i. he sort of brilliantly
reassessing these decisions. we are looking forward to phillip's next book. at the same time, he is doing about a dozen other things that none of us can keep track of. sometimes we don't know about them. philip, thank you. >> thank you. i'm sorry to say we need to wait for james wilson to show up. he is probably out there somewhere having a good conversation. if we can send a search party out. [laughter] messages.the >> so far, it has been a great panel. [laughter] >> it's rather intimidating when
then. this is a panel covering the period only of the great second crisis phase of the cold war in the early 1980's extending to the end of the cold war itself into the beginning of the early 1990's and the disintegration of the soviet union. with a perspective on u.s. and russia relations we , will start with a perspective from the point of view of the reagan administration with james wilson. james. james wilson thank you, philip. thank you so much, philip. i was looking through a few files the other day and came upon a quote that i think might apply to the subject at hand.
that is the problems that bedevil american policy is not like headaches. with those you take a powder and they are gone. instead they are like the pain , of earning a living. they will stay with us until death. we have got to understand that all our lives, the danger, the uncertainty, the need for alertness, for effort, for discipline will be upon us. but we are in for it. the only question is whether we will know it soon enough. i think that line, as dean son said at- atche the harvard club of boston, applied very well at the moment and very much in 1998 when strobe talbott, deputy secretary talbott sent it on to secretary
madeleine albright. if you're a much applies to the topic we have been discussing. incidentally it probably also applies to me or his perception of me when i 12 years ago walked into his office and six years ago trying to finish up at the university of virginia and the department was living at his house with no potential for a prospect of employment but it is all worked out. i'm extremely grateful to the eva history department and my beleaguered advisor and the miller center for having me and for having me back. saidpoint that jeremy about common knowledge i think , what the miller center does in terms ofsidential projects, the recordings, the oral history, is tremendously important in this era when it is
genuinely difficult to figure out what is real and what is not, what is authentic history, what is fake news. i am extremely fortunate to work with my colleagues in the office of the historian and particularly my colleague elizabeth charles, with whom i work closely on the u.s.-soviet volumes of foreign relations in the united states series, to be working on a similar project that puts forward i would say about 90% of the top level conversations and memoranda of u.s. policymakers from 1917 to 1991 when it comes to u.s. and russia. i should say that the views expressed here are my own test -- are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the department or the u.s. state department. i will pick up on the heroic factor that others have raised
in the last day and talk a little bit about what i think the potential lessons are of ronald reagan and the soviet union when it comes to u.s.-russia today and in the future. simply put, i would say don't wait for a gorbachev. reagan didn't. there is a common misperception at the time, later, and even today that reagan came into office focusing entirely on building up u.s. and allied strength, deferred negotiations until a new type of soviet leader emerged. in fact, reagan attempted early on to engage with brezhnev and timesccessors, and at giving real emphasis on the role of history in russian foreign
policy. a russian role of history and the lives of the russians we were dealing with. in thinking through this letter 1984 "i in february , have reflected at some length on the tragedy and scale of soviet losses in warfare throughout the ages. truly, those losses, which are beyond description, must affect your thinking today. i want you to know that neither i nor the america people hold any offensive intentions toward you or the soviet people." when it came to policy decisions, just as importantly or even more importantly, reagan put out on the table zero option on intermediate nuclear forces treaties talks. he but that out in the fall of 1981.
and there was a wide perception that it was a purely cynical thing because the u.s. and nato did not have ground launch cruise missiles. reagan stuck to this position even throughout 1987, when a lot of people around him and nato allies whose leaders have put their careers on the line were not so excited to go forward with gorbachev. reagan put forward with the strategic reduction talks, a much more ambitious proposal than had been seen before in the cold war when it came to the most destabilizing missiles, icbm's, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. in march of 1983, when reagan announced the strategic defense initiative, he called upon the
scientific community to turn their talents to the cause of mankind and world peace to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. these two big proposals and this one big idea that went against a lot of conventional thinking throughout the cold war, i think set the terms for the big debates between u.s. and soviet leaders, even before gorbachev came to office. in the summer of 1984, and this period i think very much applies to today when i think it is a pessimistic view with the next 10 years with the russians. in the fall of 1984 when there was no strategic arms negotiations going on, the soviets had walked out of geneva the fall before. there is a wonderful memo that i
have recently discovered to george schulz on the prospect for arms control in the second term. it was written by a magnificent public servant named james timby who started out by saying it is unreasonable to expect consensus to emerge within the u.s. arms control and national security field. for that to happen simultaneously with a consensus to emerge in the soviet arms control and national security deal. therefore, what we need to do is to set the terms for what we would like to see 5 or 10 years down the road with a sense of realism about what is possible. if you are simply just waiting for both sides to grind through the bureaucratic process even , with the best staffers, that is not going to suffice.
as we know, in march of 1985, gorbachev comes in just before that. the nuclear and space arms talks had commenced in geneva. they persisted throughout the gorbachev era. just to be clear, we don't forget about the arms reduction achievements during this period, you have ins in 87, nuclear risk reduction center is completed. we have an upgrade to the hotline. you have the strategic arms reduction treaty. the open skies treaty. start 2, the conventional forces in europe treaty. the conventional forces initiative treaty. it is an extraordinary period that really gets launched during the middle of the 1980's.
one moment that really crystallizes what reagan is trying to achieve after he starts to engage with gorbachev and think i can trust this guy to really uphold his into the bargain and to the great , surprise of some of the people around him, there is a very evocative saturday morning meeting in january of 1986 were -- there was a sense among the people around reagan well, in geneva, at their , encounter, he was talking about this infusion-sharing technology and bush said maybe he is just try to get this out of his system. let's let him do this. in fact his ambitions were far , beyond that. the letters he sends in july of 1986 to gorbachev laid out this 3-phase agreement for the ultimate elimination of nuclear
weapons. even after he signs the imf -- inf treaty in 1987, he says let's go for the gold. i want to start agreements before the end of 1988. i will close by saying i think there is a very -- there is a way of looking at these individuals, reagan, gorbachev, bush, yeltsin, through a lens of heroic factor. that is not to say -- to a knowledge the strength of particular ones at particular moments denigrates the contributions of others at other moments. i will just close was something that has fascinated me and that , is the last interaction with -- and 1988 where reagan says
look, i know i said teardown the , -- tear down the wall from the berlin wall. i understand it had been perhaps unrealistic to have suggested that the berlin wall between -- be torn down in its entirety. he understood that the division of germany and of berlin was a product of world war ii and the feeling on the part of the soviet union and many others that german should never again be allowed to be the strongest and most dominant power in europe. and if you said to reagan after he left that in two and half years we will have reunified germany in nato, i think he would have laughed and smiled and said that would be great. but he also thought that would have been something that would happen maybe in 25 or 30 years. >> thank you, james. [applause]
bill? >> i too would also like to join the chorus and thanking the organizers of this conference. i know the hope of the organizers has been that we would not only recount history, but try to derive some lessons for the future, for the present. actually i have derived some lessons from this discussion about the history itself, and indeed the subject of my book "gorbachev and his relation with the united states." some of what i'm going to say is they verging -- they verging -- diverging from my paper in order to take account of what i have heard here and how it has affected my thinking. usually, in talking about gorbachev, i begin with a famous quote from the british historian thomas carlyle, that history is
"but the biography of great men." and we know immediately there is something wrong with that, the word "man" or "men." but not only that we know there , are social movements and international conditions and circumstances. gorbachev is an example of leader who makes a decisive impact on history and whose biography helps to explain that decisive impact. this is partly because he had the power to have such an impact as the leader of the soviet union, a still totalitarian or post-totalitarian society and regime in 1985. it also has something to do with his uniqueness in the sense he did not do it other soviet leaders in his group would have done. if he had, we could say he was
reflecting the values that they all shared, ovary could say he was reacting to the demands of the situation which they all faced. but, no, he acted in his own idiosyncratic way. indeed, there were only three members of that politburo who stage with him almost to the very end. one resigned. his closest ally with whom he grew estranged. he was unique. he was exceptional. that is what i want to underline in light of the conference so far. what struck me about many of the papers is how much continuity the paper givers have discerned any 100 years between 1917 and 2017. of course, there have been differences. stalin is not putin. communist ideology is not
putin's returned to the trinity of the czars. there are many differences. was taught -- detante different from chris jeff -- different from khrushchev. we have talked about them all. but there are these interesting parallels from which gorbachev and to some degree yeltsin is the exception. just to list a few of them i heard mentioned here. the search of the soviet union and russia under putin for a sphere of influence, dominance, first in eastern europe after the war and in the near abroad. several of the papers talk about how the soviet union and russia over and over again have seen the united states as hypocritical, proclaiming its adherents and fealty to ideals and then ignoring them in its foreign-policy practice. we heard several times about how
the soviets and now putin himself wants to be treated as an equal of the united states. we've heard about how the liberal international order is promoted and defended by the united states, has been an obstacle to the soviets in -- and the russians in achieving what they wanted to achieve. we heard this before lunch about the parallels in the differences between brezhnev and putin. so it strikes me even more as a result of this conference that gorbachev, and yeltsin to some extent to be determined after this panel, is the great exception, truly exceptional, both at home in his determination to try to democratize his country, and abroad, in his determination to end the cold war and help to build a new world order, post-cold war order that would be based as much as possible on
the non-use of force. so if he is such an exception, the question is how did the united states react to him in the persons of presidents reagan and bush? to what extent did it understand the exception that he was? to what extent did it try to meet him and help him as he pursued his goals? to what extent did it not do so in a way that it might have hindered his efforts to obtain these exceptional goals? in my book and, to some extent in my paper, i talk first about reagan and then about george bush. i describe reagan as ironically an almost perfect partner to gorbachev. strange as that seemed at the time and in retrospect. after all, he was an archconservative president and gorbachev was a communist
leader. gorbachev talked about evil empire. reagan talked about strategic defense in hopes that it would scare the russians. even when they met in geneva, when you read the transcripts, you see for the most part they are talking past each other and they are impatient with each other. it is really rather sterile conversations. yet they both feel, by the time geneva in november 1985 is over, that they have made a breakthrough. it turns up a have. if you must later at reykjavik, they come close to an agreement -- we have to define it exactly what it means -- but an agreement to abolish nuclear weapons. in that near agreement, we see their compatibility. we see the facts that they both would like to get rid of nuclear weapons if they can, unlike a lot of their colleagues in a -- and their governments who have come to the conclusion that
nuclear weapons keep the peace as horrible as the consequences , would be if they were ever used. then when reagan goes to moscow in the summer of 1988 and is standing in the shadow of the kremlin and he is asked what about the evil empire you use to talk about? and he says that was another time, another era. then in december 1988, when reagan and bush and gorbachev meet at governors island in new york, bush sounds to form as if -- sounds as if people pick up where reagan left off and jokes that if he doesn't do this reagan will be on the phone from , california pushing him to do what he has promised gorbachev he is going to do. by the time 1991 rolls around, bush i would argue has become in some ways an even better, in some ways, an even better partner for gorbachev. i think gorbachev felt more comfortable with bush. he felt he was dealing with a
more sophisticated, experienced, intelligent politician. you can't read the conversations that took place in their summits without seeing the warmth between them, talking about how striking and startling and stunning was the connection between them. yet, when you look back at 1989, when bush comes in, and then you look at bush and gorbachev in 1990 and 1991, from gorbachev's point of view, bush is not measuring up to what reagan had been. i have begun talking about this with philip before and i talked to james about what might have been involved in achieving gorbachev's goal, which is to sign a start treaty in 1989, rather than 1991. i realize this is very complicated, and i think in our
conversation with philip he even did not like the use of the word "pause" in the bush administration's dealings with gorbachev to reassess reagan and what he and schulz had accomplished with gorbachev. from gorbachev's point of view, this was really damaging and frustrating. he could not understand it. as i look back and i expect the -- that bob won't agree with me, as philip did not but when i , look back at it, it seems to me to have been a big mistake to the extent that it actually happened. you gentlemen may decide that it didn't. when i look back i see him saying that gorbachev was trying to smother us with kindness or that gorbachev -- these are almost the words i would find if i opened the book -- that
gorbachev was more dangerous than his predecessors because he was in effect lulling our vigilance by seeming to be so reasonable. you have to remember why this time gorbachev had transformed the soviet system. i'm thinking about the party conference in 1988 that set the stage for the mostly free elections of he had discarded 1989. the ideological underpinnings of soviet foreign policy. he had signed one disarmament treaty, inf, and moved to another. him he had announced the drastic cut in the soviet financial forces in europe. he had begun to withdraw from afghanistan, although i realize he is not entirely out until the spring of 1989. he had recognized universal human rights. and yet, in what i understand to be the sort of summary of the four-part strategy for coping with the gorbachev phenomenon
and with the soviet union in early 1989, i understand it to be first to appear confident about our purposes and agenda. this is the bush strategy. second, to signal that relations with our allies were our first priority. third, to place a higher priority on relations with eastern europe than with russia. and fourth, to promote regional stability in a place like central america. and in my paper, i wrote, "notably absent from this list was helping gorbachev to transform his country and close out the cold war." now, i look forward to hearing, bob, your version of this. i understand there were reasons for choosing to do it this way. it seems to be in 1989 when gorbachev was riding high and was popular and was further strengthened by the bush
administration's picking up where reagan had left off would've been a wonderful thing for him, and in the long run who knows how it might have affected his fate. then we get to 1990 and 1991. it is a different world. different issue. it is germany in particular. gorbachev amazingly, quickly access the reunification of germany and its membership ever unified germany and nato. -- membership in nato. and he hopes that this will be part of a kind of seachange in europe, in which nato and warsaw pact will lose their military nature and eventually disappear, and europe will come together in what he calls a common european home, which sounds like a propaganda device, but which he believed in searcy. he even thinks secretary of state aker -- baker on february 10, 1990, has told him that nato will not expand one inch to the
east. those are baker's words. again, there is debate about exactly what they meant. gorbachev took it to mean that broadly that nato would not expand, and yet we know that it did. so, against all of this background, i guess i want to bring up the words of margaret thatcher, who posed an alternative in 1991. no longer prime minister, she urged ambassador matlock, the american ambassador to the " we'venion to tell, got to help mikail, she says to matlock. she wishes bush would lead the way just as reagan had. "just a few years back, ron and i would have given the world to get what has already happened here." if the west did not come to gorbachev's aid, she added, history will not forgive us. i guess i would like to end with two questions.
one about that time and what ne about our time in the future. what could we have done to help gorbachev, either in 1989 when i think it might've really made a difference, or 1991 when probably it was too late because things are coming apart in the soviet union? and then, going back to the conference, there was talk of about how someday, we don't know when, probably not soon, another heroic leader or different set of circumstances might come about when we have another chance to deal with a russian leader who wants to do things differently than they have been done for the most part in the last hundred years. what might we do that? -- then? how might we be prepared to help them in a way that we couldn't or didn't or wouldn't back in
1989 and 1991? so those of the two questions i would like to leave to be discussed. meanwhile, i welcome our next speaker, who may not agree with me. [applause] >> i want to join those who are complementing mel and will for organizing this conference. i personally find the ability or the opportunity to try to connect some historical reflections with insites for policy a fascinating area. it is what we try to do in our careers. this is a great adventure and i appreciate the invitation. and for the historians, you may not recognize this, but since i know many of you from your books, it is a treat to be here with you. i told professor tolbert i am enjoying his biography of gorbachev, but it shows the irony of life.
as i was flying back from paris yesterday, i just finished "1988." so i have a feeling of where he is going in 1989. for those of you who have not read it, it is a masterpiece. and extraordinary piece of work. james and i first met when i reviewed his book for the financial times. that perhaps is a little cautionary tale. when historians start to edge into the policy area, reviewers may not be other historians. they might be policymakers. when i think of what he and his colleagues are doing at the state department, i know it will be a resource for people going forward. i will highlight five points today. one, economic strength and dynamism are the foundations of power. even at today's conference, it's interesting. there has been a lot of discussion about arms control agreements and summits. it only enters a little bit into the economic issue. it's not that i am a marxist
determinist, but economics becomes very important in this story. recall that during the 1970's, it was common to read stories about the death of capitalism. oil shock, loss of confidence. rather than review that in detail i just want to draw , attention to four particular elements. one, the revival of the western market economies was not do just to reagan and thatcher. while they obviously played major roles, if you look at what japan did after their own shocks with energy efficiency, it is transformative. if you look at what west germany is able to do to continue to expand as the engine of europe. mitterand changes his approach and policy toward economics. one other european figure that really worked with us during jaque delure, of
the european commission. 1982 was clearly the magnet for the rest of europe. in sum, we sought adaptability of market economies of different types. that is what i think partly drives the story of the soviet union because the soviet union was not able to adapt. two, critical in reference to today, the domestic economic revivals were combined with international adaptations in the 1980's. without taking the detail, let me mention this took place in trade, monetary and exchange rates, g-7 policy coordination, developing country debt and reforms. and so this economic revival was not based on a narrow economic nationalism. it also wasn't based on another idea that was current and has faded in history, the new international economic order, a set of economic planning model. the geopolitical analysis that move into the economic sphere
often pay attention to economic strength, but what they have a hard time recognizing their is there is a dynamic to the power. part of it is a systemic ability to adapt and to change. third, the ussr could not adapt. it was very dependent on energy resources and prices. that is still true today. i note it in the paper about 20% of their gdp, 50% of the budget, and maybe 80% of their exports. so it is a huge dominance in the overall economy. four, the traditional focus on bush 41 is his foreign-policy. i hope historians will go back and look a little bit at his economic and domestic aspects. for example the budget deal he , does at great political cost he does frankly because he is worried about a domestic conflict going into the gulf war.
if you take that budget deal and you take a look at clinton did, basically you have the foundations for a very strong economy during the course of the 1990's. he finished the nafta negotiation, which clinton passed. i might add, little recognized, passes landmark americans for l disability act, not bad for a first term. you rarely find somebody who comments that this was part of bush's legacy. the question today is whether the u.s. is deconstructing this internationally economic system that it led in creating. if so, i think there will be a big cost of foreign policy and national security. it may not show up immediately but in the world in which i , operate, you are already feeling it. second, security negotiations require leverage. the euro missile debate was a fierce of -- fear specter of nuclear -- neutralism, anti-nuclear pacifism,
anti-americanism, soviet manipulation. one of the challenges in terms of policymakers understanding the soviet union is detailed very well your book , but remember what they saw. what they saw in the course of the euro missile debate and the soviet union is fundamentally different in challenging the system. as i believe gorbachev acknowledges the ability of western countries to maintain their cohesion was one of the things that led the soviet union to move on to the inf treaty. this also has applications for today. in the context of russia, the experience would suggest the need for a united states and nato to have responded seriously in with real capabilities to russian probes whether in the , baltics or central and eastern europe, and now especially in cyberspace. i might add that firmness does not necessarily require belligerence. in the case of ukraine, i think putin's aggression will be limited by the cost and points to the importance of ukraine's cohesion and capabilities.
allies first. third point, this has both a historic and current applicability. this is an interesting aspect of this conference. not surprisingly if you have , people who specialized in the soviet union and russia, they u.s./russian relations. if you're in the government, you might focus on reliance relations. you can see the tensions between those who focus first on western europe and those who put their priority on relations with the soviet union. marshall, truman, atchison clearly focus on the alliance system after the marshall plan. i would argue that canon and john f. kennedy's advisers -- kennedy actually moves out of this after -- with berlin. but very much focused on moscow. i don't know strobe's view
today, but it was thought that bush made a mistake by focusing too much on coal. you see this in jack matlock's writing. the idea of, well should the , u.s. have put a priority to gorbachev or to poland and germany? i think you will encounter a difficulty for the people that where there is that clearly there is a desire by bush to demonstrate he will have his own team. partly, it is a shock to some of the reagan people. they don't actually get to stay in office. there are all of the studies that are commissioned. frankly those studies were busy work. from day one, they were trying to figure out how to deal with the world we inherited in 1989. frankly, just as in the budget area, there was cleanup of s&l's and budget deficits. there were things to clean up in the world of 1989. our allies were not wildly excited about the romantic view that we will do away with nuclear weapons. view
that we will do away with nuclear weapons. we can debate how likely that is going to be, but this was a very troubling view for everybody from thatcher to cold. -- colt. and of course, it left the short range nuclear missiles in europe as the only ones left. for the germans in the area, it meant the shorter the missiles, the deader the germans. what i find most striking is there is a must know attention in the history's to bush's conventional forces proposal which he does in late may. he has been in office 34 months. it is a very bold effort to try and move the short range missiles off the agenda by saying, if the justification was a 3-1 conventional symmetry, -- asymmetry, let's equalize and go to much lower levels. ,he importance of this is that number one, as i said, it moves the short range missiles off of the agenda where there is great conflict with the soviet union , or with germany. it moves the idea of the politics moving away from
nuclear negotiations to conventional forces. you will hear most of the discussions today and other days kind of focusing on strategic arms as being the sole determinant of u.s.-soviet relations. this actually goes back to what is the history of the cold war, which is the soviet army occupying eastern europe. if you could start to get the forces start to leave eastern europe, that might also affect the politics. it also aligns the united states closely with germany, but it had the benefit of being a real cost reduction for the soviet union as well. and the other little benefit of this that takes place is it clearly establishes bush as the alliance leader. margaret thatcher did not really like this proposal. there was some conflict over bush had to make a decision over thatcher's preference. so you can compare with administrations, but within the first four or five months, you bold,xtremely
unconventional initiatives that change the focus of the alliance. on the other hand, i was involved in the central american negotiations, which baker starts in february. so it is the first month, and this was also a way of testing soviet seriousness, whether it would be inconceivable that you can help gorbachev in any financial way if the soviets were seen as continuing to put money into cuba and nicaragua. that was a political reality. how do you move that away? in september, progress was made on the arms control in jackson hole. along the way, we start these discussions about economics. we have an economic reform discussion on the plane out. in addition, in the summer of 1989, bush visits in hungary. -- poland and hungary, where he ed, but in a way, through much of the cold war, the u.s.soviet relationship is
around nuclear weapons. now the agenda is moving to everything from conventional forces to the division of europe to sort of economic reform. and keep in mind, whether this was a limitation or not, what do decision-makers in their minds? well, they have 1956 on their mind, 1968 on their minds. and this is very important for the story and looking in one area. we had june 1989 in our minds. we had just come back from the conventional forces success and all of a sudden, there is tiananmen square. the idea that this is going to be a straight path, he did not look that way at that point. that was a warning of the cautions. another way of saying this is, in 1989, the u.s. recognized in europe the question would be as much a german question as a russian question. and this came up a little bit in the earlier discussion. the prospect of what would happen with germany was not only matter for russia, but a matter for eastern europe, for western
europe. i think if you feel, over eight or nine months, that that set of actions is a pause, i don't know how you would compare it with anything else in recent political history. what else have governments done in the first year that matches that level? in a sense, by november, within the first eight or nine or 10 months, you have u.s. well-positioned on nato, germany, usec relationship, and even bigger talks about the uefa -- usec as a way to deal with coming home by december. i think the generals would generally hold him in line. trump prefers transactional policies. strong leaders of an authority of nature -- authoritative nature may be easier for him to deal with. one of the questions going back a little bit to the discussion about the wilsonian period, i wonder whether we might be moving back to a period more like 1900 of the 1920's, where
you have maneuvering of great powers if this system does not continue. fourth point, prudence and respect. bush and baker were not triumphant. bush's reserve, when the berlin wall came down, is the most obvious example of this. they both tried to listen and understand the perspective. an important part of diplomacy that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, is to help create expeditions for your counterparts when they are in disarray. and this was definitely the case for the soviet union in 1989 and 1991. remember, when bush finally convinces gorbachev to accept german unification and nato, he does it on the basis of usec job --les and spoke to principles. gorbachev had embraced the csc and it has a principle that says countries should be able to choose own alliance. if you're consistent with your principles, how can you deny the possibility? there is another example detailed called the nine points,
where we have basically been putting out ideas to try and help the soviets. we weren't sure if they had internalized them, so we reframed them in a different way. you see this in the handling of the baltics, where bush was very cautious about russian recognition. i remember baker actually, as a good lawyer, trying to differentiate the baltics and the discussion, so they had their ability for independence. you see this in bush's caution about the breakup of the soviet union. this was a very controversial issue, but it's sort of fit that model of dealing with this prudently. also, again -- reasonable people will differ about this -- but they had to assess what the u.s. can and can't do. i'm a little surprised that after recognizing with trillions of dollars, we have not been able to remake afghanistan or iraq. how confident are we, really, that we would be able to remake russia? again, for today's contrast, as opposed to prudence of respect,
i think trump seeks confrontation. he creates uncertainty. he will act impulsively as part of his dealmaking. so the reliability of the united states is, i think, an issue today. finally, again, this goes back to the idea of what one would believe the u.s. could do. i've always had the sense that russia's future is in the hands of russians. and while there is a way you can help and support, you have to be careful not to assume you can remake their world for them. again, from a historic perspective, we were trying to avoid what we call the versailles victory. but this applied to germany as much as it did russia. we wanted germany to be unified in a way that its sovereignty was clear, so there would be no t be some future generation of germans wondering why are we singled out?
and also wondering if those things were possible overtime. in terms of the german-u.s. partnership, we saw this in not only terms of old alliance obligations, but in the future of europe. we believed germany would become the most dominant country in europe, and frankly, we wanted to have a special your list- german partners -- special u.s.-german partnership. i think germany has become a most powerful country in europe. i think the partnership has been slipping away for various reasons. we wanted the opportunity for the soviet union and russia, too, but i think our assessment of the reality was that the soviet economy was in much worse shape than the central and eastern european economy. , economicon of reform development, which i also know from my world bank days, is that the locals don't own it, it won't work. and frankly, at least so far from what i have read your book, i have had the sense that neither gorbachev or yelchin really grasped market economics. i certainly had this when i was
engaging in meetings with them and their people. the technocrats in russia were far weaker than those in poland. and this was not primarily a question of money, although money helps. remember, in the 1990's, russia gets big sums of money from the bank, the saudi's, credits,reddit's -- ag but you have two big issues. this is the relevance for today. what is the macro economic issue, a budget, inflation, credit. russia has officially gotten up -- eventually got a hold of those. frankly russia's struggling with , those issues 25 years later. to beain, you have careful about these comparisons, but i was deeply involved in poland's process of transition 1989-1991. the politics nearly fractured, even with the strength of the solidarity coalition.
i noticed at the end of your paper and in the book, you note that the u.s. probably did miss a chance to save gorbachev and democracy. but then you use this margaret thatcher quote as setting out what might have been. as a practical policymaker's perspective, i would suggest that margaret thatcher might have spent time more effectively focusing on britain's relationship with europe, which was also going to be a question that was posed by the 1989-1990 issue. and we have seen what happens with britain's failure to deal with that. so it is an issue where, of course, what one has to, as a policymaker, way is the dream is the hope -- weigh dream and the hope that the united states can transform russia and save democracy. it's a nice thought, but at least as of 1988, when i'm reading the book, he has some internal problems that were way beyond our capacity to do it. -- deal with. forlesson here, i think, u.s.-russia relations today is putin has clearly chosen a
different path from gorbachev's cooperation or diligence hin'sration -- yelc interest in integration with the west. my sense is that, at first, putin was willing to negotiate a convergence. now i think his preference is to have a policy driven by the idea of russia being a great power with a sphere of influence and multi-power order. he will act opportunistically. he will try to subvert western democracy. the phrase i use for him is a ruthless pragmatist. both of those terms apply. what i mean by that is on the ruthless, he has a different value system then gorbachev or yelchin or the united states. but he will calculate cost. that is where, if you come back to the five principles, i would suggest that the u.s. should work from economic strength, dynamic, in a adaptable, international economic system. it should work with its allies. it should meet aggression firmly, including a price for subversion. and one issue in recent years -- don't diminish or insult russia.
russia is going to be a player in the system regardless, remain open to opportunities, i think one of the other panelists arniened -- i think mentioned this -- keep in mind, we tend to look at these trends as a movement overtime. history tends to be marked by discontinuous events. when russia -- with russia, the important thing is to recognize russia will continue to change. that change is associated with transitions. i cannot predict how the prudent transition will work, -- putin transition will work, but russia's governance hasn't mastered transitions very well. that may be an area of opportunity as we go forward. dr. zelikow: thank you, bob. [applause] dr. zelikow: i will take advantage of a brief opportunity to comment on bill's argument.
and indirectly, it is also a comment on reagan. to ask then you have yourself, what is the substance of the agenda? bill makes be comment -- we were really hoping bush would pick up where ronald reagan left off. so when you actually go through the list of things that the bush administration does, winds up the issues with central america and gets the process of diplomacy going there. cfe, short range nuclear forces, attitude toward the european community, vision of a europe in -- euro-poland, free first offer , of u.s. assistance across the iron curtain since the marshall plan in 1947, at a speech on u.s.-soviet relations that promises to go beyond containment and advise and agreement on transparency in
both our countries to open aerial, since -- open aerial reconnaissance. and that is all done by may. it gets going in the third week of march, after condi and diane -- condi and i, and bob blackwell are basically figuring out how to get our office badges to fit. we are six to seven weeks in. and then to come back and say sounds like a pause to me. my reaction to this is -- this is a tough crowd. but i listen very carefully. i hear what bill is saying. and the sensibility bill is reflecting is a real sensibility. so you have to take account of that. and i think there is something about a personal dynamic that is yearned for in an over-personalization of the
relationship that substantively is chimerical. of the things i just listed, none of them, not one was on the agenda we inherited from the reagan administration, including the cfe move. the reagan administration was not in any way moving toward giving into -- giving in to soviet proposals to get cfe to work, which i can detail at some point if anyone is interested. so now it is kind of like well, let's wrap up the start agreement in 1989, which reagan could not wrap up at the end of 1988. it turned up to be really hard for reasons of both sides, and could not be done until late 1991. but start, that's it. that's what helps gorbachev survive, getting a start agreement? by the way, cfe, from a cost perspective, the conventional courses are vast -- conventional forces are vastly more expensive other forces.
so it turns out making progress on cfe is politically destabilizing the soviet union. the way bill put it, "help how -- help gorbachev change this country and close out the cold war." so then you ask -- take that and break that into part. what would have been the agenda to "help the calgary chart to change his country in 1989." did the reagan administration end 1988 with such an agenda? it did not. did margaret thatcher have such an agenda? she did not. one of my responsibilities at the white house was margaret thatcher, so i was privy to the contents of every meeting, letter, and phone call between bush and thatcher for more than two years. i never heard her make a substance proposal on how to help gorbachev remake the soviet union. nor am i sure that in the beginning of 1989, when
gorbachev was the toast of the world and george h.w. bush was a question mark, was the united states ready to start offering plans to gorbachev about how to remake his country. but it is a challenging substantive issue, and maybe there is something that should have been proposed, should have been done, should have been discussed. but thinking through what that does and what the soviets with -- wished specifically we should have talked about is not an easy question to answer in 1989. the second half of that close out, the cold war is actually really interesting. you know what? margaret thatcher thought the cold war had been closed out. it publicly in november 1988 -- the cold war is over. november 1988. and george schulz agreed with her. think about that. europe divided, germany, the most militarized piece of real estate on planet earth, the cold
war is over. it has been closed out. we stood up to them in the test of strength, we have the motives to relax tensions at that level, and let's put a bow on it and say cold war over. then the issue is, if you have a different vision of how to end the cold war, that is a policy toward europe that circles back to bob zoellick's shrewd observation. which is there is a strong tendency in people who focus on u.s.-russian relations to focus on the rest of europe in between as instrumental to the achievement of u.s.-russian happiness. and as you can tell from what bob said and my view, we did not think of europe as instrumental in this matter. in fact, europe was the central focus of where you would go about ending the cold war and your policies towards that. so that is, in a way, more of a comments than a question. but the comment that it does
signal -- the question it leads to, which is relevant today, is notice it raises the issue of how do you define the end of the cold war concretely? and to carry that to the present day -- by the way, how would you do find it -- define it today? concretely? if you wanted to relax tensions, what would that mean substantively to attain your objective? what would be -- what would success look like? for reagan in 1986, since he doesn't abolish nuclear weapons, what does excess look like? for margaret thatcher in 1988? and then even moving forward to pose that question in the present day. so in fairness, i need to give james and bill a chance to respond to that before we throw this over to the audience. [laughter]
william: those are very good arguments delivered in an elegant, lawyerly way. you are checking off all the boxes. i guess i could say when it came to soviet-relationships -- soviet-american relationships, especially in gorbachev's eyes, it wasn't a matter of checking all the boxes, it was the overall atmosphere. the sense he had in washington a partner. that's what he was trying to create. he thought he was creating it. you may say that what spoke rob says in his memoirs, especially considering what he said at the time isn't decisive, but he does -- if we look at what he says, the notion that gorbachev is more dangerous than his predecessors and is smothering us with kindness doesn't sound like the end of the cold war to me. maybe i am now checking off my boxes. >> you are right by the way, and gates as well.
actually, himself, he is personally ambivalent and uncertain as to how to read this and as whether to basically say it is all done, we are all set, this is good. he is suspicious. bigger, less so. >> i understand that. i guess what gorbachev would have liked what has been a summit sooner than december 1989. he expected one sooner. reagan, after all, had one in december 1987, june and december of 1988. that's what a partnership looks like, even apart from the specifics you accomplish. so in that sense, the start always loomed very large in a way your comment or bob's, that we don't pay enough attention to cfe and conventional weapons, only underlines that is the way we operate. we only pay attention to the strategic nuclear weapons. think a start agreement, if
it had been able, if it had been reached in 1989, it would have been very big. games and i talked the other day about what the obstacles to that were on -- james and i talked the other day about what the obstacles to that were on both sides, and -- i'm not an expert, and i could see it was difficult -- but again, leaving aside what thatcher did or didn't do, what she is saying, that is the big point. and that is the big point of my presentation. this guy was exceptional. this guy broke with stalin, khrushchev, everybody. this guy was ready for a transformed world beyond the cold war. and so against-- the background of that possibility, which we also have to worry about is being able to sustain at home, but against the possibility of that kind of stunning move forward in the world, which may be yelled --
maybe yelchin was also pushing for, but even if he was, it is a few short years, against the possibility of that kind of outcome, i think central america pales. some of the other things, relations with allies that shaky or fragile, that repairing them had to be put ahead of the possibility of this outcome. maybe i'm a romantic, a fantasist along with gorbachev and reagan, but i just wonder whether we couldn't have done more. >> i think that is an eloquent statement. of the other side of the case -- go ahead. >> that is a little bit of a lesson in historical methods. bill points out the gates position. and this is where written sources, it is a challenge for historians, right? as i told you separately, baker had to crush gaetz a couple of
times on this. but that tells you something. aetz wanted to give a speech that pointed out the cautionary stuff, and baker first watered it down, and then said he didn't want the speech delivered at all. and brent, by nature, was cautious on this. i remember many times were baker -- where baker would come back and say "these guys just don't know what my friend wants," referring to the president. >> my friend gorbachev? >> no, my friend bush. his meaning is that president bush was a very competitive man. you see it in his sports. he's a gentleman, but he is an extremely competitive man. and he did not want to be seen as standing on the sidelines while gorbachev was framing the global context. you ask, is europe important? it frames it nicely -- there was a view in the schulz state
department, roz ridgeway, he decided europe was fine. the bush administration really did feel, and i can give you an example of this in february 1980 -- 1989, we were thinking about german reunification at the start. you could see the forces breaking into it. frankly, if you are concerned about the german question, how germany gets unified with a stable security order, you do have to pay attention to europe. remember, when that moment struck, germany did not have many friends in europe other than deore. >> to the audience, matt? >> great. i wonder if you could all speak a bit to the opportunities that were available in the late 1980's and early 1990's for cooperation and partnership. and i am thinking in, for
moments of crisis or anything else -- but this is a time of immense change, and there were possibilities open that i don't think where imaginable before. and so i am wondering if you could talk a bit to these opportunities, seized, lost, or otherwise, and what that means for both the handling of the u.s.-soviet relationship at the time, and also for today. >> i think that's what we were talking about. in a sense. i'm not sure what i would add. i mean, i think there was a chance to do more, although i understand that a lot was already done and there were obstacles to doing more. so it may be that this was a situation in which there was no way to go where, in an ideal world, we would have gone.
just generalarily economics in the soviet union, but with the gulf war or other crises at the time, when the united states could have partnered with the soviets or did partner with them. >> this is always one of the challenges of history, because we know how it turned out. in some ways, this supports some some of -- some of bill posey caution here. caution here. i have a hard time explaining to people who didn't grow up in the cold war the fear and anxiety of the soviet union. that's why i try and make references to 1956 and 1968, but those are just years. i think probably for the people of professional age in 1985, if you had asked them, do you expect the soviet union will withdraw from eastern europe or break off? you would not have found one hand. and so this goes to the point,
by the way, of thinking about discontinuous events. part of it was, i guess we have one of the differences, i think policymakers have to think in probabilistic terms. ok? so they have to be open to the opportunities to support and help and encourage, but they have to prepare against downside risk. again, the reason i used tiananmen square, that was a good example of we got things were going one way in china, then all of a sudden boom. , it's the same year. so the anxiety that there would be a reversal was high. bill supports, this. if you read about those debates in 1987 and 1988, they weren't all in agreement. and he adds another element, the thought of, is gorbachev really just trying to remake the soviet union into a stronger opponent, or is he trying to make it into
something different? i think in your paper or one of the points, is he trying to make communism work? and you can see gorbachev struggling with this. my view of gorbachev, he is a combination of a heroic and tragic figure. he knows he wants a change, but at least from what i observed, and what i have read so far, he didn't really know what he wanted. he launched some process of change, but it wasn't clear where it was going to end up. and so if you are representing the united states, you can't just say oh, well this is a wonderful dream, we will give up this, nato, so on. you have to be prepared for different eventualities. -- onei continue to feel of the interesting questions will be, what else could have been done on the economic side? and i discussed this a little bit with phil, just to give you
a personal sense. i was early in the process starting to look at the nature of the soviet economy and the reform process. so i was digging into this and got to know some of the reform figures and so forth, but this is one of the stories about u.s. bureaucracy. i was at the state department. once this became a topic, the treasury department started to move in. the person who was point on this at the treasury department, david mulford, wanted to focus on the debt renegotiation, which is what investment bankers do. and i remember getting frustrated because i was trying to work with some of the reformers to try and deal with much broader push and questions of structural reform. anyway, this story transitions probably to the next panel, because as i said, i still believe the nature of the structural reforms in the soviet union for the economy were a huge challenge. i still would not know today exactly what one should do.
in fact, vlad made this point, and it may be right. some of the soviet reformers were looking more for a pinochet model. in other words, they probably would have had a better model from then -- chile then from gorbachev's democratization. if you open up the political system, it is never going to work. to come back to the realm of possibilities, i think at least bush and baker were partly of the view to say look, this is a historic moment. we want to try and maintain or keep up the momentum as much as we can. we need to harvest the benefits. but then we also have to be prepared for some of the downsides. you asked about the gulf war. that was a story -- many people in this room are probably aware,
baker was in mongolia dennis , ross and i were in moscow. we arranged for baker to come back and have a statement at the airport about the soviet union and the united states sort of standing up against saddam hussein's aggression. what i learned subsequently was that he never got approval from -- for that statement from work have, at least so far. -- gorbachev, at least so far. i have not seen it. that shows the players and that gorbachev was kind of hesitating. going back to phil's question, that's when baker says the cold war ends. he says it ends when the soviet union and the united states come together to stop aggression. i would go a little earlier. i would say it is when germany is freed and eastern -- eastern germany is freed and germany is sort of unified. it is telling that for george schultz and margaret thatcher, saying she liked germany so much she wanted two of them, she did not like that stuff.
and today, the reason she valued the gorbachev relationship so much that she did not want german reunification to get in the way. and that was a different policy choice. >> we are running out of time for this section, but i want to get another question and, answer that, then we are done with the panel. >> first of all, thank you. my question is more about things you haven't talked about. it did occur to me that much of the conversation, to the extent that it went beyond the soviet union and the united states and focused on europe to what extent , did it have an influence on this relationship and this trajectory you are describing? two things occurred to me, and there may be other things you would want to put on the table. the things that occurred to me, the iranian revolution which led to the the invasion of afghanistan, which is ongoing, -- ongoing for most of the period of years we are
discussing, and then the death of mao zedong and reforms in china, which i'm wondering to what extent it is shaping gorbachev's thinking about the future of the soviet union. >> very quickly, to the one thing i detect from the reagan administration, which i don't think i really appreciated before, in the early 1980's, this fear that the iranian revolution would become a temporary thing, that it would fall apart and there would be a vacuum of power that would be very inviting to the soviets. and i think that fear kind of dissipates over the course of the decade, but i have been kind of struck by early on that since -- early onense of in that sense of the reagan nsc. you have to think about the presidency in terms of what ultimately brings him to his
knees in terms of iran contra. there were some people who had the sense that he needed to do a kissinger to china, and i think john poindexter, in the summer of 1985, probably regrets not turning off connection to his home email. that might have stopped the threat of all that. >> can i pull a senatorial trick and yield my time? [laughter] i will give you my answer later on china. >> [indiscernible] >> turn your question into a comment. [laughter] and then close us down. >> two very quick questions to bob. 1991, not a policy, but a feeling of giving preference to eastern europe? was it like eastern europe first? when you read the discussions, internal deliberations before the london g-7 meeting, before gorbachev came, the u.s.
position is to crack down on those western europeans who want rechannelannel -- western aid to the soviet union, to gorbachev, but president bush says no, we have to help eastern europe first. you touched on that. is it too far if we call it eastern europe first and soviet union second? and do you think gorbachev understood in 1991 that he would never get massive western aid, and if he did, why he continued to behave as if you would? >> i didn't hear that. what did you say? >> did gorbachev understand in 1991 that he was not going to get massive western aid? >> and if he didn't, why did he keep acting as if he did? >> i guess he understood after a while he wasn't going to get it. it took a great deal of determination and courage to ask for it in the first place.
you know, initially i think it was other people around him who named numbers. gorbachev always put it more generally, if you spend x billion dollars in the gulf war, can't you spare anything to change the soviet union in this crucial way? that was his way of asking for it, but i think he understood. and he didn't always behave in a way as to make it more likely. his response to the allison -- he sent hert to washington rather than other people bush wanted to see. he undermined himself in that way and other ways, too. >> as for your question about eastern europe, the best way to answer it is we didn't see europe in categories, right? in boxes. it was the whole region, through the soviet union.
phil and i keep emphasizing that in some ways because germany worked out ok, we don't see it as a big problem. but if we realize in history, it was a german question as much as a russian question, that is part of the issue. within eastern europe, that related to germany. they are as anxious about germany as they are about russia and the soviet union. and so i don't recall the particular facts you mentioned about supporting eastern europe as opposed to the soviet union. i think the reality for the united states was, and whether you think this is too narrow of a vision -- remember, bush did a budget deal that at that time we thought was a big deficit, and at the time it ended up probably costing him reelection. i remember thinking in the case of german reunification, we are willing to help do all the things, but we do not feel we should be paying for it. we were very supportive of the germans paying for it, and in the gulf war, baker gets the saudi's to give additional
contribution of funds. there were not small sums of money put in by the imf and world bank. i'm so i continue to believe -- and so i continue to believe that money alone, unless you get the fundamentals right, will not solve the problem. and again, i very much hoped there would be structural reforms, but as bill said here, we worked with others, then they sent someone else and sort of walked away, so there was never really a good plan we felt we could invest in. and then the one last point, , i will switch it to today, which is china. so this is a question for all of you russian specialists in the room. i still don't quite grasp why putin seems more worried about nato and poland and the politics -- and the baltics and the u.s. then he is about china and the
area to his south. and so we can talk about the history of russia and so on, but at some point, somebody has to recognize, do you really think that poland and germany and the united states are a threat to russia, or do you think that maybe some other regions might cause greater anxiety? >> we did talk about that yesterday, by the way? >> what if you say? [laughter] >> all right. let's thank the panel for their hard work. [applause] announcer: you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >>