Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  72 / 120 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 72 / 120 Next Page
Page Background





with other willful and sometimes illegal

acts, such as the invasion of Iraq with-

out United Nations sanction, convinced

most attentive Russians that the United

States was determined to treat their

country as a defeated enemy.

“We won the Cold War!” triumpha-

lism particularly rankles Gorbachev.

The fact is that every agreement he

made with the United States and its

NATO allies was in the interest of the

USSR, which needed nothing so much

as an end to the arms race. Even more

distorted is the widespread convic-

tion that the Cold War ended with the

demise of the Soviet Union. It was over

ideologically by the end of 1988, and in

most other respects by the end of 1989,

the annus mirabilis of East European


The Soviet Union disintegrated

despite the end of the Cold War, not

because of it. It was not a “Western”

victory, though it did demonstrate that

the communist rule of the USSR was

not viable in a world without external


Eight years ago, after war broke out

between Russia and Georgia, Gor-

bachev commented, “The reality is

that, in recent years, Russia has been

confronted with one fait accompli after

another: this is what we are doing about

Kosovo; now we are withdrawing from

the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and

deploying anti-missile systems in your

neighboring countries; now we are

continuing to endlessly expand NATO.

Live with it! …There are calls now for a

review of relations with Russia. I think

the first thing in need of review is this

way of talking down to Russia, ignoring

her views and interests.”

Well, after a brief respite when the

new Barack Obama administration

initiated a “reset”—mistranslated by the

Secretary of State’s advisers with the Rus-

sian word (in Latin characters yet!) for

“overload,” the mistranslation proved to

be a Freudian slip. The policy combined

incompatible elements: efforts to coop-

erate when it was in the U.S. interest and

policies designed to influence domestic

politics in Russia itself.

Equally threatening from the Rus-

sian standpoint was what seemed to

Russians a calculated effort to alienate

their most important neighbor, Ukraine,

which had been part of the same coun-

try for more than two centuries. While

the reset had important positive results,

the New START treaty in particular,

President Obama’s policy was doomed

in other respects even before civil war

broke out in Ukraine.

As Gorbachev points out, Russians

have been reacting to what they per-

ceive as a persistent American effort to

put them down, isolate them and domi-

nate the world by exercising a global

hegemony. That reaction has been

damaging to Russia’s own interests and

future; but, Russian patriots will argue,

what proud nation, when pressed, will

not push back?

Gorbachev’s comment highlights a

crucial psychological point. A diplomat

should understand that nothing is to be

gained by publicly humiliating another

country or its leaders, even if their

policies are problematic. Deal with the

policy with at least public respect for

the politician. President Ronald Reagan

condemned communism, but never

made slighting personal remarks about

the specific Soviet leaders he dealt with.

When he met a Soviet leader, his first

words were usually, “We hold the peace

of the world in our hands.”

They did, and he and Gorbachev

achieved a world-transforming feat in

reversing the upward spiral of the arms

race. Their joint declaration that “a

nuclear war cannot be won, and must

never be fought, which means there can

be no war between us” is as valid today as

it was in November 1985, when Reagan

and Gorbachev met for the first time.

Unfortunately, that important truism

seems to be ignored now by the leaders

and “policy elite” in both our countries.

As we await the inauguration of a

new president, our diplomats would

be well advised to read Mikhail Gor-

bachev’s testimony. They may not

agree with everything he writes, but his

account will give them insight into the

sort of advice they should


be giving

our next president.

In all of the global challenges we

face, Russia is going to be either part

of the solution or part of the problem.

Mikhail Gorbachev has called atten-

tion to those actions and policies by the

United States and its allies that have

encouraged Russia to be a problem.

Gorbachev has also written nostalgi-

cally about his relationship with Presi-

dents Ronald Reagan and George H.W.


A study of the interaction of those

two American presidents with the presi-

dent of the Soviet Union would provide

important lessons for a diplomacy

designed to transcend differences and

concentrate on those issues that are

vital to the future of both countries.

Jack Matlock Jr., FSO-CM, retired, was am-

bassador to the USSR from 1987 to 1991,

and is now Rubenstein Fellow and Visiting

Scholar at Duke University. He first served

in Moscow from 1961 to 1963, again from

1974 to 1978, and once more in 1981 as

chargé d’affaires before his appointment

as ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1981-

1983). During his 35-year career in the

Foreign Service, he also served in Vienna,