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OpenEdition Books

Masterpieces of History

 | 
Svetlana Savranskaya
, 
Thomas Blanton
, 
Vladislav Zubok

Foreword, Jack F. Matlock, Jr.

Texte intégral

1The conference held at the Musgrove plantation on Georgia’s southeast coast in 1998 illuminated one of the most important periods in 20th century history: the liberation of the countries in Eastern Europe from Soviet control. The fact that this episode occurred peacefully near the close of a century filled with violence and following over four decades of East-West confrontation made the event worthy of the most careful study. The National Security Archive rendered a service to historians and the public as a whole when it gathered declassified source material from both Soviet and American archives and invited scholars and several former officials to examine the historical evidence, comment on it, and discuss its implications. One of the scholars who attended the conference, Jacques Levesque, had published a book on the events discussed at Musgrove which he entitled The Enigma of 1989. The task of the conference was to take some of the mystery out of that enigma.

2Although the conference took place 10 years ago, publication of these documents and of the record of discussions is both necessary and timely. It is necessary because groundless myths have arisen regarding the way the Cold War and the division of Europe ended; it is timely because these myths have produced dangerous distortions in current American and Russian policy.

3The unfounded conviction that the United States and its European allies “won” the Cold War and “defeated” communism by the application of military and economic power, and that, as a consequence, the United States has the means—if it has the will—to police the world and to create, wherever it wishes, governments that mirror its own, lies behind many of the mistakes American deciders have made since the turn of the century. The facts are that the Cold War ended not as the victory of one country over another, but as the result of successful negotiations benefiting both sides. It was not a defeat for the Soviet Union, for the Soviet leader made no agreements that were not in his country’s interest.

4It is to Gorbachev’s credit that he was able to recognize that the policies he had inherited were not in his country’s interest. It is to the credit of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and their Western colleagues that they aimed to change Soviet behavior, not to destroy the Soviet Union or replace its regime. They offered conditions for ending the Cold War that were consistent with the national interests of a Soviet Union at peace with its neighbors.

5Communism ended in the Soviet Union not as the result of Western military pressure but in response to internal reforms in the Soviet Union that would have been possible only if the Cold War were ending. The subsequent break-up of the Soviet unitary state was caused by internal factors and could not have taken place if the Cold War had not ended.

6Myths about a quasi-military victory by the West in the Cold War have also had a damaging impact on current Russian thinking and the policies of the current government. If the Cold War ended in a “victory” of the West and Western pressure destroyed the Soviet state, then Gorbachev was duped and surrendered Soviet (and Russian) interests when he came to terms to end the Cold War. This has fed anti-Western and anti-American sentiments in Russia and made it more difficult to find a way to cooperate in the interests of both countries.

7For these reasons, understanding how “1989” happened is essential if one is to benefit from the lessons the Cold War and its end should have taught us. In making available to scholars and interested members of the public the Musgrove documents and discussions, the National Security Archive has once again helped us reach a more reliable understanding of the past in order better to deal with the problems of the present, and of the future.

© Central European University Press, 2010

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540