Cold War Endgame

Cold War Endgame: Oral History, Analysis, Debates

Edited by William C. Wohlforth
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Cold War Endgame
    Book Description:

    Cold War Endgame is the product of an unusual collaborative effort by policy makers and scholars to promote better understanding of how the Cold War ended. It includes the transcript of a conference, hosted by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh, in which high-level veterans of the Bush and Gorbachev governments shared their recollections and interpretations of the crucial events of 1989–91: the revolutions in Eastern Europe; the reunification of Germany; the Persian Gulf War; the August 1991 coup; and the collapse of the USSR. Taking this testimony as a common reference and drawing on the most recent evidence available, six chapters follow in which historians and political scientists explore the historical and theoretical puzzles presented by this extraordinary transition. This discussion features a debate over the relative importance of ideas, personality, and economic pressures in explaining the Cold War's end.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05443-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    William C. Wohlforth

    As the cold war recedes into memory it is all too easy to forget how potentially apocalyptic it was. For forty-five years the two superpowers faced each other across the globe, each dreading the consequences of ceding dominance to the other. To forestall that outcome, each devoted colossal resources to defense—5 to 14 percent of the economy for the Americans, 15 to more than 25 percent for the Soviets—and maintained a deterrence posture that eventually entailed the acquisition of massive nuclear arsenals jointly totaling over 50,000 warheads.¹ Deterrence amidst such an intense rivalry put a premium on the...

  5. PART I Oral History:: The Princeton Conference

    • 1 Forging a New Relationship
      (pp. 15-48)

      This chapter presents the first session of the Princeton conference. It begins with opening remarks by James Baker and Anatoly Chernyaev that frame the debate over the causes of the end of the Cold War that recurs throughout the conference and is addressed by the scholarly chapters in Part III of this volume. The conferees then discussed the forging of the new administration’s relationship with Moscow, ending with the December 1989 Malta summit. Following the inauguration of President George Bush in January 1989, the Bush administration cautiously took up the task of dealing with the Soviet Union. After a lengthy...

    • 2 The Unification of Germany
      (pp. 49-76)

      The fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe in the second half of 1989 and the sudden breaching of the Berlin Wall in November marked the most fundamental shift in Europe since its division into opposing camps following World War II. In August 1989 the Solidarity labor group in Poland formed the first Eastern European government not led by communists since the Cold War’s dawn in the late 1940s. In September, Hungary announced that it would no longer prevent East German citizens from crossing the border to Austria. In October, the ruling communist party of Hungary reconstituted itself as...

    • 3 The Persian Gulf War
      (pp. 77-114)

      Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, brought the United States into conflict with a Persian Gulf state that was close to the Soviet Union geographically and had been a Soviet arms recipient. In the past, Moscow almost certainly would have defended its client and strongly opposed U.S. armed intervention near the Soviet borders. This time, in an important test of the new relationship between the superpowers, Baker and Shevardnadze issued a joint statement condemning the Iraqi action and calling for an arms embargo against Iraq. While not without misgivings and internal opposition, the Soviet posture was a major...

    • 4 Countdown to the Collapse of the Soviet Union
      (pp. 115-138)

      The final session directly addressed the crucial backdrop to all the preceding diplomacy of the Cold War’s end: Soviet domestic politics and the mounting dual crises of the communist system and the Soviet empire. The conferees discussed efforts by Bush, Baker, and Matlock to warn Gorbachev of an impending coup. The discussants also explored the collapse of Gorbachev’s support and the final crisis and dissolution of the Soviet Union. They addressed the extent to which the policies and actions of the United States and its allies played a part in these events. There was a sharp debate on the question...

  6. PART II Analysis

    • 5 Once Burned, Twice Shy? The Pause of 1989
      (pp. 141-174)
      Derek H. Chollet and James M. Goldgeier

      “When the bush administration came into office,” recalls President George H. W. Bush’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, “there was already a lot of talk that the Cold War was over…. But to me, you know, my life spent in the Cold War, the structures of the Cold War were still in place. The rhetoric was different, but almost nothing else was different. And having been in the Reagan and Ford administrations and through détente, I thought, you know, once burned, twice shy.” Worried that the Gorbachev agenda was simply designed to lull the West to sleep while the Soviet...

    • 6 Trust Bursting Out All Over: The Soviet Side of German Unification
      (pp. 175-204)
      Andrew O. Bennett

      The transcripts of the Cold War Endgame conference throw into sharp relief many of the theoretical and historical puzzles of the end of the Cold War. Why did the Soviet Union fail to use force in 1989 to keep together the Warsaw Pact, as it had in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968? Why did the Soviet bureaucracy fail even to come up with a coherent option for using force in 1989? Why did Gorbachev fail to exact a higher price for German unification in 1990? Why did his acceptance of a unified Germany within NATO survive opposition from...

  7. PART III Debates

    • 7 Gorbachev and the End of the Cold War: Different Perspectives on the Historical Personality
      (pp. 207-242)
      Vladislav M. Zubok

      It is a perennial human illusion to attribute great events to great causes. Particularly during the past century scholars have tended to attribute transitions from one historical period to another to grand, impersonal forces—shifts in balance of power, inter-imperialist contradictions, revolutions, the rise of new ideologies and social movements, and so on. In the current scholarly climate the other extreme has become fashionable: to highlight the microlevels of history—the role and beliefs of “common people,” incremental changes in social life, and power as a phenomenon of everyday life. As a result of these two trends, the view that...

    • 8 The Road(s) Not Taken: Causality and Contingency in Analysis of the Cold War’s End
      (pp. 243-272)
      Robert D. English

      Appreciation of the element of historical contingency in the Cold War’s end—an understanding of how and when critical turning points appeared, of what plausible alternatives existed and where different choices might have led—is generally poor. In much of the literature there prevails instead a sense of inevitability, a more or less explicit assumption that by the mid-1980s the USSR had little choice but to undertake major domestic reforms and a broad retreat from empire. It was the unforgiving calculus of power that so dictated, as deepening economic crisis made it impossible to keep up the military rivalry with...

    • 9 Economic Constraints and the End of the Cold War
      (pp. 273-310)
      Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth

      Debates about how the various causes of great events interact cannot be resolved conclusively, but neither can they be avoided. All arguments about the implications of the Cold War’s end for both policy and international relations theory hinge on rendering some judgment about how changing economic constraints affected this seminal event. Although scholars have spent a great deal of intellectual energy tracing the effects of ideas and leaders, comparatively few studies rigorously analyze how economic shifts independently influenced the final years of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry.¹ The Endgame conference illustrates this problem. James Baker opened the conference with an analysis that...

  8. Conclusion

    • 10 Failure or Learning Opportunity? The End of the Cold War Its Implications for International Relations Theory
      (pp. 313-336)
      Joseph Lepgold

      As this volume pointedly illustrates, coming to terms with the end of the Cold War continues to intrigue international relations (IR) theorists and foreign policymakers. It also presents high-stakes challenges to both groups.Ifwe can understand why and how this conflict died away, generalizable implications for policy and for analyzing international politics should follow. The purpose of this chapter is to use the conference transcript and scholarly arguments inCold War Endgameto explore what these theoretical conclusions might be.

      The Princeton conferees and the academic contributors to this volume agree on several key issues. Although the end of...

  9. Participants and Contributors
    (pp. 337-340)
  10. Index
    (pp. 341-346)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 347-347)