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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok

Dialogue: The Musgrove Conference, May 1-3, 1998

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya et Thomas Blanton

Texte intégral



1Thomas Blanton (moderator): Welcome. We have three goals for this conference. The first is simply to enjoy this place. Musgrove was built by Nancy Reynolds Bagley as a vacation retreat and a nature preserve for a beautiful section of St. Simons Island. This is where President Carter first gathered his Cabinet after the election of 1976 and before the inauguration. Thanks to the generosity of Smith Bagley, the Brenn Foundation, and the Arca Foundation, we are meeting like presidents. I have found that the biggest challenge at Musgrove is to bring to the table the conversations that take place away from the table as people do, shall we say, conferencing with a human face.

2The second goal is to contribute to the ongoing multinational effort to grapple with the history of those revolutionary events of the late 1980s, and the way the world changed, and the Cold War ended, in 1989. Next year, in 1999, our partners in East and Central Europe will recreate some of that history, bringing veterans and witnesses to the table, with their own documents, from Politburos, from oppositions, from U.S. and Soviet sources, so that they can relive and learn from their own histories. So the point of these three days is to put on the table the key questions that you really want answered in this larger process. What are the mysteries that remain to you, as experts, as veterans, as researchers? What are the mysteries that need to be answered? What would you tell us to do if you were commissioning our research?

3The third goal is to grapple with some remarkable new evidence. This thick briefing book of documents exists in very large part because of the generosity of Anatoly Chernyaev, and the Gorbachev Foundation, which is committed to the process of scholarly enquiry and has set, I believe, a new standard for openness in these matters. Included here are multiple selections from Anatoly’s daily diaries from his tenure as Gorbachev’s personal aide for foreign policy from 1986 through 1991, including notes of Politburo sessions and meetings with foreign leaders. I plan to use these materials as a crowbar to help wedge open the American files on these subjects. So thanks to Anatoly and to Georgy Shakhnazarov, and everyone who contributed to this documentary encyclopedia.

4Now I will ask Vlad Zubok to give you what we Americans would call the “greatest hits,” the highlights of this new evidence, the likes of which many of us, as students of these events, hardly expected to see in our lifetimes. Vlad has carried so much of the research load for this project and for the documents in front of you, that I would like to give him the first word on the documentary findings.

5Vladislav Zubok: Now the pressure is on me to be really brief in describing this briefing book. The word “brief fails, I guess, to describe what is inside there. Now, I believe, when you deal with documents, each of them was remarkable by itself, but when you put them together, you create a quality in itself, because the combination is amazing. Putting them together, the documents became more and more revealing to me.

6Several things I would like to mention. The majority of the documents are from the Gorbachev Archive, Russian documents, although there are some amazing American documents. In particular, I would like to mention the CIA reports, and Jack Matlock’s cables from Moscow in February 1989, which sort of correlate nicely with Kennan’s “long telegram” that marked the beginning of the Cold War, as Jack’s cables mark the end of the Cold War in Europe. To me, one highlight of this briefing book is how much was spoken within the narrow inside circle of Gorbachev’s about the possibility of collapse in Eastern Europe.

7We find in the documents that it was discussed in Georgy Shakhnazarov’s memorandum to Gorbachev—what would happen if there was a general collapse in Eastern Europe? And still […] We put here Vadim Zagladin’s notes to Gorbachev, his personal notes to Gorbachev about his trip to Europe, including Czechoslovakia, where he had many friends, in May 1989, and there are serious warnings about a collapse that might be in the making. Yet the question that we should discuss is why all this happened without Gorbachev actually acting on those warnings, or not really acting in a serious way.

  • 1 Document No. 42. The Institute of the Economy of the World socialist System, directed by Oleg Bogo (...)

8Again, I must mention, one of the highlights of the book is the report by the Bogomolov institute1 to the International Commission of the Politburo, headed at that time by [Alexander] Yakovlev, and we have these documents thanks to Professor [Jacques] Levesque, who obtained them in Moscow from, I guess, the authors of these documents. There are several reports, but the Bogomolov institute report is perhaps the most revealing of the extent of how far Russian analysts went in predicting what might happen in Eastern Europe. Another thing that sort of struck me as important as I looked at, as I selected documents for this briefing book, is the relevance of debates on what to do with the Baltic republics, with the Transcaucasian republics, to the secession crises that have already flared up inside the Soviet Union.

9So for me, what was striking was to find at that time, from the end of 1988, that the Politburo spent much time debating how to preserve the core of the empire, not to mention its periphery in Eastern Europe—and one key phrase that Gorbachev used at some point: that if we go too far we might undermine the Slavic core of the empire. He used the word “empire,” actually, which was kind of unusual for a debate among communist leaders, “socialist empire.”

10I found it also interesting to what extent Gorbachev relied on the international audience, on world leaders, as his reference group to test his ideas, to sound his ideas out—as he used the term: “to roll out the ideas,” and that is why there are so many, to the extent possible, many memcons—Gorbachev talking to [François] Mitterrand, Gorbachev talking to [Margaret] Thatcher, and so on and so forth.

11So at some point I felt that those leaders became his most important reference group. And he took it very seriously when he found signs of mistrust. For instance, if you look at the additional documents, here at the end of the briefing book, you will find some reports from the Deputy Director of the U.S. and Canada institute on his meetings with some prominent Americans. And those prominent Americans told him that there was a group in the National Security Council, with Robert Gates and others, plotting to compromise Gorbachev and his perestroika. What is amazing is that Gorbachev took those rumors very seriously, because he repeated that line in his conversations with Western European leaders. He complained about it to [Helmut] Kohl, he complained about it to Mitterrand. He took it very seriously.

  • 2 Document No. 98.

12On the collapse, I think that my favorite documents—there are many documents here on the collapse, and how it took the Soviet leadership by surprise, as well as everyone else, and we have documents from the Malta summit, we have official documents. But the most important things were said unofficially, not in official documents. We can compare, for instance, two documents here in this briefing book: a cable—a document that I got, actually, from Tom, a cable2 from the U.S. Embassy in Sofia on November 9, the day when the Berlin wall collapsed, the Embassy reported that “no major changes are expected,” “little prospect for changes.” The next day, Zhivkov was gone. And on November 9, when we look into Chernyaev’s diaries, we find an amazing line, that the whole thing is collapsing, the Yalta system is collapsing, and that is, probably, for the good. This is probably the most amazing highlight from the whole briefing book—a personal assistant to the general secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, whose external empire was in the process of collapse, comments: “Perhaps it is inevitable and good,” and welcomes this change.


13Blanton: Our first session is called The Emergence of Soviet “New Thinking” and Eastern Europe. That means, in relation to Eastern Europe, or as it applied to Eastern Europe. The second session will focus on Moscow’s reaction to the events of 1989, for which we borrowed the adjective “enigmatic” from Professor Levesque. The third session will be on the domestic context of the new thinking and the events in Eastern Europe, which often went in parallel. Tomorrow, our fourth session is on the superpower context, particularly the relationships in 1989, and in the final session, into lunch tomorrow, we will try to draw some of the conclusions and reflections, and put down on paper some of the key questions that we want to make sure are asked at the conferences next year, in 1999, and throughout our multinational research project.

14For each session we have asked a particular scholar-participant to lead off with a few minutes, four or five minutes, of questions. Some of these questions will simply be informative ones, mysteries that are still left, some are intended to be provocative, and to stimulate argument and debate. For this morning session, Professor Levesque will lead off with a few minutes of questions. Jacques?

15Jacques Levesque: OK, thank you. I will start with a couple of questions to our Russian colleagues on the topic of this morning’s session. What strikes me when looking at the place of Eastern Europe in Soviet new thinking is the extraordinary similarity between the Soviet approach and the concept of European reconciliation that was developed ten years earlier by the Italian Communist Party at the time of Eurocommunism. In two words only, what the Italian communists proposed at the time was a gradual de-antagonization of the two military blocs, through not only disarmament and economic intercourse, but with a significant degree of democratization of Eastern Europe, as being an absolutely necessary component of the process. A significant, but undefined degree of democratism was seen by them not only as desirable in itself, but as necessary for substantial advances in the field of disarmament, and economic intercourse.

16At the same time, the Italian communists conceived that the democratization should take place in a context that respected the security interests of the Soviet Union, and the continued existence of the two de-antagonized blocs for a very long period of time. To me, this striking similarity between the Soviet thinking of Eastern Europe is not simply a matter of chance. There are two different, but compatible ways of explaining this similarity. One is the influence of the ideas through networks. So, my first question to our Russian colleagues is: Do you consider that your relations and exchange of ideas with the Italian communists, for instance, had a significant influence in shaping your views on European politics? I was telling Mr. Chernyaev yesterday that I was in Rome in the mid-1980s, conducting research on the Italian Communist Party at the Central Committee there. And I talked with Italian intellectuals and leaders in the Communist Party. And when you were nominated as special assistant to Gorbachev for foreign affairs, they were all excited. They said, “we know this man very well, we are on the same wavelength, so he will certainly contribute to bringing significant change in the Soviet approach to world politics.” I asked so many persons, advisers of Gorbachev, this question about their intellectual relationships with the Italian Communist Party, and also the Social Democrats in Europe, and did not get a very conclusive answer.

17Therefore, I would consider another explanation, a structural explanation. Namely, that the process of democratization of a communist party, be it the Italian, the Czech in 1968, or the Soviet in the late 1980s, generates similar patterns of thinking and of politics, more or less independently from the circulation of ideas. One of these unmistakable patterns is, to put it in a nutshell, a highly idealistic search for universal reconciliation, which supersedes the central concept of struggle. So, my question to you is: What is your preferred explanation for these similarities?

18Anatoly Chernyaev: Indeed, there were some parallels, perhaps connected with the changes that emerged even before the Prague events, and they accelerated after those events, in the minds not only of free-thinking intelligentsia, meaning those who did not hold official positions, but also in the minds of intelligentsia that found themselves in the apparatus of the party and the state. I suppose that because we represent not researchers but a living historical source here, then it would be more interesting to speak about my personal experience. I met with Italian communists in 1967, and even earlier, when I was working on the journal Problems of Peace and Socialism. And I found a commonality of approaches with them, as well as with other intelligent communists, on the basis of simple common sense, on the basis of the feeling that the ideology had stopped working long ago. The ideology no longer served as a formative element in the development of our society, nor as a justification for the existence of our society, because it was so much behind the real processes.

19When Eurocommunism emerged, even though we sometimes had to speak against it, working in the apparatus of the Central Committee, in the nomenklatura, and carrying out certain directives, in our hearts I and some of my colleagues from the International Department of the Central Committee agreed with the Eurocommunists. We were very discouraged by the fact that those new approaches you have mentioned, which we considered fruitful, and which, we thought, were based on a more serious and deeper understanding of the processes that were underway in Europe and in the world, in the world economy, and so on—they were rejected by our leadership.

20And we had a dilemma between feeling personal sympathy toward those people, with whom we had been in contact for many years, and our career situation. When we met with them in Moscow, or in Rome, or in Bologna, or in Milan, we spoke the same language. They did not understand certain things, did not take some things into account, for example the cumbersomeness and the inertia of our society’s development, which had accumulated so many stereotypes, so many factors of internal development that were based on Soviet dogmatism. They thought that it would be easy and simple to transform our society. By the way, we also had similar illusions when we began perestroika, that it would be easy to do. But the outcome of perestroika has now shown how it was in reality.

21In short, we had arguments but we remained friends, because we thought that they were basically right. We already had the same sources for understanding the situation that they had, and of course we fed on their achievements, their understanding of the problems. Here you would ask: What about your bosses, what about [Mikhail] Suslov, or [Boris] Ponomarev, for example, for whom I worked in the International Department? How could they tolerate it? They must have known that behind the curtain, in our private conversations, we were following a different line, and were not behaving as apparatchiks should. They knew—not everything, but they knew a lot. Things happened, sometimes not just in our personal meetings, but during international meetings, meetings of International Departments.

22There was the following practice—apparatchiks from socialist countries would gather together, and with the French and the Italians, and we talked not only at the tables; it was boring at the tables. We talked also over some spirits, in cafes, bars, etc. Sometimes we learned later from our bosses that we had not behaved correctly, and said wrong things to those same Eurocommunists. It turns out that our colleagues from the socialist countries, especially the Germans, by virtue of being very disciplined people, reported to their superiors what their “Soviet comrades” were saying. [Laughter] And this is the way we learned about it.

23So why did the leadership tolerate it? Our leadership wanted to preserve the peace and well-being of the International Communist Movement. To allow a split, a rupture in the communist movement meant to discredit ourselves among not only communists, but among the Western publics. It was highly valued. And that is why we were a kind of a link, a connecting unit between our leadership and the European fraternal communist parties, which were deviating ideologically, even criticized us, and sometimes harshly, on some issues. And therefore, such officials as me, and Georgy [Shakhnazarov]—and there were others like us, if not dozens, still many, in our two International Departments—were needed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in order to hold the communist movement approximately within the framework of what was necessary for influencing international public opinion.

24I would perhaps end my answer here. If you have any additional questions, I will answer them later. I think I have answered the main question of why and how we were similar to the Eurocommunists, and different from them, and why they were tolerated in Moscow.

25Georgy Shakhnazarov: Anatoly spoke from a personal level. Those were the personal impressions of the people like us, who were, in his words, the connecting link between the leaderships of the parties, and who, perhaps, were allowed more freedom than others. Besides, it might be that they did not know about everything, about what we were discussing over drinks, in secluded corners of all kinds of international conferences. I would like to answer Professor Levesque’s questions in more conceptual terms.

26To what extent did the Italian Communist Party, their findings, and the Eurocommunists in general, of course including the legacy of Gramsci, have an impact on the reforms that took place in our country, and on the emergence of new thinking? I personally think that that influence is extremely exaggerated in various books and articles, because, after all, we were ripe for new thinking, and came to it on our own. The Italians did not slip it in from outside, neither did the Eurocommunists. You can judge it by many indicators. This is from my personal point of view, and from the point of view of the people with whom I was in touch, those whom they now call “dissidents within the Central Committee, within the central party apparatus.”

27Those people understood long ago, even in the post-war years, and you can see it in Anatoly Sergeyevich’s war and post-war diaries, that the processes that were unfolding in our country were calling for serious corrections. We did not call them perestroika, but we thought that we needed a shake-up of the whole system. We could not part with the system in general. We were true socialists and communists, and we believed, indeed, that a just and prosperous society could be built, but still we could see all the defects of the system, including the aggressive behavior in the international arena, and also the direct participation in the arms race, and everything that would push the world toward the precipice. We could see it with our own eyes.

28As far as the official side of the business was concerned, I will add this observation. Long before the Italians were ripe to criticize what we then called “real socialism,” long before they began to attack it in Togliatti’s memos, and so on—those processes had already begun in our own party. Take for example the changes that were introduced under Khrushchev. Besides, if we take the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), it was during the meetings of the Political Consultative Committee of the WTO that the ideas came up about a simultaneous dissolution of the two military-political blocs, and every session reflected certain debates over this idea; it was written in every communiqué. To what degree it was hypocrisy or a real proposal, now it is hard to tell. And then we did not think about it: Was it a propaganda step, or not? But I am convinced—if there had been the slightest response from the West to that idea—some process of disarmament would have begun much earlier than it actually happened.

29In particular, the ideas and the proposals that were coming from Khrushchev were not heard in the West. Our readiness to go further was greater than it was perceived and known in the West, as it happened later when Gorbachev emerged. And even then it did not happen at once; acceptance came slowly and gradually. Therefore, I think that the Italian influence is very exaggerated. Anatoly Sergeyevich is right, we spoke with them as with equals. We had no substantial differences, rather we had national differences, because from the Russian side many things looked different than from the Italian side. But in essence—to be in favor of democracy, peace and progress, to work for disarmament, for closer relations between peoples—we shared all those ideas. Thank you.

30Sergey Tarasenko: I completely agree with my senior colleagues, but I would like to present the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Relations with socialist countries and with the communist movement as a whole, especially at the most recent stage, were never in the zone of the Ministry’s priorities. The Ministry was not directly involved in all those issues, and in principle the Ministry was left to deal with less favorable tasks, such as damage control operations. It would only get involved if something happened, in order to smooth out or to settle something. But we had to deal with some practical aspects of international politics, because the socialist countries represented one front, more or less, presented similar positions, held consultations to work out a common position for the General Assembly of the United Nations, for all kinds of international fora, and so on.

31But by the time we get to the period of perestroika, even before, we felt that the organizational structure itself of the so-called socialist camp was not very good, that it did not fit with world standards. We operated with a mirror image, and we compared [ourselves to] NATO, NATO structures, the way it worked, how relations among allies in that bloc were built. At the same time, we saw the WTO. And we saw that within the WTO the organizational side looked very weak. In practice there was a complete monopoly of power by our side. This was only exacerbated with time, when our partners began to make their own international policy. It became more and more apparent. It is well known that it went together with many tragedies and conflict situations, for example, when our military killed civilians, when some tank crashed into some bus. People were killed. There were a large number of negative aspects that caused extremely negative reactions in those countries. We simply could not let that go on without trying to do something to improve the situation. Again, a practical aspect of the situation—our propaganda always utilized every case of protest rallies anywhere around American bases, like in Greece, in the Philippines—“Look how people are outraged because of the presence of the American troops; everybody is protesting.”

32In our inner circle we spoke about the fact that one needed to understand that the presence of our troops in Hungary, or Czechoslovakia, or in Poland, or in the GDR was not welcome either. The people were not very glad and happy about the presence of our troops there. And that presence in most cases was very visible and not very pleasant, when many bad things transpired. And we then attempted, in a very cautious form, to raise the question about the need for some kind of reform inside the WTO, even if only of the organizational structure, because the situation was such that our base in any of the fraternal countries at that time meant tens of kilometers of fence, beyond which even the local authorities were not allowed. As far as I understood, even the prime minister of Hungary could not freely enter the territory of a Soviet military base.

33We thought that it would have been nice to have a rotation of the leadership, at least to have two flags over the base, one flag should be other than Soviet, for example, the flag of the WTO. In other words, we thought we should at least formally improve the facade of that building. We spoke with the military about it, but we always encountered a lack of understanding and resistance—that we should not change anything, that everything was all right, everything was normal. However, when perestroika began, we in the Foreign Ministry wrote a memo, addressed it to Gorbachev, via [Eduard] Shevardnadze of course, but he was going to show it to Gorbachev. We submitted our ideas regarding the need to reform the WTO—both in terms of organization, and also that we should scale down our presence and make it less visible, and less provocative for those countries. Such a memo was written, and I still have a copy of it somewhere at home. I left it at home. There was nothing extraordinary in it. It was designed after NATO, and proposed some things that we borrowed from NATO practice in order to make that facade look better. We wrote that memo, gave it to Shevardnadze. He took it. And I do not know what happened next.

34Sometime later he returned the memo to us with a resolution saying that it would be better to return to this issue later on. Whether he showed it to Gorbachev or not I personally do not know. But normally, knowing his practice, I think he did. They probably decided that that was not a priority, and that we should not deal with it. But the situation continued to deteriorate in this respect. I remember, we mentioned our German friends here who were very disciplined—when [Erich] Honecker told us, via the ambassador, “Please fix your barracks, at least, because they look terrible. Try to put your soldiers into a better uniform” because the soldiers were seen in the city in very unsightly uniforms, and made a poor impression on the people. And the issue was put to us almost in the following form: Either keep your people behind the fence, and do not let them in the city, or dress them better, or dress them in civilian clothes. The issue reached a very unpleasant level. And unfortunately for this issue—I do not know how they felt about it in the Central Committee—we dealt mostly with our military, and our military were absolutely unresponsive on this issue.

35I think if we had chosen that road at the beginning of perestroika, in 1986, for example, if we had given a new appearance to our defense union—for example, there was a proposal to separate the Soviet troops from the WTO troops, put those under the WTO flag, let our troops be present not as Soviet troops, but as WTO troops, subordinated to the command of the WTO, not to the Soviet Defense Ministry in Moscow, but to the United Command. But if you remember, at the final stage, when the WTO was already doomed and was falling apart, the military were forced to make some changes, propose some reforms, but it was so shallow—practically nothing. They took the position: to preserve everything as it was; to change nothing with the exception of some insignificant, cosmetic changes. Even if we could do some of these things, the changes early on, in 1986 for example, I do not think that it would have made a big difference in the course of events, in the development that was underway. But we still would have found ourselves in a better situation, especially in terms of our withdrawal, a more peaceful withdrawal from Central Europe. That issue could have been less controversial. Still, in my opinion, it could not have changed what happened. But it would have been useful, and would have played its role.

  • 3 Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) was a Dominican friar based in Florence and a religious reformer d (...)

36Chernyaev: I have several lively episodes for you, related to Jacques Levesque’s question. The Soviet leadership of the 1970s consisted of very different people. There was Suslov—and they rightly called him the “Soviet Savonarola.”3 For him ideology was always first; he was very suspicious and very cruel regarding any ideological deviations. And then there were people like [Andrey] Kirilenko, who was Suslov’s rival for the position of number two in the party. [Leonid] Brezhnev also belonged to the latter category. Those are people who, if they ever read Lenin in their higher party school, I am sure they never read Marx or Engels. For them ideology [laughs] was at best a secondary influence. For them the most important part was to preserve the power of the state and the leadership of the Soviet Union. And it was from that point of view that they approached the Italian Communist Party and Eurocommunism.

37Here is one of the episodes. It happened in 1975 or in 1976. Kirilenko led the CPSU delegation to a Congress of the Italian Communist Party. It was precisely during the peak of Eurocommunism. I was not a member of that delegation, but Zagladin was. He told me about it in detail. And later I heard Kirilenko speak about it in person when he called Ponomarev, and they discussed the results of the trip. And he even said at the Politburo later, “Why do our guys pick on the Italians, criticize them in articles? They are good guys, what’s the problem? So what if they are talking too much, if they say some things that we do not understand, for God’s sake! The important thing is that we feel good with them, and they gave me a good reception.” I am saying this to emphasize that for the people who considered Soviet state power the most important, not ideology, they wanted to keep the Italians, as well as the others, as our friends, as one of the factors of our international influence.

38One more point. When they were deciding whether to send Gorbachev to [Enrico] Berlinguer’s funeral, there was a big discussion in the Politburo. Initially they did not want to send him because they understood that he was a person with democratic leanings. Berlinguer did a lot of harm to us ideologically. But still, they decided to send him because they understood that Gorbachev could find a common language with them, that he could speak like a normal human being, non-confrontationally. And that hunch was supported by the events: Gorbachev had discussions with them, but carried them out on friendly terms. They saw what Thatcher would see later—that you can do business with this man.

39And here you are right—the Italians’ ideas, their discussions in the framework of Eurocommunism, their view of the world, and of the direction of global and European development, all this had a great influence on him. He remembers it, and he mentioned it in his memoirs. Therefore, this was a factor of certain influence, but Georgy is also right, if Gorbachev had not been mentally and intellectually prepared by all his previous development for this understanding of the Italian point of view, then nothing would have happened.

40These are the two episodes that I wanted to relate to you. This is also very important for our explanation of why they later decided to choose Gorbachev after Chernenko’s death and not somebody else. Because those old men understood that the time had come to change things. And it was not so much their fear of losing their positions and privileges of power, but even with all caveats and their personal differences, their duty to the people and to the country was ingrained in them—by Marxism-Leninism, and the party, by the way.

41Blanton: Thanks. I would like to ask Jack Matlock to comment on your understanding of the origins of new thinking, the influences, the Khrushchev possibilities, the Eurocommunist ideas, the underpinnings of new thinking. How did you explain it to yourself, and to your peers and policy makers, particularly as Gorbachev was developing these ideas in the early part of his years in power? But particularly the origins, as you saw them.

42Jack Matlock: First, I have never studied in detail the origins, and I would not presume to speak with any authority or particular insight. As we Americans saw the new thinking developing, attitudes within our government differed greatly. Doug [MacEachin] probably knows better than I some of the differences that people had. My own feeling was that the Soviets were reacting to the situation as they saw it and that their analysis of some of their internal problems was not that different from ours. I certainly did not detect a strong foreign influence, from the communist movement or elsewhere on that.

43Obviously, there were people in the Soviet Union, just as there were here, who knew what these problems were. Some of our specialists probably studied them in greater detail than did the political leadership in the Soviet Union. But most of our leaders were not ideologically inclined. Most of them did not pay much attention to ideology in a direct sense. Basically, as we watched “new thinking” being developed, the question was: How sincere is it, and what does it mean concretely? When Gorbachev started talking about defense sufficiency, for example, our reaction was: “OK, what does that mean? That is different rhetoric, yes. And maybe it is meaningful. But we have heard words that sounded different before, and the policies did not change.” It was only when “new thinking” became embodied in policies that those of us who were attentive—which is not everybody—began to say, “Hey, this is real.” For me the most convincing evidence came with the theses for the Party Conference in 1988.

44When these theses were issued, we were sitting in Helsinki, briefing [Ronald] Reagan on his trip to Moscow, which was just a few days off. The text came in fairly late in the evening, and I went to my room, thankful for having something I could read that was unclassified. Most of our books were classified and had to be read in special rooms. I began to skim through the theses, and I was electrified. Jim Billington had come with the first lady (actually, because Nancy Reagan wanted to be tutored on Russian art so that she could one-up Raisa Maximovna [Gorbacheva]). I went to him and said, “Jim, read this, and see if you are as excited as I am.” And he called me about 4:00 in the morning, and said, “You are right, this is world-shaking.” The next morning I told Reagan: you know, we are in a new ball game. I could not find any references to Marxism-Leninism in the theses, and it was clear that if the theses were adopted by the Conference—and since they were being proposed by the general secretary, presumably they would be—this is going to be a different country. So, our understanding of “new thinking” developed step-by-step—first it was “let us wait and see,” and different people had different criteria on what they considered important. For me, ideology was important and when I saw a Communist Party document that borrowed more from the American Constitution than from Marxism-Leninism, I was impressed.

45Blanton: Thank you very much. Doug MacEachin, could you illuminate for us a little bit the struggles, the very different perceptions that Jack just referred to inside the U.S. government from your point of view at the [Central Intelligence] Agency, as the head of SOVA, the Soviet Analysis Office, during those years, 1984-1989?

46Douglas MacEachin: I do not think the conference will be long enough for me […] [laughter] to describe for you all the different views. I think I would parallel what Jack has said, but let me go back to the late 1970s to give you some background.

47This is very important, because what you are trying to do in this kind of situation is look at the intentions of other people. There is no empirical proof, there is nothing that says, “this will happen.” You can sense that something is going on, that there are some changing views […] But if you think the analysis is difficult, try to present that kind of spectral analysis to someone who has a deeply held different view, and persuade them that major change may be occurring. So, in the earlier stages it was more a sense that—for example, I remember, in 1979, I think, there was a statement at a Soviet Party Congress that, as I recollect, a committee would be formed to look into some problems […] little things that spawned a belief in a lot of us who were observing—I must confess that at that time I was doing more military than politics—that maybe there is a groundwork developing for some change.

48I will also tell you quite frankly that in the early 1980s we were hearing all kinds of gossip that Gorbachev was a rising star. That was in 1980-1981-1982. In fact, as evidence that seemed to confirm this, there seemed to be a reaction developing against him in some Soviet political circles.

49So, this was the setting as we got to 1985. I will give you a little anecdote. When Brezhnev died, Vice President [George H.W.] Bush was, I think, in Africa, and he was the senior U.S. person designated to go to the funeral. He wanted someone with Soviet expertise to go with him. I was the guy who gave him his morning intelligence papers, so his office asked if I knew somebody with the appropriate expertise. So we sent a colleague of mine, one of my friends. At another funeral one year later the Vice President’s Office called for my friend again; another funeral one year later, and they called for my friend again. And so he was there for [Konstantin] Chernenko’s funeral with James Baker (at that time the White House chief of staff). According to my friend, Baker told him that in his view “This guy (Gorbachev) is a real astute politician.” And Baker was there with Gorbachev in a room for only one day, I think. So, there was a sense of something happening, but nothing specific.

50That is all I can say about views up to that point. And, as Jack says, we did not see anything being driven by external factors. Maybe particular discussions, formulation of the ideas, but the motivations, we thought, were all internal.

51And then, I would say, by 1986, the division of views about Gorbachev in Washington had become fairly clear, I thought. Because you could not argue any more over whether the government, the leadership of the Soviet Union believed they had serious problems. The chairman of the Party said they had problems. So that argument, despite what you read today, was not really what the contention was all about. Instead it was the two views that we have talked about at breakfast.

52One view said: all of the foreign policy and arms control was merely an effort to buy time to make the existing system’s problems go away, thereby building up a more robust and threatening opponent. And I have copies of speeches in my file, which I’ll send to you. They are not speeches I made—

53Blanton: [William] Casey?

54MacEachin: Yes, and others close to him [referring to Robert Gates].

55The other view, for most of us who had grown up reading Russian literature in college, was this feeling that this effort toward change was for real. And the change was not merely doctoring, but would become of a significant, fundamental, systemic nature. That it would be different.

  • 4 At the September 1988 Central Committee Plenum, Gorbachev engineered a major restructuring of the (...)

56Now, that said, and it is all on record, I was one of those who did not believe that Gorbachev’s economic policies were going to succeed. So that was in some respects bad news. But it was also good news, because we believed that bigger steps were going to have to be made, and that those bigger steps were going to have to be of a fundamental nature. And what ultimately convinced me, and most of my colleagues, were the events of September 30, 1988.4 I thought that was where the line was crossed. I could not foresee the future from that point on, but I was pretty sure that whatever it was, it was not going to be like the past.

57Karen Dawisha: I have a couple of questions. My own feeling is that it would be a mistake for us to look back and say that Gorbachev’s new thinking can be traced to Khrushchev, to the Prague Spring, etc. I mean, my concern with that is that while it is true that there were reformist elements in all of those regimes, that to say that would be to forget the essential nature of the Brezhnev leadership, which was a highly oppressive external force, and a highly energized ideological force in the Third World. And my question is: If Anatoly’s and even Georgy’s statement is right, that all of these things can be traced, that we were talking in the corridors, that we were having these conferences with the Italians, that the Germans were reporting on us, then why wasn’t the International Department of the Central Committee cleaned out? Why didn’t the military take more robust measures to prevent Gorbachev from coming to power? My own feeling is that they could not possibly have realized what they were getting themselves into. They could not possibly have thought that Gorbachev was—this is a question to you, it is my own feeling, but I am wondering, why wasn’t there a more robust effort to prevent Gorbachev from coming to power? Because he moved so quickly [… ]

58Levesque: Or to stop him afterwards.

59Dawisha: Yes, he moved really very quickly once he came to power. I do not think it was only in September 1988 that it was clear. I think, you know, the “bleeding wound of Afghanistan,” it was there in 1985. The words that he was saying about military spending, it was a hit to the military, to the real ideological state, right-wing core of that regime in the very first five or six months. The question that I have really is: Did the—if I can call you this—the reformers, the liberals in the party, know themselves about Gorbachev? Did you have meetings with Gorbachev? Did he seek you out, or did he keep his own counsel? I ask this because in the documents that we had for previous conferences, on Afghanistan, for example, Gorbachev is pretty silent. I mean, it seems to me that he bided his time and he did not show his hand before he came to power. So what was your assessment of Gorbachev?

60Chernyaev: I will try to clarify the situation with Gorbachev. When Gorbachev turned up in Moscow as the secretary for agriculture, and as soon as he made himself known to some degree as a new member of the leadership, the people in the apparatus of the Central Committee noticed him immediately. Georgy and I were present at sessions of the Secretariat, sometimes at Politburo sessions. At the Secretariat sessions we were present as deputies of the heads of the international departments. And we saw how great was the difference in conducting the Secretariat sessions between Suslov, or Kirilenko, and when Gorbachev took the reins when they were absent. It was a completely different style. There was a desire to consult, to discuss issues, to invite experts, to make decisions on the basis of some elementary analysis. And there was a very strict lack of tolerance toward disorderliness, idleness, toward irresponsibility in regard to the implementation of the decisions that had been made—a very tough attitude. It was surprising that the toughness was in the words, but no “organizational conclusions,” as we used to say, were made. That weakness of Gorbachev came out later, when Gorbachev became the chief—the general secretary.

61Now, as soon as Gorbachev turned up in Moscow he began to gather around himself people who were capable of independent thinking. Mostly these were people from the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations: [Nikolay] Inozemtsev, [Georgy] Arbatov, Yakovlev, of course, [Vadim] Medvedev in the first stage, who now is considered a retrograde by our public opinion, but he played a big, positive role at certain times. We can name several other people. In short, Gorbachev wanted a real analysis of the situation, both the internal and international situation. Inozemtsev, we should give him his due, sometimes even took risks in his courage and directness—he took risks even under Brezhnev, and of course later when he joined the Gorbachev team. He dared to speak up even at a Plenum of the Central Committee. He gave them a realistic picture of what was happening in the West, and how we, the Soviet Union, really looked in comparison with the West. And his audience, the members of the Central Committee were blindfolded by the ideology, absolutely conservative people. They did not want to hear his report. Inozemtsev was driven off the podium. Gorbachev gave him the floor on purpose; he told him earlier that he would have to speak. It was very rare that a scholar was given the floor at a Plenum of the Central Committee. As a rule, the speakers were secretaries of regional committees, and here they had a scholar on the podium who dared to lecture them, telling them how to live, telling them about what is happening in the world, and in our country, as if they did not know better! That was outrageous.

62Gorbachev not only demonstrated that he wanted to associate with new people who were capable of independent thinking, he really wanted to know what was going on in the world, and in our country. So Gorbachev had an internal impulse. He came from Stavropol already convinced that we could not live like that any longer. That was his famous phrase. Even as a secretary of the Regional Committee, he understood that. When he attempted to do some unusual things in his region, some innovations, and was immediately rebuffed from Moscow, either his financing was removed or he was reprimanded. He understood that the system did not allow innovations or changes even at the local level. He was ready for changes. That is why he acted like this. Sometimes our guys would come from the Politburo sessions and say, “He is quite impudent, he says such things that one gets sick from hearing them!”—from their point of view, the nomenklatura.

63In short, it was clear that he was a new person in the CPSU leadership, and he raised hopes among us, in the apparatus, among the Moscow intelligentsia, even before he became general secretary. This is undoubtedly so. Now, did his colleagues—and you mentioned the military—see the danger that such a person would come and start changing everything and that we would be in trouble, and the country, as they understood it, would be in trouble? As far as the military was concerned, gentlemen, I have to tell you this. There was no opposition, at least more or less organized, even at the tables with drinks. On the part of generals and colonels, there was no opposition, and there could not have been any in the Soviet system.

64The general secretary for the generals was God, the Czar, the Chief, and the highest authority. The party was master of the situation. If any general dared to say anything like what Chernyaev or Shakhnazarov discussed with the Italians, or among themselves, he would lose his post the very next day—and they all knew it very well. It was a strictly disciplined cohort of people who were brought up in the party spirit. However, tradition was at work here also: in the Czarist Army officers and generals, even if they did not agree with something, kept it to themselves—the oath of allegiance was above everything else. Therefore, until glasnost did its work, until the really crucial changes had begun and the society felt that it was now allowed to organize opposition and to criticize the general secretary and to do it publicly—up until that time the generals were silent and stood at attention.

65They soon began to grumble among themselves, to vent their dissatisfaction. But to think that generals could have any influence on any kind of changes in the party leadership, not to allow somebody, or to recommend somebody else instead of Gorbachev—it would have been a completely senseless business. It was absolutely impossible in our system up until a certain moment, approximately before 1989, when the socialist system began to fall apart, and when the issue of troop withdrawal was raised. I think I have responded to all your questions and doubts.

66Shakhnazarov: I would like to add to the response to Karen’s question. This question represents the essence of our entire meeting because we want to find the roots of the new thinking. To the question about the Italians, I responded that the roots were in our country, not in Italy, not elsewhere. I would say the same to Karen’s question. We came to these reforms through our suffering, ourselves. There was a growing understanding in our society that we could not live like this any longer, that it was abnormal. And, therefore, that understanding went through several stages. When I said that it began with Khrushchev—yes, it did begin with Khrushchev—but it began even before Khrushchev. Professor Liberman, before he had the opportunity to publish in a newspaper, wrote letters to the Central Committee proposing a reform of the economic system, because all literate, intelligent economists saw that the system was not competitive. Not that it was bad in principle—it is capable of producing good results with large effort, but it is simply not competitive. They saw that. They moved by the method of trial and failure.

67If the West had given a better response to Khrushchev’s proposals, then the process probably could have begun then. And then later, as you know, there were several attempts to undertake reforms. [Alexey] Kosygin was nurturing the idea of reforms, even Brezhnev was ready for them. I remember, one time we were sitting in Zavidovo discussing international affairs, and along with that, on Brezhnev’s initiative, discussing the need to hold a Plenum on economic reform. Then later Brezhnev changed his mind. He was no reformer in this sense, he did not want to change anything, he did not want any complications, and he rejected the idea. Therefore, Gorbachev grew on this wave of reforms, of reform ideas, which had been maturing for a long time in our society.

68Now let me say about Gorbachev as a person. I would like to remind you, if we put the purely political issues aside for a moment, that there are a number of well-known novels in which authors present perspectives of emergence and consolidation of totalitarian societies in our world. One of these novels is [Evgenii] Zamyatin’s We, another—Orwell’s 1984. In all these novels totalitarian society breaks down only when there emerges a man who is capable of standing up against that society, that system. Gorbachev became such a person for us because our system could only be reformed from the top down. Only Emperor Alexander II could reform the system of serfdom. Only the general secretary of the Central Committee could reform our system because he had the resources that nobody else had. The system would have broken anybody else. But he broke the system down.

69Therefore, what do we have? We had many people who understood very well that something had to be done, that we could not carry on like this any longer. They wrote memos, they wrote letters, they published in the press, they used Aesopian language. Writers wrote novels, in which they concealed all this. Everything was clear. But nothing could be done before he emerged—the savior, who snuck through, or maybe life itself led him through to the very top. He became general secretary, and he began to reform the system from the top down. This is how I see all this.

70And the last point. When he found himself in that position—Karen, you asked a fair question—why there was no resistance on the part of the conservatives? Did they just keep their mouths shut, and accepted everything? At first, everybody wanted change, and everybody thought that it would be the strengthening of socialism, improvement, democratization, but in principle, the Soviet Union would continue to be a great power. Therefore, the Politburo, science, public opinion, the military, directors of enterprises—everybody supported Gorbachev, unanimously. Everybody thought that he would do what was necessary. Ligachev, who was invited to this conference, but who unfortunately did not come, writes about it in his book. He said that up until 1989 we all supported Gorbachev, we all thought that everything was going as it should. This is true.

  • 5 June 28-July 1, 1988.

71And then there emerged Nina Andreyeva, others emerged too, who began to see that the process was not just about an improvement of the system, but it might be moving toward undermining the system as it existed. And from that time on, we saw fears and direct obstructionism. Then what happens later? When you say that there was no resistance on the part of the conservative forces—this is not true. It was precisely that resistance that knocked Gorbachev down after the 19th Party Conference.5 Because he would make a decision, we would meet in sessions every day, work on documents week after week, design some very important measures—and nothing got done. Days come and go, and nothing changes in real life. Obstruction. The party that was losing power did not want to implement those measures. And the apparatchiks could not think about anything else other than saving their own skin, and about where to find a place for themselves. The military began to express their dissatisfaction, but they were afraid.

72As a result, all this led to the outcome where the general secretary found himself powerless. And the last blow against him was delivered by the democrats led by Yeltsin, who turned Russia against the Soviet Union. This is how I see it. Therefore, I share the opinion that has been expressed here, that the 19th Party Conference was the decisive turning point, because for the first time it clearly outlined our goals of civil society, a lawful state, democratization of the country, economic reform [… ]

73Chernyaev: [And getting rid of the] Party monopoly.

74Shakhnazarov: Political reform, just short of the word “private property;” the Conference had just about everything else. And why did the Conference pass that? Because many people simply did not understand what they were talking about. Let us take “civil society.” What is civil society? Even if we started to discuss this issue right now at this table, we would not be able to come to any definition. Lawful state, what is that?—A state where one is supposed to abide by the law. Didn’t we have that before? My lawyers were saying all the time, “socialist legality, legitimacy.” It means there must be law there. Therefore, first of all, they did not understand what it was all about, and then, secondly, in the beginning everybody was afraid. Anatoly Sergeyevich was right: the general secretary occupied a position like that of the Russian emperor. The emperor is a person who is given to the country by God. Therefore, everybody must listen to him, no questions permitted. I think, Karen, you are absolutely right in asking this question. The key here is that our society nurtured the need for reform inside itself. And this is very good, because it proves that no totalitarian society can last forever, that sooner or later it will be undermined from the inside. Although external influences, of course, are important also, they help internal forces in some way. But if there are no internal forces, nothing will happen.

75Blanton: Doug, did you want to add something here?

76MacEachin: Just a bit of clarification. What I was describing earlier [the debate in Washington over whether Gorbachev’s changes were real] began to be prominent about 1986, by April, which was almost exactly one year after Gorbachev took over the party leadership. The argument about the implications of the new thinking was of sufficient intensity to have been the subject of written “bullets” that were exchanged. This was one of those cases where the existence of an argument that says “it is not significant” is probably the most powerful argument that it is significant. And I think you know what I am saying. There was enough of an argument that said “it is really just a process that in the end would not change anything,” to indicate that everybody, or at least a lot of people, saw that it had potentially major implications for the whole security and geostrategic picture.

77When I talked about 1988, it was after the 19th Party Conference, and then in the period after that, in September, when the major restructuring took place. The difference then was, I think, that before that happened there was still room for those who wanted to disparage the implications of events in the USSR to make their arguments. Whether you believed it or not, they had room to argue that “that’s all right, it will eventually drift back to the Brezhnev-style system.” But I think that after the end of 1988, no matter what your slant, you could not very well argue that some major lines had not been crossed, or that the future did not look like it was going to be a very tumultuous few years. You could not very well argue that it was just talk and political rhetoric, which could easily erode back to what it had been before. So that is the distinction that I was making with 1988. If there was a Rubicon, I would argue that it was about at that time.

78Matlock: Among senior American officials, I probably recognized earlier than most how serious the potential was for change in Soviet policies. What we could not predict, and I suspect Soviet officials could not either at that time, was how Gorbachev would react when the inevitable difficulties began to develop. It was very clear to us that perestroika was not going to be an easy process, and the more serious Gorbachev was about political reform, the more opposition there would be.

79Second, most of us, even the ones who were convinced that this was a very serious change, were doubtful that one could change the Soviet economic system incrementally. The whole system was designed to avoid market relations, to make them impossible. Now, how one changes that incrementally, we could not see. Therefore, we were in a position of saying: look, we do not think this is going to improve economic performance. If Gorbachev persists, it will mean that he believes he can control this process. But if he proceeds the way he says, he probably cannot control the process. When he realizes he cannot control it, will he revert to the old methods? Or will he let matters pass beyond the point that the old methods will no longer be effective?

80That was the big question in our minds, at least in the minds of those who were convinced that perestroika was genuine and dedicated to profound change. We knew that Gorbachev was a forceful person and very bright. We could not believe that if it really came to letting political reform get out of control, he would not clamp down and use force. The surprise to us was, as he increasingly demonstrated, first in 1989 in Eastern Europe, and then in regard to the Soviet Union itself, that he was not willing to use force to keep the system in power, or even to keep himself in power. That was the big surprise, and the unpredictable part. I would be interested in the comments of our Russian colleagues regarding their thoughts at the time and whether it was valid for us to keep a question in our minds as to how far Gorbachev would let the reform process go.

81Levesque: I think this is a very central question, indeed. When perestroika developed, everyone was convinced that there would be a limit to change at a certain point in time, but not only in the United States, and the U.S. government, but in Eastern Europe, for instance. Those reformist leaders were convinced that there were limits to change that could be introduced, but that these limits were never clarified, and they seemed to be expanding all the time. And finally, we all discovered that there was no limit at all, to the great surprise of everyone. But even those reformers in Eastern Europe were saying that if there were these limits, they were not quite clear about them, and they were always trying to identify them. And each time we set a given limit, in a hypothetical way, it kept withdrawing. So, that is one of the big mysteries of the whole process.

82My follow-up question to Jack: Is it your belief that in Gorbachev’s mind, at some point in time, there were some limits, but that he had to withdraw them progressively? And in your own mind, from the beginning, were there some limits that you saw in the process that was going on?

83Chernyaev: I will try to give you some logic of the evolution of Gorbachev’s ideas, and, subsequently, the policy. It is an absolute mistake to think that the new thinking of 1985 and the new thinking of 1990 were the same thing. It was not like the new thinking emerged in Gorbachev’s head, and then he just followed that scheme moving the society along, and building his policy. Nothing like that. Elements of new thinking had been accumulating, and each element had been developing internally. Everything began with the idea of improvement of socialism, from appealing back to Lenin’s NEP [New Economic Policy], from the efforts to understand what Lenin had said before he died, and that which was interpreted incorrectly and subsequently smothered by Stalin. And had he not smothered it, everything would have been different in our country.

84He [Gorbachev] thoroughly read all the Congresses and the Plenums of Lenin’s time, of the end of 1919, 1920, and 1921. And he was not doing it just to preserve the image of a Marxist-Leninist leader, of a leader loyal to the ideology. In his heart, he wanted to understand the capacity of Soviet society, the possibility of reforming it. You probably know from his memoirs, he said, “Why did Khrushchev’s reforms fail? Why did Kosygin’s reforms fail? Because they did not touch the system. They were doomed to failure.” And for the first three or four years he was convinced that we should not touch the system, that we would not go beyond the limits of socialism.

  • 6 A village on the southern tip of the Crimean peninsula where a government dacha was located. The S (...)

85Twice—in 1989 and in 1990 (I wrote about it in my books)—when we went to Foros6 on vacation, he called me up on the very first day and said, “Tolya, let us write an article on ‘socialism and the Market’.” He was saying that the opposition was growing from the basis that he was abandoning socialism. “I have to prove to them that socialism includes the Market.” Similar to what Jack was saying here, “Market yes, private property no.”

86He spoke about some approaches, some approximations, like cooperation and leasing, but to state that private property was sacred—that he could not allow himself to do because of ideological considerations. And, by the way, it was also his personal conviction, i.e. he stood on this position not only because he was afraid that they would tear him to pieces for, essentially, returning capitalism into the Soviet system.

87These two elements were constantly struggling inside him. He believed in the possibility of reforming socialism up until the very end, until everything began to fall apart. He believed that socialism could be improved, that it could be made socialism with a human face, even better than Dubček’s in 1968. This is just one side of the issue.

88There was also another side. It shows that he genuinely counted on an internal reform of socialism. That is why he held on to the party, counting on Lenin’s famous idea that in our situation only the party could be the leader, only the party could direct everything, and change society.

89He was trying to turn the party into a vanguard of perestroika. That was an absolutely dumb, excuse me, idea, from the very beginning. I was deeply convinced that it was—maybe my colleagues will not agree with me—because the party did not exist as a public or even as a political organization for a long time. There were 20 million party members, but in essence it was represented by the nomenklatura, comprising maybe several hundred thousand members—the party bureaucrats.

90That party was designed for the administration and management of Soviet society. But such a party was not capable of changing the system, under which it enjoyed at least some negligible privileges, if you compare them now with the privileges that the “democrats” enjoy. It was incapable, but Gorbachev held on to it until the last moment.

91Yakovlev and others suggested that he should have split the party already in 1988, even at the beginning of 1988. Gorbachev understood long ago that something was wrong with the party. This is why the famous Plenum of January 1987 was designed as an internal stimulus to start the party reform, to move it. He understood that it was the source of resistance, the nomenklatura. That is why he put the issue about reform of the political system so sharply.

92And Jack is quite right about it—the economy could not turn into a market economy within the framework of our socialism. And when they began to introduce market elements, when they began to cut off pieces from our planned economic system, which was built according to a scheme, piece by piece—a system where, as Gorbachev liked to say, when they needed to build a latrine in a village 100 kilometers from Orenburg they had to ask Moscow for permission—once that system was slightly pricked, it immediately began to fall to pieces. It was a monolith that was built and then ossified over the decades. It was impossible to build a real market within that framework. And the party held that system together, it played the role of a carcass, of a binding force.

93Gorbachev understood that the party needed change. But he still believed that it was possible to turn at least a part of that party into his base. And I think that this, along with the nationalities issue, was Gorbachev’s major mistake that led to the failure—precisely that he held on to the party up to the very last moment. He was trying to change it, but still he was holding on to it. Moreover, even when he understood that it had already turned into an opposition force, he held on to the position of general secretary. We were telling him, “Why are you holding on to this business? Quit the party, and then some healthy part of it will pull itself toward you, and then you will have a public organization of your own, your base. Otherwise you will find yourself alone. The intelligentsia is beginning to feel disillusioned, they think that you are slowing down.” And it was the major force.

94Shakhnazarov: He had a chance to take the position that was later taken by Yeltsin.

95Chernyaev: Yes, that is true. We were telling him to resign, to leave his position. But he said no. He told me directly, “If I release the chain by which I am holding this monster, using the position of general secretary—the influence of the image of general secretary, the inertia of it—if I break this chain, this monster will overthrow me the very next day. I control it by this chain.” It was a puzzle for us.

96We think it was a mistake. However, he thinks that we did not understand anything, and that that was the only way. Such was the logic of developments. It was present in those articles about socialism and the market that he attempted to write three times (one of them was published)—and, by the way, he was preparing to write another one on the same topic right before the putsch, in Foros, along with the draft of the Union Treaty that Georgy was in charge of. However, I have to mention that, essentially, by that time in his conception of socialism, all the main elements of it had been emasculated, and only the form remained. There was nothing left there from our classic Soviet socialism, to which we were accustomed, and which we, excuse me, had built [laughter]. These were the limits.

97Blanton: Were there limits?

98Shakhnazarov: I would like to state that I completely agree with everything that Anatoly Sergeyevich has just said. I would not even take the floor to add anything to it, except for his last phrase. Why? Because when we are talking about socialism we need to define what we have in mind. Gorbachev meant everything good and healthy that was in our system. And there were elements that are now present in many countries and that are not called socialism. I think that here, in the United States, there are may social elements that are very visible. Another example—[Yasuhiro] Nakasone, a well-known prime minister, thought that Japan was half-socialist, and he wrote about it.

99In other words, if you do not take the stiff model that developed in our country as the example, but if you take what we have now lost, or are in the process of losing—free health care, free public education, the large network of institutions that were designed to take care of people, and which are being missed now, including the resort facilities, sanatoriums, day care facilities, nurseries, and so on—we are longing for these now. We should have preserved all of them. That is also socialism. You do not have to use the word “socialism,” you can call it “public capitalism,” or you can call it anything else. This is what Gorbachev wanted to preserve.

100Roughly speaking, the main task was to ennoble that society, and to link the social benefits with genuine democracy. And I believe that it was our blunder that we thought that it would be rather easy to do. All rights and political freedoms were written down in our Constitution. Therefore, we should have just brought real life into alignment with the Constitution.

101When somebody asks, what was Gorbachev’s main mistake, I have a standard answer: I say that he made two mistakes, or that he can be blamed for two things. First of all, that he brought political freedom to our country. And second, that he did not abandon that freedom when they began to use it to destroy the state.

102On other issues I completely agree with Anatoly Sergeyevich. But I would emphasize that the idea of socialism is alive, it will live forever, and moreover, I believe that the future belongs to socialism. The open question is whether we will be able to combine the idea of equality with the idea of freedom. During the time of the French Revolution they had an easy solution—they just proclaimed equality and freedom. You and I, however, live in a century when it became clear that those two ideas were mutually exclusive, and that it was very difficult to implement them both. One can say that we broke our necks when we tried to do it the easy way.

103Zubok: I would like to ask you, our Russian participants, to return to the question that was posed. It seems that Gorbachev never raised the issue of limits—that we cannot go any further, otherwise we will die as a great power, otherwise we will lose our spheres of influence in Eastern Europe: those issues that Professor Levesque has called the limits, the line that could not have been crossed. Sometimes Gorbachev spoke at Politburo sessions like a statist. But did you have the impression that he did not even think about that, that if the Soviet Union undertook those reforms it could cease to be a great power, it would lose its geo-strategic, geopolitical sphere of influence in Europe?

104Chernyaev: Gorbachev developed ideas that were completely different from his predecessors about what the Soviet Union was as a great power. Our previous leaders associated that primarily with military might, with political and military influence over a great territory, not only of Eastern Europe, but of other continents as well, in opposition to another great power, which you represent here.

105And if you presented Gorbachev with the question: would you sacrifice the freedom that you had given to the countries of Eastern Europe, to your colleagues—in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere—in the name of preserving the imperial image, and of great power status in the old Soviet meaning of the word, he would say that the question for him was absurd. He would say that he told the general secretaries from the very beginning that they were responsible for their policy only to their own peoples, to their parties. That conversation happened right after [Konstantin] Chernenko’s funeral. Literally, on the next day, he gathered all of them in his office in the Kremlin, and told them that from then on there was no more Brezhnev Doctrine, that kindergarten was over. “Where you go, how you get there—that is your business, I will not interfere. I will not interfere even when you ask me for it.” And he carried it through to the end. They made efforts to ask for it. Not directly, but sometimes through his colleagues, through the apparatus, through the nomenklatura. They tried to appeal when they understood that the Soviet props to their regime had disappeared, when they got scared for their seats. Therefore, he did not have a problem there.

106However, he did have some illusions. He believed that if he gave freedom to the countries of Eastern Europe, then they would choose to follow perestroika and socialism with a human face. There we see the illusions, or a lack of understanding, maybe even a lack of knowledge about the depth of all the processes that were underway in our relations. They had chosen something completely different—not socialism with a human face. Moreover, they turned away from us. Somewhere in his heart, he had some instinctive understanding of that turn of events.

  • 7 The meeting in question was almost certainly June 14, 1989, in Bonn; see Document No. 67

107I remember one conversation with him when we were in Kiev on the occasion of Gorbachev’s meeting with Helmut Kohl, it was in the summer of 1990.7 On the way back [Yuli] Kvitsinsky, [Vitaly] Ignatenko, and I were in Mikhail Ser-geyevich’s cabin on the plane. We touched upon Eastern Europe, and he said, “We are pretty tired of them, and they are tired of us. So let us be patient. Some people constantly push me, demand that I give them orders, advice—to Honecker, for example.” It was after the conversation with Kohl, who complained about Honecker to Gorbachev, that he did not want to undertake anything, that he was hurting himself. Gorbachev said, “I said no! Let them deal with each other independently.”

108And even as far as the economy was concerned—nothing like that. They switched to hard currency. That undermined our economic relations. We immediately turned from being creditors to being debtors of our allies. I would not say that it was a conscious policy of the “dismissal of the empire,” as Gorbachev sometimes used to say. It was a natural and logical consequence of his position—since we were introducing freedom in our country, we would hold to the same principle as far as our allies and all other states were concerned. We will not interfere in their internal affairs. Let them decide how to build relations with us in the future.

109Gorbachev underestimated the fact that the forces of good were not very strong in the world yet. The geopolitical conceptions, and the rules of the game were still being built on the basis of evil, on the basis of a crude egoistic model of development. He had some illusions and some romanticism about that. But he never regretted doing it that way. When he is asked: how come you gave away Bulgaria, East Germany, etc., he responds: “Gave away? To whom? Poland—to the Poles. Bulgaria—to the Bulgarians. Czechoslovakia—to the Czechs and the Slovaks. Who did I give it away to? You have no right even to pose this question.” I hope, Vlad Zubok, that I have clarified some things. He had absolutely no problems with it. And no regrets. There was some frustration because they turned away from us.

  • 8 Nina Andreyeva, a teacher from Leningrad, wrote a letter critical of Gorbachev’s educational refor (...)

110Shakhnazarov: I would like to add from documents to what Anatoly Sergeyevich has just said. When I became his assistant, we traveled to all the socialist countries beginning in March [1988]. First of all, we went to Yugoslavia. There, on the plane, I informed him about Nina Andreyeva’s article. He did not know about it yet. It was on March 14.8 […]

111I traveled with him to all the countries except for Poland. I was sick then, and Anatoly Sergeyevich went to Poland. And we had our first conversation in Belgrade, with the chairman of the Presidium of Yugoslavia, [Lazar] Mojsov. Gorbachev told him, “No one can impose anything on anyone. We have common socialist ideals, a common heritage in the classics of Marxism, but each party develops this heritage through its own experience, its traditions, and the consideration of its international position. As for big and small states, I said in my talk with Reagan: today neither the USSR nor the U.S. can impose its will on any country.”—I would question that—“They could pressure them, but not impose their will.” The world is different now, each state strives to determine its fate independently, and we must take that into account. Of course, the major powers carry more responsibility than the smaller countries. But they must not crush the rights of others. I can tell you that this was his absolute conviction from the very beginning. That was clear on the second day, or within a couple of days after he was elected general secretary.

  • 9 The CC CPSU’s Department of Relations with the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Socialist Countri (...)

112In our Department,9 where I was deputy director and in charge of relations with Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the GDR, there was First Deputy [Oleg] Ra-khmanin. He was an expert on China, and a very good, knowledgeable, expert. He translated Khrushchev’s conversation with Mao Zedong. He was a very conservative person, a very strong fundamentalist. He decided, like many other people, that Gorbachev’s coming to power meant the end to stagnation—when we had our weak, old, senile general secretaries—that now we had a strong young man who would discipline the socialist camp because it had become very disorderly: [János] Kádár was doing whatever he wanted; Honecker was hiding some things from us, making deals with West Germany, trading with them, accepting loans, letting people travel; [Nicolae] Ceauşescu was doing nobody-knew-what; the Poles flirted with the Americans and planned to purchase Boeings instead of our airplanes.

113In other words, he thought, it was time to call them to order. So he published two articles in Pravda, and they were received as a reinstatement of the Brezhnev Doctrine. (Even though the Brezhnev Doctrine had never been published anywhere, we thought that there was such a doctrine.) We immediately began to receive a huge number of responses to those articles. First of all, our liberal-minded friends called us, followed by official phone calls—“Is this really the official point of view of the new leadership? If so, it is a scandal. Where are we going?”

  • 10 Rakhmanin published the articles under the pseudonym “Vladimirov.” See Document No. 2 for a relate (...)

114When Gorbachev found out about it, he was mad.10 I was told—I was not his assistant yet at that time—that he was throwing papers around in a style very uncharacteristic of him, and saying, “What is happening here? Why are they portraying me as some kind of monster who has come to power?” He gave instructions to send out telegrams with explanations of our position, that the article was wrong, that we respected the rights of the socialist countries, that there would be more freedom and democracy, mutual consultation. Some time after that Rakhmanin was sacked, removed from the apparatus. Therefore, from this point of view, there could not be any doubts regarding his position, from the very beginning, that there should be normal relations, and there was no thought at all about keeping that conglomerate which we called the socialist commonwealth together by any means.

115At the same time, it would be a mistake, and even an underestimation of Gorbachev if we think that this man, to whom destiny had given the reins of this huge empire, had an attitude of “you can go now, we do not need you any more.” Of course not. In his own way, he wanted to preserve that big commonwealth, which would be built anew on a new basis. As a statist, he understood that the Soviet Union needed a belt of friendly states along its borders. He believed that an alliance was necessary, a military and a political alliance, as long as international relations were like they were at the time. He was a statist. But at the same time, it was not his main priority, he did not want to hold it together by violent means, just as he did not want to hold the Soviet Union together by violent means. This is very important.

  • 11 The Vendee was an area of major counter-revolutionary activity in France in the 1790s.

116And now regarding the issue of how far he could go, as Vlad asked. This is what I can say: on some issues he is still undecided. For instance, let us take the issue of private property on land, up to and including buying and selling land. I can tell you that I belong to a group of people who think that under our [current] Russian conditions, it would lead to big trouble if land could be bought and sold freely now because many agricultural enterprises which might not be the most profitable are going under before our eyes, and the land is falling into the hands of speculators. This means that our peasants could go bankrupt very quickly, lose that land, and subsequently that a multi-million-person crowd would flood the job market. That would create great pressure on the political system, up to peasant riots, a “Vendee,”11 revolutions, you name it.

117Therefore, one has to be very careful with this. Our current leaders do not understand it. Russia is not like Poland with stable farming traditions, and private farms. Gorbachev once told me personally—and I think he said the same thing to Anatoly many times—he said, “You know, Georgy, you all think that I have some sort of ideological brakes that would stop me at some point. Nothing like that. I can go as far as the situation demands.” And his goal was to let the country, the people, live better. “So, if they prove that private property would help, we will introduce private property.” But he had to be convinced that it was so.

118Chernyaev: On Gorbachev and ideology. He even managed to quote Lenin in his attitude toward ideology. He used to say “Remember what Lenin said, that he would not stop before any ideological taboos, that he would discard them and decide the issues on the basis of common sense.” He managed to find those quotes. And he actually acted on them.

  • 12 This is the date of the Politburo’s discussion. See Document No. 16.

119Now, as an illustration of what Georgy was talking about, about his attitude to our allies, here is a Politburo discussion of [Nikolay] Ryzhkov’s conversation with [Lubomír] Štrougal—he was prime minister of Czechoslovakia then. It was November 19, 1987.12

120Ryzhkov was sharing his impressions […] He said that Czechoslovakia was pregnant with change, according to Štrougal. Štrougal said to Ryzhkov that we should have begun the reform in the 1970s. He also said that if they started perestroika in their country the results would be visible faster than in any other country. Gorbachev comments, “Yes, it is a cultured country. And that means a lot. That is what we are lacking here.”

121Ryzhkov informs the Politburo about Štrougal’s anxiety about the forthcoming Plenum of the Central Committee, that he expects some serious struggle, and that such struggle could be very dangerous in the situation of transition. Gorbachev says, “We should meet this cultured government halfway. Our line will be: to participate in the discussion of everything in a friendly manner. But only they must make the decisions. If the question of distributing posts there arises, let them think through everything themselves and decide […] God forbid we go to them with our own jumble of thoughts on the theme of their perestroika. It could destroy everything.”

122Ryzhkov reminds the audience that we had a cautious attitude to Štrougal in our leadership, who was not very pure ideologically. Gorbachev comments, “Štrougal is a good prime minister, but it is unlikely that he would be able to unite the leadership as a general secretary. The split there is coming from [Vasíl] Bil’ak. I hinted at this to him.” Then Ryzhkov said, “Against the background of the other socialist countries’ prime ministers, Štrougal stands above everyone.” Gorbachev again says, “Make sure you do not interfere in their affairs under any conditions, even if they ask you about it.” [Laughter]

123Oleg Skvortsov: I would like to move back to the agenda, because during the first session we discussed issues that were quite removed from what we mentioned in the agenda. I would like to go to some specific issues that Gorbachev had to face when he came to power in 1985. I believe there was a complex of problems that we can mention now. To start with, it should be noted that by the mid-1980s we had a coalition of all the most developed industrial countries against the Soviet Union, and also, we lost China. So we saw a ring of enemies around the country.

124The second factor that influenced Gorbachev’s decisions in 1985 was the technological backwardness of the Soviet Union. We were lagging behind all the industrialized countries of the West. As you know, starting in the 1970s, there was a microchip-computer revolution in the West, new technologies.

125The third set of problems, and we are going to touch upon that later, consisted of the internal policy issues in the Soviet Union. Those were also very difficult, sometimes intractable, issues for the new leadership. Subsequently, when I am through with this thought, I will have a follow-up question to our veterans: do you believe that the situation in place in 1985, by the time Gorbachev came to power, do you think it was intractable, and the fall of the Soviet Union six years later was inevitable? Because, in my opinion, there were more difficult situations in the history of Russia, and Russia was able to overcome those previous crises with better results, or at least it remained intact. That would be my question to you.

126But before that, I would like to go back to Eastern Europe. Of course, we are thinking about the impact of the new ideas on Eastern Europe, but we forget the issue of how Eastern European parties were formed. The leaders of those countries had to become more nationalistic in their behavior to ensure that they remained in power in the Eastern European countries. The next step after that—after they would become more nationalistic, more independent of the CPSU, would be to push for liberalization. And that was a step toward their own fall. So for them it was a vicious circle. Was the Soviet Union in a position to influence these policies, in this situation? […]

127As for the election of Gorbachev in 1985, in my opinion this was forced on the Politburo by the situation, because there was no alternative. Here our Western participants tend to forget about it, and do not ask this question. I think that when [Yurii] Andropov died, Gorbachev had a chance to become general secretary. But he was not elected, and that was not because the Brezhnev-Chernenko clan had won, but because they wanted more time to make a judgment about whether Gorbachev would be appropriate for them, or whether they could find somebody else to reform the country differently. Because they saw both his strengths and his weaknesses, which you know very well—the fact that he came from Stavropol, that it was not the most difficult region, that he did not know the economy very well, did not know other problems. That made them extremely cautious. Therefore, they needed a pause, in my view. That year, and then a year-and-a-half passed, and there were no other candidates.

  • 13 See Document No. 43.

128Therefore, Gorbachev was chosen as a matter of necessity. In my view, we should not underestimate this, because it is a very important factor. And to conclude, I would like to return to my question: Were those problems so unsolvable that from March 1985 to December 1991, in just six years, we lost everything that we had? Like a company that went bankrupt instead of selling some of its assets and making a profit while preserving the rest, we had totally liquidated our company. Mr. Matlock put it very well in his cable about the procedure “Chapter 11,” about bankruptcy in the United States which the Soviet Union had now de-clared.13

129Vilém Prečan: Only one remark. When Gorbachev told the Czechoslovak leadership, “it is up to you,” in 1987, it meant a message to the Czechoslovak society that there is no hope, because the Soviet Union under Brezhnev gave all the power to [Gustáv] Husák, Bil’ak, and others, who were so powerful. So, in 1987, it was like cynicism, this message. But later, two years later, in 1989, they did not get any help from Gorbachev when the people turned their back to the leadership under [Miloš] Jakeš. So, it developed positively. But I remember in the summer of 1989, there was the big question—how far? Where is Gorbachev’s limit? How far can we go without Soviet interference? Because the memory of 1968 was deep in everybody who was over 30.

130Andrzej Paczkowski: I have some questions to Mr. Chernyaev only. The first is: if I understand correctly, you were with Gorbachev in Poland in July 1988. And many Polish analysts, of the opposition bloc of today, thought that during Gorbachev-[Wojciech] Jaruzelski meetings, Gorbachev pushed Jaruzelski to reform Poland. But until now, we have no evidence from those meetings, only very formal information given by Jaruzelski to the members of the [Polish] Politburo. But very general. My question is: Are those analysts correct that Gorbachev pushed Jaruzelski to reform Poland? And my second question is: Was there any influence from the Polish events on the Soviet political elite in the mid-1980s? Especially, I am thinking about the debate which took place in the Polish Communist Party in the autumn of 1987. There was a very long memorandum from [Mieczyslaw] Rakowski to Jaruzelski in which Rakowski wrote that real socialism had lost all creative possibilities; it is necessary to recognize the opposition in Poland. And a big part for the free market in Poland is necessary. My question is: Were those thoughts known by the Soviet elite—that memorandum, and other papers—or did they exist only in Polish political circles?

131Chernyaev: Georgy will respond to the second question, because he was involved in those issues in the Central Committee. But because I substituted for him during Gorbachev’s visit to Poland, that you mentioned, I can give you my testimony that there were no attempts to teach Jaruzelski what he should do in Poland, whether he should accelerate the reforms, what kind of reforms, and how to do it—there was not even a hint. Gorbachev would not allow himself to act like that even with Honecker.

132One has to say that Jaruzelski enjoyed Gorbachev’s almost absolute trust and respect, as everybody knows. He thought that Jaruzelski was a man who was capable of gradually leading Poland out of a crisis and to normalcy, to preserve it as an ally, as a friendly state. And Gorbachev had no concerns about that as long as Jaruzelski was in power.

133Georgy can correct me, but I think that in his conversations with other Polish figures, Gorbachev always followed precisely the same line as far as Jaruzelski was concerned: the USSR approves of Jaruzelski, and we believe that you should approve of him too.

134To Rakowski he related with some doubt, but with great respect. Rakowski also was attracted to Gorbachev, and they had several conversations—Georgy can tell you about them. But also, there exist transcripts of those conversations, notes were taken by the interpreter, and sometimes they spoke Russian. It was written down in Polish, but there is also a Russian version, and we have it in our archive in the [Gorbachev] Foundation. There is not a hint, not a single line about it. So it is quite natural that you do not know anything about it—because there was nothing like that. [Laughter]

135Shakhnazarov: In our nomenklatura, in our apparatus of the Central Committee, Poland was seen as the pearl in the crown of the Russian empire. It always occupied the first place in all respects, and even at the party Congresses, when somebody needed to open the discussion, the floor usually went to Poland. During sessions of the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, a speech by our general secretary was always followed by a speech by a Pole. As far as the Polish leadership was concerned, you probably know that [Edward] Gierek was not chosen in Moscow. He was chosen by the Polish leadership. Moscow wanted to elect Jaruzelski, already then, ten years before everything happened.

136We had a head of a sector, whose name was Kustikov. He can testify that our leadership, especially our apparatus, believed that Jaruzelski was the most talented reform-minded representative of the Polish leadership. Later, I would like to join Anatoly Sergeyevich in saying, Jaruzelski enjoyed absolute respect and trust from our leadership as a cultured person, good leader, genuine Pole, and at the same time—a big friend of the Soviet Union. His unusual biography is proof to that. His father was killed in the Soviet Union. Jaruzelski himself defended Poland with the Soviet Army.

137Now, as far as Rakowski is concerned: of course, we knew about all the documents that were written by your leadership, there were a sufficient number of ways of getting them from Poland. Special services did their work, the intelligence, and there were also Poles who considered it their duty to pass along certain materials. Then it was not considered some kind of a betrayal of national interests, because we were a kind of single unit. We had a contradictory attitude towards Rakowski. In the Department (Otdel) of the Central Committee, where I worked and was in charge of Poland, in particular, there was a group of people, not a big one, who sympathized with Rakowski, and supported him from the very beginning. They tried to persuade others that he was the man on whom we should place our bets, or one of those on whom we can place our bets, who understands the real situation in Poland, and the dangers that popular movements represent, in particular, [the trade union] Solidarity.

138At the same time, there were many people opposed to him, who thought that even if he was not a straight-out traitor, then he still was from the liberal intelligentsia who could do great harm to our relations, and to the cause of socialism in Poland with his views. That was the prevailing attitude towards Rakowski in the Soviet leadership. I attended all the sessions of the special Commission on Poland of the Politburo, and I do not recall a single instance when Rakowski, or [Andrzej] Werblan, or any others like them—dissidents within the apparatus—were not criticized. We believed that those were the people who spoiled everything in Poland.

139That particular memorandum which you have mentioned met with expressed disapproval on our side. Our leadership was also very disturbed by Rakowski’s frequent and long statements in the press. He wrote long articles in which he deliberated about the future of socialism, Russian-Polish relations, and the like. Very often he expressed unorthodox ideas. Therefore, he was criticized in all respects, and there were even efforts, in the Brezhnev times, to put pressure on him in order to prevent him from making further statements. But later there was a turning point—sometime around the Polish crisis [of 1980-1981], our leadership understood that even such people could be useful, that we should not push them away. And then there was a breakthrough, and for the first time Rakowski became a member of the Central Committee, as you remember.

140Therefore, when you consider the situation as a whole, as we have done numerous times, with some of the people present here, and as we discussed it in Poland, I can only reiterate that of course we wanted to preserve Poland in the socialist commonwealth up until the time when its future itself was in question. We did everything that we could. But in the Commission on Poland all the discussions were concluded by statements to the effect that we should not put pressure on Poland, and that it was impossible to resolve anything there with force, that we had to reject that option once and forever—Beginning from Suslov, who was the first chairman of the Commission, then Andropov replaced him, then Chernenko, and then Gorbachev, under whom it was dissolved. All four chairmen began their work with the following statement: let us do everything possible to preserve Poland as an ally, but let us never allow even a thought of using force there, as it was in Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

141Suslov said openly, and he was the harshest person, the ideologue: “In the worst case, we will give up Poland; what can we do? We cannot fight for it, it is out of consideration.” But he also said that precisely because we could not fight for it we should create an impression, as much as possible, that we could do it. Because that was the only possibility for our side to keep the Poles from undertaking extreme steps, like leaving the Soviet bloc. That is why we undertook all kinds of propaganda actions and the like. And I can tell you honestly, I could even take an oath on the Bible, truth, only the truth, that our leadership excluded the possibility of, and would have never taken a decision to introduce, troops. Although of course, God directs us, nobody knows what could have happened in the end, if there were confrontations, provocations, if the troops had been pulled into the events automatically, and so on, and so forth.

142Paczkowski: Excuse me, when did that Commission of Poland finish its work? What year?

143Shakhnazarov: It was sometime in 1988, or even in 1989. It was formally disbanded but in reality it had ceased to exist before that; it did not convene for almost two years before that. Then they recalled that such a Commission existed, and the Central Committee made the decision to dissolve it. But I cannot tell you the exact date of that decision. It was some time in 1988. May be even in 1987.

144James Hershberg: Jack Matlock has conducted what he calls “an autopsy on an empire.” I am wondering if we are now almost in a position to complete the death certificate of the Brezhnev Doctrine, which until now has had an empty space next to the line for “time of death,” because there is an ongoing debate over whether the Brezhnev Doctrine was, as Georgy has suggested, already dead by the time of the Polish crisis of 1980 to 1981, or, as certainly most Americans did not believe it was dead, until the events of 1989 actually took place. And I would be interested if our Russian colleagues could inform us about how they saw the attitudes on the admissibility of forcible intervention in the allies develop. I want to point to a couple of documents.

  • 14 Document No. 29.

145Georgy Shakhnazarov’s notes for Gorbachev, for the Politburo meeting of October 6, 1988,14 include the passage that “When it came to a crisis in any of [the East European countries], we had to come to the rescue at the cost of huge material, political, and even human sacrifice. We should clearly see, moreover, that in the future any possibility to extinguish crises by military means must be fully excluded. Even the old leadership seems to have already realized this, at least with regard to Poland.” Mr. Chernyaev suggested that at the time of Chernenko’s funeral, Gorbachev told the East European communist leaders that kindergarten is over. Their countries’ fates are their responsibilities—implying that in the beginning of Gorbachev’s term already it was commonly understood that the Brezhnev Doctrine was dead.

  • 15 Document No. 45.

146And yet on the American side, even in Jack Matlock’s cable of February 1989,15 he had advanced so far as to say that the Soviet Union “might well refrain” from using force in Eastern Europe, so long as there was no serious attempt to leave the Warsaw Pact.

147So I am wondering, first, where do you see a commonly understood consensus in Moscow emerging that force cannot be used? Second, was this even in a case where a country might seriously attempt to leave the Warsaw Pact, or was that something that, as Jacques Levesque’s book suggested, was only conceded after the events of November 1989, or even possibly March 1990, when the GDR made clear its choice to join West Germany, and not maintain a separate existence. Third, how do you disentangle the sources for this evolution? Do you see it as, essentially, a moral, principled decision by Gorbachev that force is inadmissible? To what extent was it a pragmatic decision—that it would destroy perestroika internally? And different pragmatic reasons that it would destroy possibilities for relations with the West, from a positive standpoint.

148And also, to what extent did the fear of American sanctions, or Western sanctions, in the case of an intervention, and in particular, what effect if any did the Reagan administration sanctions, such as the limitations of the pipeline deal, aid to the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan—to what extent did they influence considerations as to the pragmatic costs of continuing the Brezhnev Doctrine? And I will just leave it there with one small addition to put on the table. Doug MacEachin mentioned April 1986. I have always wondered whether another event of April 1986—Chernobyl—was the first contingent, or unanticipated, event that forced Gorbachev to change his timetable, the first event that forced him to begin to lose control over the entire process of new thinking, reform, in many different aspects. And really, until that moment it was a process that he could control. From then on he progressively began to lose control.

149William Wohlforth: This is a pure addendum to Jim Hershberg’s question. I wish to add nothing of my own. I want only to clarify what we mean by the use of force. If by the use of force we mean the sending in of troops, their occupation of the country, their use of weapons, directly against demonstrators—that is one thing. But force is used if you deploy military forces, and you act as if you are willing to use it even if you, in your heart of hearts, are not. So that in effect the Soviet Union did use force in Poland in the Polish crisis of 1980-81 by having maneuvers. I just want to make sure that the distinction is clear between how Gorbachev acted in the Polish crisis of 1989—namely, not even a hint of the willingness to use force—as compared to the earlier policy. In other words, the distinction is clear.

150Pawel Machcewicz: I would also like to refer to the Brezhnev Doctrine and to Jim’s question. In July 1988, when Gorbachev was in Warsaw, he had a meeting with Polish intellectuals at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. It was supposed to be the meeting that would prove how democratic and how open a leader Gorbachev was, and that he was able to face all, even the most difficult, questions. But there was one question he could not, he did not want to answer, raised by one of Polish intellectuals, Marcin Król, who openly asked whether Gorbachev could say that the Brezhnev Doctrine was not valid any more.

151And Gorbachev, according to the testimony, seemed very perplexed, and he said that he would think it over, and that he would send back a written answer. But no answer came back, as far as we know. And my question is whether you remember the situation and whether, really, any thoughts were given to this question whether the Soviet leadership thought it would be appropriate to address this question openly, or was it too sensitive a topic to raise in such an official way? Or were you still not ready to say that the doctrine was simply a matter of the past? And only a year later, during 1989, you somehow came to the conclusion that it was a dead doctrine.

152David Wolff: While we are throwing out possible dates for the end of the Brezhnev Doctrine, I was just going through the chronology. On page 5 of the chronology prepared by the National Security Archive—November 6, 1987—we have a meeting between [George] Shultz, William Webster, Robert Gates, and CIA analysts, at which Shultz disagrees with Gates, pointing to the renunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine. I am not quite sure where he is referring to a renunciation […] previously too. But that is in there without anything further. The date on that is November 6, 1987. It is on page 5 of the chronology.

153János Rainer: Just two brief comments for the afternoon session, on the topic that is on the floor now. The first is that the development of this new thinking of Gorbachev and his inner circle concerning what has to be changed within the system and international relationships, especially in the socialist camp, shows a striking similarity to the development of the mid-1950s revisionists. First of all—the thinking of Imre Nagy in Hungary.

154The second is that the minutes, the lengthy protocol of the first official meeting between Kádár and Gorbachev in September 1985, I think, provides a very interesting insight into the thinking of Gorbachev being in power in this early stage. As far as I know, this protocol has been only published in Hungarian, and maybe it was not published either in Russian or in English. And from this picture one can have a little bit of a different impression of Gorbachev’s attitude from what was described in the morning. First of all, during the conversation, Gorbachev was talking a lot about the change, but mainly in very general terms.

155For example, “The system had not changed for decades, it is high time for a shake-up.” But only in general. As for definite questions, the attitude to change was rather technical. For example, he was talking about how to change the management of the large socialist enterprises. And that was all. But concerning the issues that Kádár touched on, for example, he behaved more like the first secretary of an empire. Just two brief examples. He suspiciously asked Kádár, “What about your very close and wide contacts with the West? What are your purposes? For example, in conducting 50 percent of your foreign trade with the West. Why don’t you turn to us?” And Kádár answered in short, “Because we requested loans from the Soviet Union, but we were refused. That is why we had to turn to the West.”

156The second example. Kádár reflected on the 1985 electoral reform in Hungary. The sense was that it was necessary to nominate at least two candidates in each electoral district. But some thought that it was not enough. So he turned to Gorbachev and told him, “I had a rough Hungarian thought that our system had no proper tools to let the steam out of the engine when the tension is higher than optimal.” And Gorbachev’s remark was, “What do you think? We have a strong sword of criticism and self-criticism. Isn’t that enough?” So the question is whether Gorbachev’s thinking, Gorbachev’s attitude was different within the inner circle of aides, and different while in official negotiations with reform-minded partners—communist leaders, like Kádár?

157Chernyaev: I will try to respond to some of the questions. On Poland and the crisis of the beginning of the 1980s. I know about publications, and not only calculations of our analysts and scholars, but also publications of the Central Committee apparatus officials who express a different opinion. Some of them think that there was a question about an invasion, of a repetition of 1968, others think that it was absolutely excluded. My position is based on certain facts, and I think that at that moment, in 1980-81—it was absolutely excluded, impossible.

158And again, the general secretary decided everything, even though they discussed the issues in the Commission and in the Politburo. Here is one episode. Brezhnev was on vacation with his assistant [Anatoly] Blatov and an official of the Propaganda Department, who was very close to Brezhnev, who always took part in preparing materials for Brezhnev—Nikolay Shishlin, unfortunately deceased. He was a very intelligent and educated person. We were friends, and I also had very good relations with Blatov. When they returned from the South, and we had a friendly talk, as we often had, Shishlin said, “Anatoly, Brezhnev had all kinds of proposals from Moscow on that issue. And he said in front of us without any doubt, ‘Forget it. Nothing like this will ever happen. It is impossible. Forget about the possibility of an invasion.’”

159I am relaying his words to you approximately as he told me about that conversation with Brezhnev. And if one uses some common sense, first of all, we had already been pulled into Afghanistan, we had already understood what that meant, and we had no idea how to get out. And then Poland. Everybody understood the difference very well: when the situation in Czechoslovakia [in 1968] was discussed, and when finally the decision to introduce troops was made, our main concern was to persuade President [Ludvík] Svoboda that the Czechoslovak army should not resist, so that there would have been no bloodshed. He gave us his word. And he delivered on it. He was against the invasion but he was able to guarantee that the army would not resist.

160However, we understood very well—we have a long history with the Poles—that if we introduced troops there, it would have been a bloody mess, terrible bloody mess. All our leadership understood that very well. Therefore, those two circumstances—Afghanistan, and the fact that we were dealing with the Poles, knowing all our mutual history—absolutely excluded an invasion. And there was no discussion of it.

161Now, you put the question correctly—what were our guidelines? The Brezhnev Doctrine was in force. There was no moral factor then that emerged under Gorbachev later. And that factor excluded use of force. It was not there under Brezhnev, or under Chernenko, or under Andropov. And the doctrine was implemented in its forceful version.

162As far as all kinds of doubts are concerned, which you expressed here, that Gorbachev was speaking differently with his aides, Politburo colleagues, inside the inner circle, and with others. That is true. I remember very well that several times Gorbachev expressed his dissatisfaction at the Politburo sessions with the fact that Hungary fell into the arms of the West, and he was supported by many of his colleagues. That it accumulated a huge debt to the International Monetary Fond, that it was becoming dependent. Those doubts came from the ideology. However, at the same time there also was the understanding that the camp was beginning to unravel, and that we could not do anything. And then a little later—in 1988 or 1989, I cannot recall now, but I have the document, and I will give it to you—Gorbachev said, “There is information from various sources, and from intelligence, that Poland is crawling away from us, and we, in Moscow, are doing nothing. And what can we do? Poland has a $56 billion debt. Can we take Poland on our account in our current economic situation? No. And if we cannot—that is it. We have no influence.”

163It never came to Gorbachev’s or his colleagues’ minds that we could use some kind of force. And we could not have kept it up with economic means. The question of our relations with our allies had been raised at the Politburo repeatedly: we had to develop new technologies, machine-building, we had to reach the highest technological levels, we had to re-orient our military-industrial complex. Because that was the key issue in preserving the socialist camp, our friendship, and our friends. They needed new technologies, new materials. The Germans wanted that, the Czechs wanted that, and the Hungarians too. We could not give that to them, and so they went to the West. There was the problem. It was our internal problem. So let us develop the machine-building industry.

164You probably know that this was the main issue of the Plenums in 1985 and in 1986. All those Plenums demanded: let us develop the machine-building industry, new technologies, conversion. Let us use our high technologies from the military-industrial complex. That was a good lever for keeping our friends together. This is how the question was defined.

165Of course, Gorbachev was a very emotional person. And sometimes he could say something, in his own circle, that could be interpreted as if he was holding on to the Brezhnev Doctrine. But we knew him very well as a person. As far as morality was concerned, and as far as his policy, which was oriented toward democratic reforms, the use of force against our friends was absolutely excluded. When he became general secretary, and when he developed his agenda, his number two priority, in this sense, was the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

166Now regarding Chernobyl, in response to your question. I think that in the West the political and even ideological importance of Chernobyl for the course of perestroika is exaggerated. They believe that it was a test of glasnost, that Gorbachev wanted to hide something, and his glasnost did not work, and as a result the population suffered great harm, the image of the Soviet Union was hurt too, and that it had a great impact on the further course of perestroika. I do not think that this point of view had grounds in reality. Of course, Chernobyl was a terrible shock to all of us—moral, political, and economic, first of all, because it required colossal expenses. Not only expenses for aid, but there was a question about the future of the nuclear power industry as such.

167The Greens had already emerged by that time, and they demanded that the station be closed down, and not only the station in Chernobyl, but other stations also. We lost a lot of money in re-orienting systems of power supply. And we had to close down some things, or stop reactors at existing stations. We suffered colossal losses. And in that sense Chernobyl had an impact on the course of perestroika because it limited our economic resources even more. But as far as our conviction that we should persist, that perestroika should continue, that Chernobyl had not stopped us in that respect, I think there should be no doubts.

168I have one of the Politburo sessions on Chernobyl. It is a very long document; I will not read from it, but I am passing it on to you, so that everybody can read it. Here Gorbachev is saying openly and sharply that we have nothing to hide. We have no right to hide anything. That would be a crime not only before our own people, but before the international public. You have it all here.

169I would like to add one more thing regarding the Poles. Not only had we great respect for Jaruzelski in our government, in our elite, but there is a very respectful, warm and good attitude toward the Poles among our people. Unfortunately, it is not reciprocal. It might be that we bear some sort of historical responsibility before them.

170We understand it. Individuals who know history in all its detail, beginning from the Time of Troubles, from Catherine the Second, the divisions of Poland, and Polish riots understand all that. But somebody who does not know about all this would not understand why the Poles dislike us so much. In our people, in all strata, there is no contempt, let alone hate, toward Poles. There are no bad feelings. This is just one more argument about why an intervention in Poland would not have been supported. The intervention in Czechoslovakia had not been supported by the people either. But Czechoslovakia still was farther away.

171Zubok: A very small question. You promised to tell us about Gorbachev’s weaknesses. You said that sometimes he used very harsh words but no “organizational conclusions” followed them. Some of his aides, and Archie Brown cited some of them in his book The Gorbachev Factor, said that the general secretary was by nature incapable of spilling blood, that he was a weakling. Do you agree with such an evaluation? That it could have an impact? That he could have tried to conceal it as a moral factor, presented it as his high moral standard, but in reality it was a simple human weakness? Statesmen have to spill blood.

172Chernyaev: This is not a weakness, precisely. You are quite right, you cited Archie Brown, and now you can cite us also—the use of force was naturally disgusting for Gorbachev, and especially of bloody force. Therefore, when he is accused of Tbilisi, and of Vilnius, we are very surprised, and outraged. We were next to him. Yes, he made a tactical mistake, a political mistake after the events in Vilnius. He should have spoken out, condemned, fired those responsible, filed criminal charges against them. He had not done that because he was unsure: they mistreated the military in Lithuania; it had been provoked by the local communists. He behaved incorrectly in the political sense. But he was not an initiator, not an organizer—he carries no moral blame for the Vilnius events. And he accepts the political responsibility for that. As president, he was responsible for everything that was happening in the country. You are absolutely right.

173Shakhnazarov: I would like to add that if Gorbachev decided to use force, everything would have been over in a matter of hours, and we would be representing the Soviet Union, not Russia, at this table.

174Zubok: But not Gorbachev. (Laughter)

175Shakhnazarov: Not Gorbachev. This is my response to Oleg Skvortsov. (Laughter)

176And I would like to add something. I would like to speak conceptually about the Brezhnev Doctrine since people talk about it a lot. First of all, what is that doctrine? Did it exist? No. Such a doctrine never existed. There was no document that conceptually defined that the Soviet Union had special rights in that zone, and that it had a right to use force to defend its allies, or to defend the regimes that were in power there, from any kind of attack. There was no doctrine in the sense that the Monroe Doctrine was formulated. The Brezhnev Doctrine is similar to the Truman Doctrine, which he formulated after the war developing the idea that the Yalta system and the results of World War II meant that the United States and their allies had a right to defend themselves using any means against an aggression on one of them.

177Therefore, what Western propaganda called the Brezhnev Doctrine was really the Stalin Doctrine, if you will, the doctrine of Yalta. It was a parallel response to the Truman Doctrine, which stated the same: that the U.S. had a moral right to be involved in those regions, that those regions were under the U.S. indirect control, and that that was the result of World War II. This is what the Brezhnev Doctrine is all about. You will not find a single document where Brezhnev himself stated it. It is a different issue that Brezhnev had applied it in 1968 in practice, and that is why they named it after him. However, Khrushchev had applied it before him. So we might as well call it the Khrushchev Doctrine. And then the next question—if Gorbachev had used it, we could have called it the Gorbachev Doctrine. But he had not applied it.

178Now, Jim [Hershberg] asked, why did the Soviet leadership refuse to go into Poland? And as a good scholar, he answers his question himself. Quite right—first of all, because of Afghanistan. Secondly—because there was no money. Thirdly, because they were afraid of the Western reaction. Fourth, because the people did not want to fight, and so on, and so forth. You are right. But of all these factors it is principally important that the Brezhnev leadership did not want to interfere in Poland because they believed that the Soviet Union would not be able to do it. But for Gorbachev such issues were associated with the moral factor. He spoke not just about the fact that we “cannot,” he said “we do not want to interfere.” And that is his principal difference from all his predecessors. That was the second question.

179Now the third question. Bill [Wohlforth] made a comment about the introduction of troops. Then the question becomes: how do you introduce troops? Our troops were already there. We did not need to introduce them. Or we needed a secondary introduction of troops. I recall a joke about when there was a popular uprising in Florence, under Medici. So they came to the [Piazza della] Signoria, and shouted, “Republic! Republic!” Modesto came out and said, “What is wrong? What do you want—we already have a republic.” The people thought for a minute and replied, “Then give us one more.” The same with those troops. The troops were stationed there. The question was whether to use them or not. They had strictest orders not to get involved in anything. Let the Poles do whatever they wanted. Even if they started fighting among themselves, do not leave the barracks. This is how the question was posed.

180Janós spoke about the Hungarian experience, very interesting. He asked whether the Soviet leaders had ever thought about an official renunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine. Let me repeat: not only had they thought about it, but essentially they already began to abandon it, and had abandoned it. But to say about it publicly, to say, “you know, friends, beginning tomorrow, if you wanted to leave us, and to join NATO, do not be afraid”—of course, they could not do that. One would have to be a complete idiot to do that. Not a single state leader would allow himself to do such things. To the contrary—they would try to scare the allies, to say, “keep in mind, we have solidarity among allies, we are all together, the camp is strong, we will not allow […]” and so on. That is what they were supposed to do, and they did it. But in essence, they had abandoned it long ago.

181And the last question was asked by Oleg Skvortsov. A very interesting question. Were the results of perestroika reversible? Why did we lose everything that we had in those six years? First of all, it is difficult to agree that we have lost everything that we had. Maybe we have lost one half, but not everything.

182Levesque: A better half? (Laughter)

183Shakhnazarov: That’s a good question. I, personally, believe that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was, in the end, unavoidable, as well as the dissolution of the socialist camp. This is my opinion. Because those states, and those people, that were parts of the Soviet Union—whether you call it an empire or not—in essence they were ripe for independence. They might have done it ten years later, twenty years later, but I believe it was unavoidable. The same question relates to the socialist commonwealth. It is very clear to me, and I can tell you honestly, as a Bolshevik, that already twenty years ago, in our internal discussions, in the apparatus, I, for example, was absolutely convinced that the time would come when the GDR would unite with the FRG. We argued about it with Kvitsinsky, with [Vladimir] Semenov—all thinking people, all rational people thought that it was inevitable. As it was inevitable that other countries of Eastern Europe would become independent, would be more attracted to the West—all this was more or less clear. The question was—when, and at what price?

184Our trouble, and if you will, our tragedy, was that we paid a much higher price for that than we wanted to pay. When German unification began, we were hoping that we would be able to get a united Germany outside NATO, and even that maybe both blocs would be dissolved, and replaced by a common European security system. I am not even speaking about the economic and material losses, and so on. But unfortunately, events unfolded in such a fashion that we were not able to do it in an optimal way, and maybe there is our fault in it. But what was predetermined by history happened with the worst possible scenario for the Soviet Union. Therefore, our losses were huge.

  • 16 A reference to the mass execution of several thousand by the Soviet NKVD in the Katyń Forest near (...)

185Chernyaev: I would like to respond to your question regarding what happened during Gorbachev’s visit to Warsaw. Allegedly, somebody there asked him a question about the Brezhnev Doctrine, and instead of giving a direct response that it was over with, he began to go in circles, and did not say anything definite. I do not remember such an episode, and I do not remember such a question. He was asked a question about Katyń,16 and there he began to go in circles. He said that the Commission was working, let it sort things out. He included the issue of Katyń among all the difficult problems of Soviet-Polish relations beginning from 1918-1920, and avoided that concrete issue altogether. But as far as the Brezhnev Doctrine was concerned, I was present at all of those meetings, and I do not remember that. Maybe there is a mistake here.

186Machcewicz: Just one remark. I remember there must have been such a question because public opinion had quite an interest in this question, because it was a kind of attempt to find out what are the public limits of the autonomy given to socialist states.

187Hershberg: I want to close with a joke because one of the only negative results of the end of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, was the collapse of political humor since people did not need to make subversive jokes any more. I think everyone is familiar with the joke that was made when Gorbachev visited Prague in 1987, and people asked, “what is the difference between you and Dubček?” And one of his aides said, “19 years.” Shakhnazarov said, maybe in an alternative future he would have come here as a Soviet representative, but not as Gorbachev’s representative, and that reminded me of the second joke that I heard in 1987, which did not receive any attention. Someone asked, “what is the difference between Gorbachev and Dubček?” And the answer was, “none, but Gorbachev does not know it yet.” (Laughter)


188Blanton: The title of this session is “Moscow’s Enigmatic Reaction to the Events in 1989,” and I think a large part of the discussion we had before lunch actually makes a nice transition to that enigmatic reaction, because it is precisely around this threat of the use of force implied, implicit, understood by East Europeans, expressed, or not expressed, on very different levels. As Bill Wohlforth laid it out, it is not only the intervention of Soviet troops, it is the threat of intervention by Soviet troops. It is also the Soviets urging Czech authorities to use force, or simply Soviets giving permission to Czech authorities to use force. So, there are many different levels of this threat, and it seems to me that the ambiguity of which Georgy spoke—precisely because we could not use force in Poland is the reason why we needed to threaten to use force in Poland in 1980-81—brings us into this discussion.

189MacEachin: I promised that I would be as brief as I could, but since we are on the record I will be speaking carefully so that I do not hear later from the people I used to work for about what I have said.

190There is a standing U.S. conventional wisdom about the use of force that revolves around the Polish crisis of 1980-81, repeated even two days ago in the Boston Globe. It asserts that the U.S. learned about the Soviet “intention” to invade Poland, made strong public and diplomatic interventions, and thereby helped deter the invasion. That is the conventional picture, and it has been presented in books by at least three people who held senior positions at the time. I am going to use this occasion as an opportunity to give an alternative view of that picture, because what is now the conventional wisdom was not the unanimous opinion at that time. […]

191The picture that was seen in late 1980 was interpreted as an exploration of military force options and preparations. But nothing remotely in size or scope compared to what, in our view, took place in July of 1968. Nowhere near that scope. And compared to 1968, the target, if Poland was going to be a target, was twice the size, in both geography and population, and in military force. I am giving you very simplified data, but that kind of data led any person who was a military analyst to conclude we were seeing signs of Soviet leadership that may be looking at the option of military intervention, considering that they may have to resort to it, and seeking to scope it out. But for whatever reason, by the first week in December 1980—I hate to put it in terms of a decision—but at least somebody said “not now.” And then there were discussions.

192I will also go further to say that I think that there is a heck of a lot of evidence that a few months after the December 1980 events, it did look like opinions had formed on “we are not going to do it.” I think that Afghanistan by that time started to really carry weight, for whatever reason, in the discussion that went on after that and in all the actions that took place. Which brings me to my main point here: I will offer as a hypothesis, that it was about that time that that experience began to affect the people who were going to hold key positions in the decision making process in the next several years. Whether the Brezhnev Doctrine was officially declared dead or not, I think the corpse might have been in the bed about then.

193Last point. I have to tell this a little bit anecdotally. We all have things in our lives that we wish we had done differently. It was, I think, in 1987 that an assessment was being made as to what would be the impact of Gorbachev’s policies on Eastern Europe. And in this discussion I have to be careful. At the time I was trying to leave my job because it was […] I had enough of the stress of it. And so I was taking secret German lessons—not secret from my boss. So, I had to leave at 6 o’clock for the lessons. Late one day I received a draft of an estimate that described the important impact of Gorbachev’s policy in Eastern Europe, and said that obviously any government that presents itself as communist will be permitted by Moscow, without being threatened with the use of force. I called the author and said “I have to go to my lesson, but I really think we should take up one more question, and that is: what is going to be the effect if all East European governments believe what we have said we believe regarding the non-use of force?” And then I said, “well, I will see you tomorrow,” and then I went off, and I never did follow up on that question. I always regretted to this day that we did not stop that project and take on the next question, because that is where, I think, things really had a major impact. I think you saw the impact in 1988-89.

194Tarasenko: This discussion should not leave another idea out, another, I should say, pole of our policy of that time. It is the principle of freedom of choice, that every country has complete freedom of choice. That is partly an answer to the question about the Brezhnev Doctrine. If you do not take into account the fact that at that time we spoke about freedom of choice very frequently, and emphasized it in every way as one of the fundamental principles regulating relations between states, then we would get an incomplete picture. I would also like to remind you that when Shevardnadze gave an interview to Time in May 1987—it is in this chronology—there was a direct question: what degree of freedom of choice do you allow your allies?

195The question is not an easy one for the minister to answer. They found a solution by saying that the Soviet Union allows the allies the same degree of freedom of choice that exists among the countries-members of NATO. In other words, that a member of the socialist commonwealth has the same freedom of choice that a NATO member has. The same freedom of choice, and the same freedom of action. This way we did not renounce our capability to do something, if there was a need, and at the same time it looked like we behaved just like the other. Therefore, if NATO would use force, the Soviet Union could do the same.

196Shakhnazarov: That was a good answer.

197Levesque: On this point of use of force, and on the Brezhnev Doctrine, I think it is clear that Gorbachev never contemplated the use of force, but this being said, I think it shows clearly here from the documents that we have, for instance, in the memorandum of the Central Committee of 1989 to Yakovlev,17 and also in the memorandum of the Foreign Ministry—Gorbachev was strongly advised to maintain some degree of uncertainty about what the USSR would do to protect its interest in given circumstances. And I think that it is not a matter of chance, as our Polish colleague said, that Gorbachev refused to address directly the issue of the Brezhnev Doctrine. It is not an accident that he declined to answer it. As a matter of fact, he was asked very often by foreign journalists about the Brezhnev Doctrine, and he answered the way Shakhnazarov has answered, by saying that there is no such thing as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

198Well, I am sorry to say, there was such a thing as the Brezhnev Doctrine. Of course, it was not a document signed by Brezhnev, it dated before Brezhnev. But it meant something concrete, and when Gorbachev was asked about it, he refused to answer in a very clear-cut manner. The freedom of choice was a way of answering indirectly with the ambiguities that you tried to maintain about it. So it is very slowly that he dispelled that Brezhnev Doctrine, in a very implicit manner, which became more and more explicit. And the turning point to me was the speech that he made in France in the summer of 1989.

199It was not a complete repudiation, but it was clear enough. And it had a direct impact on the acceleration of the events in Poland. I would like also to stress that Gorbachev’s policy toward Eastern Europe was fundamentally ambiguous, and ambivalent, in the sense that on the one hand, he sincerely wanted reform in Eastern Europe, but at the same time, as the documents show, he insisted on political stability. He wanted political stability in Eastern Europe because the absence of stability would disturb the process of perestroika within the USSR. So it is at least partially contradictory to have stability and to have a reform in Eastern Europe, with all the uncertainties that would have come up. So there is, I think, a basic element of ambiguity in Gorbachev’s approach to change in Eastern Europe. And to come to my first point again, if he never contemplated force, he yielded to this advice, at least for a certain period, up to 1989—not to dispel and dismiss openly and clearly, in a non-ambiguous manner, the Brezhnev Doctrine.

200Matlock: Regarding the situation and our perceptions in 1981, and Poland, I would recall that I was at that time, from January until early September, in charge of our Embassy in Moscow. And by March 1981, I had concluded personally that the Soviet Union would not intervene militarily in Poland. I sent a cable to that effect, which, I was told, had a considerable effect, particularly on Secretary [Alexander] Haig. But the reasons, it seemed to me, were precisely the ones cited here, particularly the fact that Afghanistan was already a problem. It was clear that these interventions were no longer necessarily as quick and decisive as, say, 1968 in Prague had been. It also seemed to me that the overall rhetoric regarding Poland was simply not such as would provide a sort of political cover.

201That having been said, there is something else to take into account regarding the United States and its warnings. Many of us felt that our warnings were important mainly to make a record for our own people, that is, politically, at home. My judgment at that time would have been: I do not think they are going to intervene in Poland militarily, but if they decide they have to, they would do it regardless of what we say. They know we are not going to intervene militarily. We cannot threaten that. And the other ties we have with the Soviet Union, particularly after Afghanistan, were so tenuous, the Soviets did not have much to lose.

202However, politically, in the United States, it was extremely important to make the case that we were giving warnings, because many, especially Republicans, ridiculed Carter when he was surprised by Afghanistan. In fact, he said that he was surprised and that he did not really understand the Soviet Union until that happened. We could not allow Reagan to be put in that position. So, whatever happened, he had to be in a position to say that the Soviets were acting just like they usually act. This, among other things, would have prevented an overreaction. We generally thought that Carter had not only overreacted to Afghanistan, but had ineffectually reacted. Such things as the Olympics boycott, and the grain boycott—which, of course, was one of the first things that Reagan reversed.

203Although we might have taken such steps under the same conditions, we were under no illusion that they had much effect. My own advice in the administration, along with that of others, was that some of these things were idiotic. I have in mind in particular closing the Consulate in Kiev, and then sending their consul out of New York but leaving all the U.N. people there. It was as if we were shooting ourselves in the foot. I believed that the only thing we needed to do in Afghanistan was to make sure that the Mujaheddin were well-supplied, particularly with better anti-aircraft weapons, so that the Soviets cannot use close air support.

204Eventually, the resistance was going to wear them down. We did not create the Mujaheddin, but we could supply them. The other “sanctions” were nonsense. I recommended opening up communications, and stopping the other things.

205We had many different opinions in the administration, and in the first couple of years, 1981 and 1982, there were those who really did want to use Afghanistan and the imposition of martial law in Poland to break all economic ties. We saw that in the pipeline dispute, and in other things. But basically, by 1983, the predominant opinion in the White House, particularly with the president, was that the sanctions were not working and therefore we would have to find other measures. But we had to protect the president against seeming either soft or surprised, regardless of whatever the outrage was. So, part of this was setting us up politically so that if something happened, we did not have to overreact.

  • 17 See Document No. 31.

206Zubok: We are forgetting that Eastern Europe was not the main area of Gorbachev’s foreign policy in 1988, far from it. He wanted to end the Cold War by achieving a relaxation of tensions, a detente, and a partnership with the United States and Western Europe. When one reads documents showing the preparation of Gorbachev’s speech at the U.N. in December 1988, this is what we see.17 Gorbachev says that the speech should be “anti-Fulton—Fulton in reverse.” And he instructed the assistants, including you, Anatoly Sergeyevich, to write this speech at the “world level,” as ambitious as possible.

207In particular, one part of those ambitions was the renunciation of the use of force in any circumstances and any conditions. The right to choose. And when, as we can see in the document, Shevardnadze timidly raises the question whether it was time to withdraw troops from Hungary, Gorbachev responds, No, no, we should cut the number of troops, but we should not withdraw at once. There is a clear contradiction here: he is giving the Hungarians the freedom of choice, but does not want to withdraw the troops now, he wants to do it at some future date, apparently hoping that he would be able to negotiate with Western Europe and the United States, and to end the Cold War on an equal ground, and to build a common European home. Don’t you think that while Gorbachev was dealing with the higher plane of policy—ending the Cold War—he had lost the lower, and more practical, level of policy—his East European policy?

208Skvortsov: Vlad has just stated the thought that I also wanted to mention regarding the duplicity of Gorbachev’s policy toward Eastern Europe. Our main topic of this session is still Gorbachev’s policy toward Eastern Europe. Therefore, I have the following question to our respected veterans. In 1986, as it is described in many memoirs and statements of many well-known figures, Member of the Politburo and First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the GDR [Werner] Krolikowski, and other people who were behind him—there was a significant group in the GDR leadership—sent a message to Gorbachev via Ambassador [Vyacheslav] Kochemassov, and that message was delivered personally. Later, when Krolikowski came to Moscow, they had a conversation on the same topic. They asked Gorbachev to give his support to change the GDR leader, Erich Honecker. Those requests were made two or three times. There was no reaction on Gorbachev’s part. Of course, I have my own opinion, but I would like to ask you, and to hear your response: how do you explain such inconsistency in Gorbachev? At that time Honecker’s replacement would have been less painful than it was in October 1989, especially because the major part of the Politburo members supported the request, the healthy part.

209Chernyaev: Regarding the duplicity of Gorbachev’s policy. I wrote about it many times, both in my book and in my articles, especially on the issue of German unification. There you can find Gorbachev’s statements that are quite contradictory. For example, one day he would be meeting and speaking with Helmut Kohl, or with [Hans-Dietrich] Genscher. Then in a couple of days he would be meeting and speaking with [Egon] Krenz and [Hans] Modrow. In the first case, they would be speaking about how to manage the peaceful and smooth process of all-European reconciliation. They would be talking about it still in the framework of reconciliation of two German states. But to the new German leaders, who replaced Honecker, he would say, “Hold on! The main thing is to preserve sovereignty, to preserve law and order, so that you avoid riots, so that your state does not decompose.”

210I would like to object to those who accuse Gorbachev of duplicity. Had he been linear, had he been unable to adjust to the circumstances and to his interlocutors, everything would have turned out much worse than it actually did. For him, it was most important to contain that process within some kind of acceptable, peaceful limits, to avoid an explosion, and the destruction of all the things he had built on the main plane of his policy, which Vlad has just reminded us about in his remarks. The main goal for Gorbachev was to preserve the process of disarmament, of the liquidation of the Cold War. From that point of view, from that context, the events in Germany, in the Warsaw Treaty Organization, were secondary for Gorbachev. They were subordinated to the main events. If you want to use this term, “duplicity,” this is what caused it. But he was not duplicitous in terms of trying to keep Eastern Europe in the sphere of interest of the Soviet Union. He was not undermining his principles of new thinking and freedom of choice by doing that.

211Somebody reminded me here—and we did not pay attention to it at the time—when he spoke at the United Nations—it was the end of 1988—everybody was excited about his concrete proposals on unilateral troop reductions. But that was not the most important part. The most important was that he rejected the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the international situation, and analyzed it from the point of view of existing realities. And secondly, that he announced the main principles of his new thinking: freedom of choice and non-use of force in international relations. That is what it was. And it was done absolutely sincerely and consciously. And it was not just an accident, as you have just reminded us; there were many versions of that speech, but he decided to take it in this direction when we worked on the draft.

212Now regarding the statement that had we replaced Honecker earlier everything would have been much better, would have turned out smoother. The formulation of the question itself is inadequate to the situation, to put it mildly. It was impossible for Gorbachev in principle to raise the question of removing a leader of a friendly state. He could not have done that. He avoided those questions, even when they hinted at them and even when they demanded it. When the events leading to the fall of the Wall began unfolding, [Todor] Zhivkov, let alone Ceauşescu, directly demanded that Gorbachev use force. In his conversation with Ceauşescu—I do not know whether you have this document—when he began to insist, “what are you doing, why are you just watching idly while everything is falling apart?” Gorbachev responded, “Do you want to send the troops in? Well, send them, and we will see how you do it. I will not do that.”

213So, the issue of replacement, even of Honecker who really disliked Gorbachev and to whom Gorbachev related with irony but did not give much respect, did not exist for Gorbachev. Replacing him from Moscow was impossible for Gorbachev. It contradicted all his philosophy, and went against the essence of his policy of perestroika and new thinking. Georgy, did I miss something from those questions?

214Shakhnazarov: I would like to ask you to look at this issue from another angle. When I am asked whether Gorbachev’s policy was two-sided, I respond that all policy is two-sided. Let us take, for example, how France and Britain acted toward German unification. Neither Thatcher nor Mitterrand wanted that to happen, especially to happen so quickly. As allies they assured the Germans that they were with them in their heart of hearts, while at the same time giving hints to Gorbachev that he should prevent it from happening. Is that a duplicitous policy or not?

215Or let us take the United States. When all these processes began in our country, first they doubted us, then when they realized that Gorbachev was doing something good from their point of view they supported him, and then, while still supporting Gorbachev in rhetoric, shifted their support to Yeltsin and helped him to come to power. By the way, I would like to ask Jack at some point to speak about this issue that interests me very much, because I am strongly convinced that if the Group of Seven in London had given its support to Gorbachev, and if they had given Gorbachev the money that it repeatedly gave Yeltsin later, it is very possible that events might have taken a completely different turn.

216As a matter of fact, Washington had abandoned Gorbachev, regardless of the fact that in their hearts they liked Gorbachev and respected him in many ways. But they saw in Washington that Yeltsin was willing to go farther in some respects, and therefore we see the duplicity of policy here also. That is why I think that we should be clear about duplicity. For Gorbachev, as for any other statesman, politics was the art of the possible. And he, on the one hand, promoted certain views and tried to implement them in policy, but on the other hand he was always forced to take reality into account, as a leader of the party, the state, and the alliance. As the leading figure of an empire, of one of the two military-political blocs, he was obligated, by his position, to try to preserve his bloc as much as he could. But when he could not, he had to make concessions. The major issue was: to use force to the end, or not?

217The same problem existed inside the country. Take the Baltics. Was it possible to preserve the Baltics by force? Of course it was. Instead of dealing with a small uprising of local communists, he should have given an order—we had two divisions there, two days would have been enough to put an end to it. After that—and I have written about this in my book—the U.S. would have been offended, the West would have staged a boycott for a year against the Soviet Union, and China would have been forgiven. And everything would have returned to normal. But he did not use force, because he did not consider it personally acceptable. That is why we should measure those things not from the standpoint of contradictions in his policy, but to remember that every time he was faced with something that was unacceptable for him, he did not do it. He did not violate his principles.

218Of course, this is all philosophical discussion but I think that it is essential to helping us understand the situation as a whole. If it was possible to preserve the Soviet Union, of course we should have preserved it. Gorbachev should have done it. If it was possible to preserve the alliance in a different form, even if it was a group of neutral states, he should have done that. We still want it now. We do not want Eastern Europe as a whole to become a part of NATO. We do not want it—neither the politicians, nor the people—because we think it would mean isolation for Russia, that it would be unfair to Russia, that it promotes xenophobic and nationalist forces in Russia itself. It pushes Russia toward some sort of militarist revival.

219Chernyaev: I would again return to what Vlad has mentioned, when Shevardnadze told Gorbachev that it was time to withdraw the troops from Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and he responded, in principle, yes, but we will do it slowly and gradually. There is a lot that is hidden behind those words. It was a signal that withdrawal is necessary, showing that we do abide by the principle, that we renounce physical presence as a means of keeping countries together. On the other hand, for us it was an internal problem. It was not merely an economic problem. We did not know what to do with those divisions, and where to station them. We paid a heavy price for it later, when we moved all the troops home en masse. But there was also a psychological problem. Once we start to withdraw troops, the howling starts: what did we fight for, what did 27 million of our soldiers die for in World War II? Are we renouncing all that? For Gorbachev at that time, when they began to accuse him of everything, when we had already heard the words “traitor,” and “agent of influence,” those issues were very sensitive; he had to take them into account.

220There is one more issue that Vlad has mentioned, and I would like to expand on it a little. I think that I told some of you that last year I set myself a goal that I would type up all my notes from the Politburo sessions, and from all closed meetings with Gorbachev. Politburo sessions were held every week, if you remember. So it was from 1986, when I became assistant to the general secretary, up to the beginning of 1990, when the Politburo had lost any weight, and when I stopped being assistant to the general secretary and became assistant to the president, and so I was no longer invited to Politburo sessions. And now I have typed up almost all of my notes, and I have a full transcript of them. I am still in 1989—I have not finished all of them yet—and I have 800 computer pages, which is more than 1,000 typewritten pages, maybe 1,200 pages altogether. There is a lot of material there, both on foreign and domestic policy. But I am talking about it now because foreign policy, even in the most dramatic moments, even in the period of German unification, took up only five or six percent of the considerations of Gorbachev and the Politburo, of their time and their nerves.

221You have to take this fact into consideration, in this context. His main goal was to put an end to the Cold War, to the arms race. Malta was coming. Therefore, such “details,” as Eastern Europe, and even the process of unification that had begun, were really secondary. Of course, when a scholar begins to research a certain topic, a bias emerges because he tends to think that his topic is the center of the universe. But if you look at it in the context of all of Gorbachev’s work, even the issue of German unification becomes just another issue. And besides, we should constantly see this internal political aspect of foreign policy, this domestic background against which Gorbachev made all of his foreign policy decisions.

222Ilya Gaiduk: I would like to return to the question about a possible replacement of Honecker, because Gorbachev’s position on that issue is characteristic of his position on many other issues of foreign, and even domestic, policy; that is apparent from many documents that were included in the briefing book. His desire to avoid making decisions at the time when those decisions could have been made easily and painlessly. Maybe not easily, but at least with less pain than had to be incurred when the decision was made later. As a matter of fact, I can accept the explanation that Anatoly Sergeyevich has just given us—that Mikhail Sergeyevich did not want to interfere in the internal affairs of East European states.

223But on this issue, with Honecker, the situation was somewhat different. Here, the initiative did not originate in Moscow. Moscow had not decided that they had to replace Honecker. The initiative originated with the members of the Politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany [SED]. And I would emphasize that it was the initiative of the majority of the Politburo members. And at that time, in 1986, the Soviet positions in the countries of Eastern Europe were sufficiently strong—I mean, among the leaders, they listened to Moscow’s opinion. Then Gorbachev could have played the critical role. And it would not even have been considered interference on the part of the Soviet Union, or of the Soviet leadership in the affairs of the GDR because there was no interference. But that tight link that existed between the East European leaders and the Soviet Union explains the fact that the members of the SED asked Gorbachev, in order to receive his approval at least, and to act on their own. They were not talking about interference. And there would have been no direct interference. Looking at the situation as it was at the time, it was completely normal.

224Shakhnazarov: I wanted to take the floor to respond to this question. It seems like my young colleague does not fully take into account the situation that existed between the Soviet Union and the socialist countries. The West called them “satellites.” Of course, they were dependent, of course they were in our bloc. There was strict discipline on some principal issues that had to deal with the overall relations between this bloc and the other bloc. On other issues the leaders of those countries were completely independent. The personality of a leader played a great role.

225Therefore, whether Gorbachev wanted to replace Honecker or not, the issue was whether he could do that at all. I have already mentioned that Gierek had not been elected in Moscow, he had been elected by the Poles, as had Gomulka, because Gomulka was a respected leader who was capable of taking the steering wheel in that situation, after the events that had happened [in 1956]. The same with other leaders. We did not even talk about Ceauşescu—he did whatever he liked, and nobody could do anything about it, especially on personnel issues. I will give you an example.

  • 18 Babiuch served in the post from February to August 1980.
  • 19 Olszowski lost his Politburo seat at the VIII PUWP Congress in February 1980, and was appointed en (...)

226Take the Poles again. We had been receiving signals, and our intelligence services, and other “well-wishers” were telling us that we had to remove [Edward] Babiuch, that he was against the Soviet Union, that he was pro-Western, and so on. There were two groups in the Department. One group was saying, “Leave him alone, he is a normal person and does good work.” Others picked up those intelligence reports and insisted that we had to remove Babiuch. Babiuch was a secretary of the Central Committee. Brezhnev mentioned him in his conversation with Gierek, that he was not behaving properly. Several days later Gierek returned to Poland and made Babiuch prime minister.18 Then our services reported again that there were some intrigues against [Stefan] Olszowski, who was our great friend and overall pro-Soviet. By the way, there was an argument about it in the Department. I said, “Do not mention it at all in the memo to Brezhnev.” But they decided to mention it, to tell Gierek that he should support Olszowski. Brezhnev told Gierek, “You know, Gierek, you need to support Olszowski.” Gierek leaves the Soviet Union, returns to Poland, and two days later removes Olszows-ki from the Politburo and sends him to the GDR as ambassador.19

227This is what the real situation was like. Oleg thinks that it was so simple, just tell them to “remove Honecker.” It was nothing like that. First of all, there was no clear division in the German leadership, there was no clear majority that was confident that Honecker had to be removed. He held very strong positions. He had his political base, as our leader [Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin] does now, primarily in the military institutions. And the power institutions were very loyal. Secondly, he had a number of strong allies within the Politburo. Such people as [Kurt] Hager, [Hermann] Axen and others were not at all inclined to support the younger ones and to overthrow Honecker. Krenz was behaving ambivalently because he was Honecker’s man himself. Honecker made him a “Krenz-prince,” as we used to joke, initially, and then began to push him away because he did not like his ambition. This was the real situation.

  • 20 Jakeš was named head of the CPCz in December 1987.

228The same thing in Czechoslovakia. We did not want Jakeš to be elected. There was a very negative attitude to him in the Soviet leadership. But the Czechs elected Jakeš nonetheless.20 We had no other choice—it was not our choice. We were more inclined to see such people as Štrougal elected. But I would like to emphasize once again that as a matter of principle, as Anatoly Sergeyevich said, Gorbachev was against imposing his choice of leaders. And that is why he did not respond to all requests from Krolikowski. And there was not only Krolikowski—long before Gorbachev, during Brezhnev’s times, there was a constant internal struggle going on within the German leadership between the [Willi] Stoph group and the Honecker group. Stoph did not like many things that Honecker did. He represented approximately the same positions that Kosygin did in our country in his dispute with Brezhnev. He spoke from more of a practical, economics standpoint. Honecker was more of an ideologue, more of a politician. Nonetheless, even Brezhnev never made any attempts to interfere in those internal German petty quarrels. He used to say, “Leave me out of this, let them sort it out on their own, and let them decide.”

229As far as Honecker was concerned, when we discussed it with Gorbachev, he used to say, “Let those Germans decide this themselves. It is their business.” The only thing that Gorbachev did in this respect was that in his conversation with Honecker, and then with the German leadership, when he explained our view of the problems to them, he put it in such a perspective as if to suggest to the German leadership that they should change, that they should make many changes, otherwise they could be too late. I can give you this document if you do not have it, because I personally took notes during those conversations. Maybe that thought gave them a push. And it was also important that the public gave Gorbachev a great reception, that they shouted, “Gorby! Gorby! We need our own Gorby!” That pushed the reform-minded part of the German leadership toward the idea that Honecker had to be replaced. But it was too late.

230Levesque: Again, about Gorbachev’s ambivalence. What you said about his behavior with Honecker is a clear pattern of behavior, not only in this case but also in general. Gorbachev behaved exactly the same way with Czechoslovakia. If in 1987 he could have said a hint about his preferences to Husák, then things would have been very different. And again, the pattern is the same also with Bulgaria. I was told by Petr Mladenov that he, during the meeting of the Warsaw Pact summit in 1989, in the summer of 1989, succeeded in taking Gorbachev away from Zhivkov for a couple of minutes. And he told me that he told Gorbachev, “We are preparing something in Bulgaria to change the leadership.” And the only answer he got from Gorbachev was, “It is your business.” So, Mladenov told me that he was dismayed. He expected more concrete words of support. And that made all of the difference, because he was so dismayed that he waited months before doing something. And it happened only in November, while if he had received not some sort of meddling or a strong push to do something, but some explicit encouragement to do something, things would have changed more rapidly in Bulgaria.

231So, to me, it is a clear example of Gorbachev’s ambivalence. It is not simply a matter of principle, of not meddling, it is a matter of refusal to take responsibility for what would have happened. I think that is also a point. It is also a matter of principle, of course, but also a way of avoiding a difficult responsibility at a given point in time. And I think in Czechoslovakia in 1987 a slight hint to Husák would have made the difference. And a different message than the noncommittal one that he gave to Mladenov in the summer of 1989 would also have changed things rapidly.

232Shakhnazarov: But this was not his ambivalence. This was his position of principle. It is a question of your assessment.

233Dawisha: Just a small point. When Jacques quotes Gorbachev as telling Mladenov, “It is your business.” To use such words, which were exactly the same words that Brezhnev used in telling [Antonín] Novotný that the Russians were not going to intervene in Czechoslovakia [in 1968], is in itself highly ambiguous, because any East European leader would know that to say this means nothing. Let them do it. If they make a mess of it, they have the ability to sort it out by any means. I mean, this is the problem with this period: without a clear unified statement to the entire East European leadership that they are free, and that they would suffer the consequences, each East European leader individually had to figure out what was the limit of their freedom, and it was not possible.

234Chernyaev: I would like to comment on your statement that Brezhnev and Gorbachev sometimes used the same words. Let me address you to distant history. Let us take the beginning of 1968. We, a group of officials of the apparatus of the Central Committee, are sitting in Zavidovo, which is now called Rus’, where Yeltsin receives all his high guests. We are putting together a big speech for Brezhnev to deliver at the International Conference of Communist and Working Parties, which took place in 1969. Brezhnev was leading the effort—how he was leading it is not of any interest to us now, it is a different question, and it would lead us far away from our topic.

235Suddenly we learned that Brezhnev was going to Prague, to Czechoslovakia. We were left behind in Zavidovo. It was expected that he would stay there for 10 days or so. However, three days later he turns up in Zavidovo. We sat together at breakfast. There was a round table, a huge one like this. Brezhnev sat in the middle. We asked questions. Arbatov, who was quite an obnoxious man among us, and who always sat directly across from him, asked, “Leonid Ilych, what happened, you were going to stay there for a week, or ten days, and instead, you came back to us?”

236Brezhnev expressed himself in expletives, because there were no women there. He said, “I got into such a stew—one [person] comes and says one thing, another says a completely different thing. Novotný does not understand anything.” He said, “I understood that I was being pulled into something that I never, under any conditions, want to be involved in, not for anything! Let them sort it out themselves, between themselves.” That was January 1968. In May the position had changed, and the troops had been introduced in August. Why did Brezhnev change his mind? Six months earlier Brezhnev’s attitude was: “I do not want to be involved in this dirty porridge under any conditions, let them sort it out themselves.” Brezhnev was a very different person then. So, if you want to compare the Brezhnev of that time with Gorbachev, you can do it in this episode, but not more than that.

237Shakhnazarov: I would like to return once again to that very interesting phrase that Jacques mentioned regarding what Mladenov told him. Because if a general secretary of the CC CPSU [responded] to a statement that they, essentially, wanted to undertake a coup d'état—from the point of view that was prevalent at that time, to remove Zhivkov—if in response to that he did not say “Don’t do that,” and just said, “It is your business,” then by saying that he lets them know that we were not against it. What else do you think he could have said? “Yes, do it, do it quickly?” Do you think a politician could have done otherwise? The issue is in interpretation.

238Zubok: I would like to focus our attention a little bit.—We are already dealing with 1989, when East European outposts were beginning to crumble, and I completely agree with Anatoly Sergeyevich—and it is reflected in this briefing book—that the leadership was already dealing with more burning issues at that moment, like the Baltics and political reform. The question is different. I am interested in the procedural, bureaucratic aspect of this—why was there no “emergency team” on Eastern Europe, no headquarters, which would concentrate only on East European affairs?

  • 21 Document No. 39.

239There was a practice of setting up Politburo commissions. We have a document here from a Politburo session from January 21, 1989,21 at which Gorbachev says that we should discuss this question at the Central Committee Commission on Eastern Europe. “Let Yakovlev, with scholars, look at it [a number of problems in Eastern Europe]. We are facing a serious problem there.” As a result, there emerged a number of interesting memoranda, some of which were given to us by Professor Levesque: a memo from Bogomolov’s institute, a memo from the International Department of the Central Committee, from the KGB, although we do not have that document. In other words, some work had begun. But ultimately, no headquarters emerged. First of all, who was in charge? It is clear that Gorbachev could not have been in charge of everything, which leaves us with his assistants. Who was in charge of Eastern Europe?

240Shakhnazarov: I was.

241Zubok: You were. (Laughter) And what role did Yakovlev play in that process?

242Shakhnazarov: I would like to say that you are absolutely right—there was anxiety. I personally had written several memos, and one of them has been published in my book. There were memos from institutes, we received them, studied them, reported some things to Gorbachev. But you have to keep in mind that in 1989 all our thoughts were focused on the internal situation. I, for example, was in charge of political reform along with Eastern Europe. Therefore, most of my time was devoted to memos and reports, to Gorbachev’s speeches at the Congress of People’s Deputies; in the Supreme Soviet we worked on drafts of laws on openness, on public organizations, and so on.

243And it is not an issue of who was in charge, but [the fact that] the attention of the entire leadership was switched to internal problems, and so Eastern Europe was on the back burner. We felt that, and sometimes we regretted that fact, and said to each other that it would lead to no good if we did not pay attention to Eastern Europe. But we still believed that if our internal situation improved, if our perestroika moved ahead with democracy and political reforms then those countries also would be able to pass through that difficult stage faster and easier, and that would bring them closer to our country. If, however, our domestic situation deteriorated, then we would not be able to do, or salvage, anything, and in that case they would run away from us anyway, and to the West. A very simple explanation. Gorbachev really did not have time, and so that issue was for us of secondary importance. It was more important to preserve the Soviet Union and to win the battle that was unfolding inside with the forces that were trying to put Russia alongside other republics in opposition to the Union center. That was our sole concentration. That is all.

244Csaba Békés: First let me make my personal comment on the Brezhnev Doctrine, which I wanted to make earlier. I completely agree with Shakhnazarov, that if there was such a thing as the Brezhnev Doctrine, that was the Stalin Doctrine. As far as the documentation is concerned, my opinion is that it is connected to the name of Khrushchev. I am not talking about secret Politburo meetings signed by Khrushchev to this effect. However, he was in Hungary in 1958, and made a public speech, in which [he expressed] the essence of the Brezhnev Doctrine, which is known: in case socialism is in danger in one of our friendly countries, we will help. This was practically verbatim included in the speech. So, if something can be considered as documentation of this doctrine, this Soviet doctrine, I think that speech can be such a thing.

245Now, first of all, I would like to draw attention to the similarity of these two very important, crucial periods in the post-war history, namely, 1955-56, and 1985-89-90. You understand why they are very important, so I do not have to go into detail. As far as Third World policy issues, the development of East-West relations in these two different periods shows very much similarity, at least to me. And also, more importantly, the Soviet Union’s special relationship with Eastern Europe, and with the satellites, in both periods was a crucial issue—the reorganization and resettlement of the existing structure of relations with the satellites. In 1955-56, it was a more modest development, and, of course, it did not include very big concessions up to a point. But the events of 1955-56 in Poland and Hungary resulted, actually, in a situation where the Soviets had to tolerate concessions, which they did not mean to make before. In Poland it was the victory, or the acceptance, of national communism, whereas it was still in essence communism, but a national one, which can be very divergent from the actual Soviet Bolshevik type.

  • 22 CC CPSU Presidium member Vladimir Malin took handwritten notes of meetings during this period. Thi (...)

246And we have a very good record of the Presidium meetings, from the Malin22 notes, you know, on October 30, 1956, where the whole Presidium decides to accept the solution that if it is needed, the last concession can be that the Soviet troops could be withdrawn from Hungary, not only from Budapest, but from the whole country, which was the unanimous demand of Hungarian society, of course. This had been out of the question even two days earlier. But partly under Chinese pressure, it was then accepted unanimously. And the important thing here is what [Dmitri] Shepilov, the foreign minister then, says. He says, as an explanation of the decision—and everybody actually accepts this—at least there was no objection, “We have to prepare for a long struggle with national communism.” That is what he said. What does that mean? For me, it means that for the Soviets at that time, accepting national communism, at least in these two countries when there were just Hungary and Poland, was the worst option, but still could be accepted if there was nothing else—what can you do?

247In the 1980s, from 1985 to 1989, it is the same issue: accepting national communism is the worst option for the Soviet leaders, which by 1989 becomes wishful thinking. This should be the worst that could happen to us. But these countries stopped developing in national communism, stopped at the limits of communism, whatever communism it should be—a modernized one, a more democratic one, or a national one—but still within the communist framework, and actually for them it was now the best option by 1989. And this also includes the potential idea, that if not [communism], then of course beyond these limits is already capitalism. And then the question becomes: what to tolerate, and what not to tolerate?

248And here for me is the big question. They were accepting national communism in the region, but it was not a big deal. Under the circumstances in the 1980s, it was not really a big concession by then. The big question was whether the Soviet Union now, in very different conditions, was willing to go beyond this limit and give up the empire as such, by letting go of these countries and have them become capitalist even, as the very worst option. So the big question for me, which I would like to ask here is: when was this psychological turn, or change, in policy making, in Gorbachev’s and your own thinking at the time—what year, what month, what event (it could be one or two)—when can we accept that they [the East Europeans] can go, even if they go capitalist? (Not only that they would go national communist, because that was quite normal already.) This is my big question.

249And as far as the use of force is concerned, which has been extensively discussed here. I was asked to be provocative, and I promised to be provocative. My question is: why did you not use force? Of course, I am not complaining that you did not. (Laughter) But there were many arguments here trying to explain why, what factors contributed to not intervening. But none of these convinced me, if I am trying to think as a Soviet decision maker. Because none of the facts, like spoiling East-West relations, whatever, all these things that were mentioned, nothing like this happened when in 1956 Khrushchev decided, and the Khrushchev leadership decided, to intervene in such a case. Nothing bad happened to East-West relations—actually, to the contrary. He was not deposed—to the contrary, he could have been deposed had he not intervened in Hungary. And letting Hungary go—that would have created the danger that he might lose his position.

  • 23 Document No. 41.

250So I do not see that in this case, for Gorbachev, it was an obvious and logical step to declare that he would not use force. Also, the ambiguity that was mentioned many times by Professor Levesque is a very important factor, because even here, in February 1989, in the document of the International Department of the Soviet Communist Party,23 it is not ruled out at all. There is one opinion, but there are several others saying, generally, it is a principle that we should not intervene in settling crises in Eastern Europe. But there is one opinion, at least, in the case of an external intervention, which practically speaking means Western external intervention in events, or in the developments of East European countries. Such an eventuality is considered, even in February 1989. So, I still would like to have more—and more convincing—arguments to see why it was so easily accepted, and that the countries of Eastern Europe were quite easily abandoned in this sense, without much force and much fighting for them. I am not complaining of our devaluation here. But still, it is a historical problem, it interests me.

251And the last comment, or question, is a more practical and actual question. There were two major issues which were basic in the development of the forthcoming events: first, the Polish elections, and the Polish government in the summer of 1989, which was the first non-communist government in the whole region, which meant that from this time on this wishful thinking, this hope that national communism could be an option, actually was gone, at least for one country. So actually the system was already not the same. Was there any communication or consultation with the Communist Party, first of all, with leaders in Moscow before these events, and also possibly with the Western partners, from the Polish side. Was there any kind of intervention, or any kind of looking around to see what they would say?

  • 24 In September 1989, Hungary began allowing East Germans to transit the country and cross the border (...)

252And the other such event was allowing the Germans to go through Hungary.24 Another question is whether this very important event, which actually was the first step towards the unification of Germany, was consulted with the Soviet leaders or not? It is very important to know, because the Hungarian communist leaders claim that they did not.

253Machcewicz: Just a short question that somehow relates to Csaba’s question. Very recently, Mieczyslaw Rakowski visited Washington DC, and he gave a speech at George Washington University, and he mentioned a telephone conversation which he had with Gorbachev in June 1989, after the election of the 4th of June.

254Levesque: August.

255Machcewicz: August 1989. It was after the election, but before the Mazowiecki government was created, formally and finally created. And according to Ra-kowski, Gorbachev really did not know what was going on in Poland. He did not realize how serious the situation was. He did not realize that the communist system was about to collapse. And my question is: what was your real assessment in Moscow of developments in Poland? Were you aware of where those developments were leading? And another question that relates to the first one: what was your strategy, if you had one, towards developments in Poland and in other countries? Did you hope, did you think that it would be possible to preserve the socialist system led by open-minded reformist leaders, which would recognize the opposition, introduce market reforms, but still hold a political monopoly over the Communist Party? Was there any strategy at all? Or was it just reacting to events?

256Zubok: A very quick question to Sergey Petrovich [Tarasenko]. Can you tell us what Shevardnadze was doing when the crisis of German refugees was developing first in Hungary, and then in Czechoslovakia? Did he have any discussions at a high level, and if he did, what was the content of those discussions? And if he did, what did the East Germans know about that?

257Levesque: During the 10th Plenum of the Polish Communist Party, of the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party, in the end of January 1989, between the plenary session and the start of roundtable talks, General Jaruzelski was in Moscow. What do you know about this visit?

258Dawisha: I have a comment, but it is a question in terms of interpretation. Following on what Csaba has asked us to think about—about why the Soviets did not use force. I was very impressed from the documents, and from what has been said this morning about the extent to which Eastern Europe diminished in concern, in terms of the amount of time spent on the issue by the Politburo. I was very taken in looking at the documents we have, which is, of course, a minute proportion of the total documents, with the amount of time that could be spent discussing whether or not two departments of the Central Committee should be merged, which was a much greater amount of time than was spent discussing what was going to be the change of leadership in East Germany.

259From the documents that we have, it seems to me that this question is a very important conclusion that it is not that the Soviets necessarily changed their assessment of what was possible or desirable in Eastern Europe. It was that the total amount of time and priorities of the Soviet leadership shifted. And it shifted in two directions: it shifted internally, that when Gorbachev came to power, clearly, his number one concern was with the possibility of internal collapse, political collapse, a complete loss of authority of the Communist Party, complete loss of morale within the Communist Party, complete economic collapse.

260And secondly, he had new thinking, which was extremely revolutionary on the international stage. If one accepts that the positions in Eastern Europe could only be maintained if you kept imperial thinking, then the moment imperial thinking is thrown overboard, what in the hell is your position in Eastern Europe? It becomes a complete drag on new thinking.

261And you can imagine all these poor little East European leaders, who spent all their time thinking about nothing except what was going on in Moscow, trying to get the problems of their country onto the agenda of the Politburo. And if only five to seven percent of all the time in the top body was being taken up with this issue, then even if they were only looking for one sentence from the top leadership, it must have been very difficult for them to even get this one sentence. So for me, this is a very important aspect of the reason why they did not use force. However, we do not have all the documents, we have by no means all the documents on Eastern Europe.

262We do not have military documents. And surely, the military were highly involved in the discussion of their positions in Eastern Europe. And I wanted to ask Georgy, you were sent to the “lion’s den” many times as a representative of the International Department to negotiate with or to listen to what was going on in the high command, in terms of their reaction to new thinking, and their new military doctrine. And we have some of the documents here. So, how much time did they spend talking about and thinking about what was going on in Eastern Europe? Was it only five to seven percent? Did they also react in the same way that Gorbachev did?

263And also, of course, in the KGB? We do not have these documents. So, what is your impression about whether there were other organs that were spending much more time on this issue?

264Shakhnazarov: I will try to respond in a most laconic way, because it is a very broad question. First of all, I would like to say that we are underestimating the economic factor. We practically have not spoken about it. I am trying to respond to the first question. When did our leadership become ready to drop some of the burden of the relations with the allies, and, crudely speaking, to release the leash by which Moscow held its satellites? One has to keep in mind that, ideology and Soviet military forces stationed in those countries notwithstanding, our influence was based 90 percent on economic ties. And at a certain time that burden became too much for the Soviet Union; we could not carry it any more.

265And then the process began. Initially we changed the system of payments for oil deliveries. We used to sell oil to them four or six times cheaper than on the world market, and that way we were able to support all socialist countries more or less. And we delivered approximately 100 million tons in one five-year term. Such countries as the GDR received 17 million tons, Poland—14 million tons, Czechoslovakia—16 million, Romania—even though it had its own oil reserves, it always insisted that we sell our oil, and they always got some. We began from reconsidering the pricing system. That was a substantial blow to the socialist countries.

266Another issue is that when the Polish events began [in 1980], we had to put a lot of our money there, and to redirect resources from other countries. Altogether it cost the Soviet Union approximately 10 to 15 billion dollars, not counting increases in oil deliveries, and other goods. That is why when Gorbachev just began to approach the positions of power, he had to deal with these problems. When he became Number Two in the party hierarchy, he made his first trip to Bulgaria where he had to tell Zhivkov that we were not able to give them their annual loan on the order of 400 million rubles any more. The Bulgarians pressured Brezhnev into granting them that annual loan, and they used it to subsidize their agricultural production. This is how it worked.

267In Hungary, approximately 50 percent of their gross national product came from foreign trade operations. We saw the country as if it was already halfway out of the socialist camp. And the impossibility of carrying that burden any longer, in my opinion, played the decisive role, in that from a certain time we began to say: let them be more free, but they should not ask so much from us in the economic sense; we cannot drag this imperial burden any more. It was over with the historic words of Suslov, which he spoke at a meeting of the Commission on Poland. You have to understand the context, because Suslov in our system was like the Pope for the Catholic church. So, he said once, we had already quoted him during our conference in Poland, “It is okay even if Poland becomes capitalist, as long as they do not join NATO.” If Suslov admitted that possibility, it means that the Soviet leadership as a whole had already accepted that. By the way, I would like to remind you that in 1968 all the events in Czechoslovakia, the Prague spring, were received with indignation, with anger and disapproval, but they did not talk about introducing troops. They began to speak about the introduction of troops only after the head of the International Department, Koberko, published his article to feel out the reaction. The essence of the article was that Czechoslovakia should leave the Warsaw Treaty organization and join NATO. Only when that transpired, that was seen as the final attack […] The leadership could not allow that to happen.

268Now, as far as Mazowiecki is concerned, I have a transcript of a conversation between Gorbachev and Mazowiecki. It is a very interesting document because from the very beginning of it Mazowiecki tells Gorbachev that he is very grateful for the Soviet leadership’s positive attitude toward the new Polish government, and at one point he says, “We understand that there are ideological ties that exist between the CPSU and the PUWP, but from my point of view the state-to-state union is more important. And that can be guaranteed by various forces representing a wide political spectrum of the Polish public.”

  • 25 See Document No. 107.

269Gorbachev responds to him, “We recognize the right of every nation to determine its future independently. And, of course, it is the Poles’ business to decide what kind of government they want to have. Since we have a good relationship with the Polish people, we are ready to work with any government that they elect. I believe that good neighborly relations between our two countries are in Poland’s strategic interests.” Here for the first time, Gorbachev admitted, openly and unequivocally, that we accepted any scenario of development for the political regime in Poland. What was important for us was the strategic union with Poland. In the same conversation, Mazowiecki raised the issue of a possible visit by Lech Wałęsa, and Gorbachev agreed to meet with him. It was November 24, 1989. I am passing this document to you, and you can make a copy, and use it.25

270Another question that Professor Dawisha asked was about the military. Of course, we always had disagreements with the military. And it is natural, because the military, everywhere in the world, does what they are supposed to do, namely think mostly about security. Therefore, I think in the United States also, there are certain tensions between the military and the politicians. In our Warsaw Treaty Organization we had the following procedure: the General Staff would prepare a report to Marshal [Viktor] Kulikov, who was the commander-in-chief of the Unified Forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organization. That document was presented to the Central Committee. We studied it in the Department and began to work on it.

271Initially we would make comments, and they would change certain things in the report, and after that they would come to the Central Committee and we would sit together as a team to finalize that document. Of course, we tried to make it more political, to lift it up, and the military pressured for more money in order to persuade our friends that we invest a lot of money, buy more military technology, and so on and so forth.

272Arguably the most interesting meeting was the session of the Committee of Defense Ministers of the WTO, which took place immediately after the Party Conference, if I remember correctly, in July 1988. At that meeting Gorbachev spoke about our goals, what our plans were, why perestroika took its current shape, and so on. That is not interesting. What is interesting is that before the session, as usual, they presented the plan of work for the Committee of Defense Ministers to the Central Committee. And our military also presented their draft of Marshal [Dmitri] Yazov’s speech. The text was quite pacifist, I would say. In the first part of the speech, our military spoke about the need for perestroika, reconciliation, the movement toward peace, and the like. And the rest of the draft said that in order to do that we needed to strengthen such-and-such flank, add such-and-such military technology, and so on; in other words, they requested more spending for armaments.

273We had great debates with them. And Marshal [Sergey] Akhromeev at that time was already Gorbachev’s assistant. He was a military officer, a respected leader, and an intelligent person. We did have arguments with him, but those were rational arguments, and we were always able to reach common conclusions. We were able then to find formulas that said that we needed to reduce our military muscle, not increase it. Therefore, there was that problem. But it was not an acute problem for us because, as Anatoly Sergeyevich has already said, there was no opposition in the Army, and there could not have been. There were some people who were extremely negative, like General [Albert] Makashov, who is now the main hawk in the Duma, on the left.

274Chernyaev: [Vitaly] Varennikov.

275Shakhnazarov: Varennikov was more moderate then. But to think that they rose against the general secretary, against the Central Committee—that was absolutely unimaginable up until the very end, up until the putsch of 1991. Am I right?

276Chernyaev: Approximately.

  • 26 Col. Nikolay Petrushenko and Col. Viktor Alksnis were outspoken members of the hardline Soyuz (Uni (...)

277Tarasenko: Petrushenko, Alksnis.26

278Shakhnazarov: I think that I have answered all the questions.

  • 27 Oskar Fischer.

279Tarasenko: I would like to make a short comment about that dramatic moment when there was the “running away after the summer vacation,” so to speak, when the citizens of the GDR began to vote for another system with their feet. It so happened that at that time Shevardnadze was already at the session of the General Assembly, it was mid-September 1989, when all the ministers gather in New York. Genscher, and the GDR foreign minister,27 I do not recall his name now, were already there too. And because that issue by that time had become like a fast-progressing illness, I know that Shevardnadze met with both ministers sometimes several times a day. I was not there, but I know. They had additional contacts through [James] Baker. In principle, the decision had been found in New York, and the urgency of the issue was removed. They came to an agreement, and sent instructions to their relative capitals on how to act: to let those East Germans, who had already left, go. And the West Germans promised that they would not provoke the East Germans. In other words, they were able to resolve the issue temporarily, for a short time only. Later it emerged in its full force and urgency.


280Blanton: This session has been titled “Domestic Context” where we will get into some of the issues that Georgy has raised about these limitations: economics and so forth. But there is one major issue still hanging over from the previous session, and that is, it seems to me, the role of Shevardnadze. And I would say, particularly after the events in Tbilisi in April 1989, when the Soviet Union did use force against the Georgians, among Eastern Europeans you can hardly blame them for seeing the possibility of use of force against them in that same way.

281And some of the evidence that we have, but it is limited, suggests that at least after those events in Tbilisi, Shevardnadze began exercising a somewhat independent role. In fact, by November of 1989, we actually have a declassified U.S. cable from Baker to the Sofia Embassy saying that, according to a report from an unimpeachable source, which could only be Shevardnadze, Shevardnadze personally intervened to support Mladenov, to boot Zhivkov in November. Now, it is not an ambiguous answer, “it is your business,” it is a cable that says that Shevardnadze intervened and booted the guy. So, this is a different kind of Soviet role vis-a-vis the countries of Eastern Europe, and I wanted to ask Sergey about Shevardnadze’s reaction, starting from the events in Tbilisi in April 1989. In the Shevardnadze-Gorbachev relationship, to what degree in those subsequent months did Shevardnadze play an independent role? And then I want to give Jacques Levesque a chance to ask Sergey a follow-up question on the refugee issues.

282Tarasenko: The events in Tbilisi, of course, were a big surprise. Gorbachev and Shevardnadze were returning home from a trip to London. There had been demonstrations there for several days, a crowd gathered in front of the Government Palace. I would like to explain some context to you so that you understand our mentality. When our leader returns home from a foreign trip, and there are demonstrations in front of a republican Central Committee, one has to do something. That is why, I think, the local government forced the events—to disperse the rally. They did it in an unfortunate way. They calculated that there would have been no people in the street at that time, but to the contrary, most people had gathered in the square by that time. As a result, 20 people were dead. When we arrived, Gorbachev received a telephone call—I understand that he was informed about the situation. He spoke with the Georgian leader. And then he ordered Shevardnadze to take charge of that problem, and to fly to Tbilisi immediately.

283Shevardnadze was not excited about going there because of his past position in Georgia. It was a delicate issue for him to interfere in the affairs of his successor. He called them and received some comforting information, that everything was all right, that the situation was under control, and that he did not need to go. In several days, as was the practice after such foreign trips, we convened the Committee of Ministers of the WTO, and our foreign minister reported about the negotiations with our Western counterparts. We sat down to prepare documents for the Committee of Ministers, and suddenly we got a telephone call—and it was a Saturday—that we had to fly to Georgia immediately. The minister was flying at 10 a.m. I and another assistant packed our suitcases and flew to Tbilisi.

284The situation there was very difficult. It was very difficult to relieve the consequences of that action. Our recent Defense Minister [Igor] Rodionov was the commander of the Caucasus military district. He was in charge of that operation. I am not going to tell you how it all happened. But it was a very unpleasant moment that had an impact on my attitude toward this general. They used gas. Next day there were several hundred people in the hospitals with respiratory problems. Doctors made requests to General Rodionov to tell them what exactly they used, what kind of gas, so that they could treat the people. The response was: this is a provocation, we did not use any gas, there was nothing like this. One day later they admitted that they did use gas, and they named the kind that was used.

285That lie, especially when people were in the hospitals, was terrible. One thing is that they carried out their primary task poorly, but they could have dealt with the consequences better. The minister stayed there for 10 days to calm the situation. There was the following moment: they had a Plenum of the Central Committee at which he made a speech. Georgia was very suspicious of the center at the time. We sent the speech to Moscow through the TASS channels, and requested that it be published. We knew our practice: they could cut or censor the speech. We called them on the telephone and sent a telegram telling them not to change a comma, not a single character. We said: You either publish it in full, or do not publish it at all; but if you change a single word, it will ruin everything. At that time, such a request was not an easy thing. I do not know who, and at what level, made the decision—it was the newspapers’ business, our internal propaganda. But eventually the speech was published in full, and reconciliation was achieved.

286You probably understood from what my senior colleagues said that we had less and less time left for international affairs. And therefore, Shevardnadze’s role became more prominent—not because he wanted to do more, or because he wanted to show himself off more. It was simply because many problems needed to be solved, and he often had to make decisions without any directives, without consultations with the center. He had to make decisions on the spot, often during his trips.

287I think that Anatoly Sergeyevich can speak as a witness, because he was very helpful in resolving issues, because Shevardnadze often sent telegrams to Gorbachev which stated that they had achieved such-and-such a compromise, such-and-such a package deal, especially on missiles, on disarmament—and if he could not get an affirmative response until, let us say, 10 p.m. Moscow time, he would do this and this. It is a diplomatic trick—to state a deadline. That forced the center to either make a decision or to let us pass our decision. Usually our proposals were approved. Usually the center gave their approval. Rarely, it would pass automatically.

288However, there were some brave decisions that our military did not like. The military generally did not like a great deal of the disarmament process. This is just a general rule. Therefore, it was not a voluntary power takeover. It was a result of a vacuum of power, a vacuum of attention to specific issues. Traditional coordination on issues of disarmament requires substantial effort and energy. You have to convene representatives of five or six different ministries or organizations. It is practically impossible to come to a common denominator. In that case one has to make a forceful decision. And the minister took such forceful breakthroughs onto his shoulders. He took the responsibility.

289I can tell you about the Mladenov case. I did not attend their meeting. They spoke Russian, and they met one-on-one. I know that at that time U.S.-Bulgarian relations were very tense; I do not remember why.

290Shakhnazarov: Because of the Turks.

291Tarasenko: Yes, because of the Turkish issue. So, the secretary of state did not even want to meet with the Bulgarian minister, he did not want to have anything in common—some kind of sanctions were in force. I was always present at Shevardnadze’s meetings with the secretary of state. And I was present at that meeting. They had already got to such a level of personal trust that Shevardnadze said: “Do me a favor. I know your position, but it is very important and it is necessary. And I want you to know about it.” In response, the secretary of state said, “Then you can also do me a favor—meet with [Jonas] Savimbi. We know your position toward this Angolan separatist. But do it in the interests of the cause of peace. It would help if you met with him.”

292This is how they decided that: the secretary of state met with Mladenov, and our minister met with Savimbi. Later it became a routine practice: even on disarmament issues, when it involved their positions, sometimes important positions, they were very open with each other, and often said, “I need your help, I need your help to deal with my domestic problems—to get approval I have to get something from you. Some concession. Give me this, and then it will be easier for me to get that.” And that was reciprocal: the secretary of state asked Shevardnadze, and Shevardnadze asked the secretary of state. And that way they were able to move ahead, because often they found themselves at a complete dead end, when it looked like there was no way out. But they had to move somewhere. And they moved by taking side roads, and moved the negotiations ahead.

293Returning to new thinking. It mostly related to foreign policy; domestic policy was involved indirectly. Perestroika and glasnost, and all other terms related to internal policy; new thinking was in the realm of foreign policy. And in my view, of all that was accomplished under Gorbachev, most of the progress had been made in foreign policy. I think it was not only because there were conceptual ideas presented by the general secretary, but also because Gorbachev made the right choice when he picked Shevardnadze as foreign minister. He turned out to be a natural-born diplomat.

294This can easily be explained because in the Soviet practice a regional secretary, a secretary of a republic, had to be a diplomat in order to have a normal relationship with the center. Georgia always was the most liberal republic—they had no problems with dissidents or with emigrants. They dealt with their problems in a calm way. Already at that time Shevardnadze was able to find ways to resolve all those urgent problems. And in Soviet times to get credits, or to get oil, also required some diplomatic skill. To get anything, one had to have diplomatic skills.

295So, he played a more and more independent role out of necessity. And at the final stage, during the conflict with Saddam Hussein, during the Persian Gulf War, he had to do many things all by himself, informing the leadership after the fact.

296Levesque: I have a tentative answer to your question concerning the opening of the Western border of Hungary to East German refugees. At the same time, I would like to know whether this answer makes sense to Sergey Tarasenko from what he knows. I discussed this issue in Budapest with László Kovács. He was in 1989 a deputy to Foreign Minister [Gyula] Horn. At first, he told me their official position was made by the Hungarians independently. But afterwards, what he said qualified this to a considerable extent. He first told me that before making that decision they were extremely concerned about the Soviet reaction.

297He said, “We knew what to expect from the East Germans, but we did not know what to expect from the Soviets.” In other words, they were extremely concerned about what would the Soviet reaction be. So he did not say, “We asked for permission,” but he said, “We sent some feelers to Moscow, to Shevardnadze’s office, informing Shevardnadze of our intention to decide along the lines of opening the border. And after a few days,” he said, “we received an answer from Shevardnadze, which was extremely short—there were very few words: it is an issue that concerns Hungary, East Germany, and West Germany.” He told me, “We were extremely relieved to receive such a message from Shevardnadze. And we interpreted it as a green light.” And he said, “Of course, when we did that, we knew that it would be a terrible blow for Honecker. And we certainly knew that they knew in Moscow that their message was a terrible blow for Honecker.” Because Honecker at the time was exerting pressure on Moscow so that Moscow would press the Hungarians not to open the border.

298So, again, Georgy, the Soviet Union played a very significant indirect role. I would like, maybe Sergey Tarasenko, to confirm this story that I was told in Budapest. Does it make sense to you?

299Tarasenko: That is right. Shevardnadze sided with the Hungarians on this issue. Not only in this message, in this wording, but generally.

300Levesque: I was told by [Karóly] Grósz in Budapest that they decided at the top level of the party that that issue would have to be resolved at the level of the Foreign Ministry, that the party leadership would not take care of that. So apparently Horn had some autonomy in making this decision, but they consulted the Soviet side before making the decision.

301Chernyaev: First of all, I would like to react to what Jacques Levesque has just said. I think that it would be extremely interesting from a linguistic point of view to compare Gorbachev’s conversations with Western leaders and his conversations with East European leaders. If, in the first case, they talked at the level of common sense, practical realism, and sometimes even pragmatism, even down-to-earth pragmatism sometimes, a feeling of mutual trust emerged at that level, and they were able to make serious policy. In the second case, with allies and friends, conversations were still saturated with ideology to a large extent.

302That played a negative role, judging from the historical perspective. It convinced the interlocutors that Gorbachev would not give up his ideological principles, that he would come to their rescue whatever they were doing, that he would not abandon them, any perturbations notwithstanding. This fact is very important to keep in mind.

303Why did Gorbachev act this way? Unfortunately, with the exception of Jaruzelski, he did not feel that other East European leaders were his equals (Kádár had been gradually deteriorating). He did not think that they were at the level of modern international relations. He could not allow himself to speak openly with them because he understood that they were locked in ideologically, and that they would misunderstand him even worse if he was to speak with them as he spoke with Western leaders. This is the first question.

304Now I would like to react—not to answer, but precisely to react—to the questions posed by Mr. Békés. Because there are no answers to such questions, they do not exist in nature. I was asked dozens of times, and Gorbachev was asked also: Tell us, on what day, in what month, in what year, did you agree to German unification? There is no such date. The same with regard to the whole of Eastern Europe and to other questions that you posed; for example, when did he decide that he would not try to save communism? From the time—you are absolutely right on this—when communist ideology disappeared from his foreign policy, from the time he understood, first instinctively and then consciously, that it was not a tool for resolving modern practical issues of international development; from that time on he could not care less whether a communist regime in Poland or in Hungary would survive or not.

305Georgy cited the conversation with Mazowiecki. I was also present at that conversation. The first new non-communist leader of a socialist country came to Moscow. The conversation was absolutely normal—no skittishness or suspicions, no tensions regarding the fact that the visitor was representing a socialist country, and no special acting toward him.

306Gorbachev talked to him like he talked to Genscher, Baker, and others. He talked with him as with a person who had reached the level of modern understanding of international affairs. He did not have a problem with the fact that here was a new man who would lead Poland away from the Soviet Union. For him it was important how to work practically on economic issues, cultural issues, and so on. In other words, he was talking with a man who represented his state, statesman-like. The Poles decided what they wanted to do, and he would deal with the representative whom they elected. That logic, that transition from the ideological mentality to the mentality of common sense in Gorbachev is impossible to date.

307I cannot answer this question, I cannot tell you when Gorbachev gave up the communist approach to international affairs. I understand my scholarly colleagues. In order to conduct scholarly analysis, one needs some kind of logical framework. Unfortunately, it does not work like this in politics. This is why I was very impressed by Jacques Levesque’s book: because he is not trying to fit the events and peoples’ positions into schemes. He analyzes real events, real processes, not schemes. I disagree with some of his conclusions, but it does not matter. The strength of the book is in the fact, as ironic as it sounds here, that he rejected the “Soviet approach” toward analyzing schemes.

308For example, the socialist camp began to shatter. Was there any conception of how to react, any scenarios, alternatives? If it goes this way—what are you going to do? And if it goes that way—what are you going to do? There was nothing like that. No commissions, and no committees had discussions about alternatives. This is what the Kremlinologists were doing in the West. No conceptions were prepared. And if such conversations arose at some Politburo sessions, we focused on very concrete problems: for example, how to react to the Germans running across the border to Hungary. What did we decide? Let them run, let them decide themselves. It is not our business to hold them, or to turn them back to the GDR. Telling you about all this, I wanted to draw your attention to this point: That we cannot answer some of the questions that science poses to us, because these are different planes of objective logic.

309Hershberg: On the concrete questions about Gorbachev’s response to concrete events in 1989, there are two mysteries that always puzzled me, and I think are also relevant to the question that Vilém Prečan raised earlier trying to figure out what are the limits. The issue has already been raised. Two questions that I am wondering about: can you illuminate for us Gorbachev’s reaction to the Chinese crackdown at Tiananmen, because I know, for many reformers, who in the West and probably in Eastern Europe looked to Gorbachev for a new standard of morality, there was great disappointment when Gorbachev, for whatever reason, refused to condemn the crackdown in Beijing, and even criticized Andrey Sakharov when he tried to do so at the Congress of People’s Deputies.

310Was that purely a pragmatic calculation from Gorbachev, whereas he in his heart was opposed and horrified by the use of force? Or did he see it as a rational response of a leader to control his own people? That is the first mystery.

311The second concerns the statement issued by the Central Committee on August 26, 1989, while Gorbachev was on vacation, three days after the 2 million-people human chain in the Baltics took place, from Vilnius to Riga to Tallinn. And I just think I remember reading about this in The New York Times in the United States. The statement from the Central Committee sounded like it was issued from the Politburo of Joseph Stalin. It used the language of accusing the Baltics of being Fascist, nationalist, saying they were risking their very existence, a blatant threat to use force.

312And interestingly, Ambassador Matlock in his book wrote that it was inconceivable that this statement was issued without Gorbachev’s approval, even though he was not in Moscow when it was released to the press. And yet, it certainly went against the entire thrust, and the entire language of Gorbachev. Can you clarify, was this Gorbachev trying to draw a line between the internal empire and the external empire in Eastern Europe? That within the Soviet Union there was a different code of conduct? Or was this an early sign of the kind of independent action that can happen when Gorbachev goes on vacation in August?

313Zubok: My question is a follow-up question on this point. Valentin Falin is not present here, we tried to invite him, but he could not come even though he was interested. As far as I remember, in his memoirs, he said that while the socialist bloc was crumbling, he was running around the Central Committee, knocking on doors, to Yakovlev and to others, and suggesting various measures. But nobody was willing to listen to him, and all his suggestions were in vain. I have a question in this respect: what could he propose? Were there any proponents of the use of force in some versions in that period? Can you name anybody who proposed to use force?

314Chen Jian: Actually, you know, in history, sometimes the result was determined by the order. One example was in 1989, while in Eastern Europe there was a lack of force—use of force—but on the other side, there was an extreme case of use of force, especially in Beijing. And actually, in 1989, it should have been a kind of turning point for the international communist movement, because for the first time in three decades it seemed that a unification of the international communist movement was in order with Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing. And actually, Gorbachev’s new thinking in foreign policy was comprehensive, and included major adjustments in the Soviet position toward China, including a commitment to changing Soviet policy toward the Vietnamese occupation, or invasion, of Cambodia, which was something Brezhnev refused even to talk about for almost five or six years. Actually, even after Brezhnev. And also, a new commitment to changing Soviet policy toward Afghanistan.

315And these were exactly Deng Xiaoping’s preconditions for meeting with Soviet leaders. And not until 1988 was the foundation created. So, exactly, what were Gorbachev’s aims in visiting Beijing? This is one question.

316And then his visit to Beijing created a kind of stage for the already existing pro-democracy movement in Beijing. Because of his visit to Beijing, you find that the entire world paid attention to it. Somehow, however, the focus of his visit was shifted from him to the daily developing student movement. But without his visit, the whole 1989 Beijing crackdown story could have been completely different, without that kind of international attention.

317So then comes Jim’s question about why Moscow refused to openly condemn the Beijing massacre. Of course, another question is, really, the hidden meaning of it—what exactly was the role of the Beijing massacre for the future, not just decision making, but also mentality of leaders in Moscow and in the Eastern European countries? Actually, if it had not been for the Beijing massacre in the early summer of 1989, what would their whole understanding be about the necessity of using force, and the consequences? And as a result, practical policy making would have been completely different.

318Wolff: There has been a lot of talk in the course of the afternoon about Gorbachev’s ambiguity in a general sense, but not in the sense of him being a divided character, who divides his time and his character, in a way, between internal matters and external matters, and how each time he goes on a trip all kinds of things happen, and he has to return and somehow pick up the pieces—whether we are starting with the Nina Andreyeva letter back in 1988, where he is off in Yugoslavia and he comes back in the middle of a crisis, or if we are looking at 1989, where he goes off to China and comes back to face that Havel has come out of prison, and the Polish church has been legalized, and Lithuania has declared its sovereignty. Or we can produce a whole set of these things.

319This goes back to Vlad’s question about what is Gorbachev’s reference group in different periods? Does his reference group switch somehow, or is he somehow continuing to have this very complex life between the two places? It is sort of a general question about how he’s managing to live between these two sets of ideals, and I guess, the very specific question you could ask is how did the communications work when he was traveling? Did he know everything that was piling up on his plate at home when he was off traveling? Did he get that level of detail, or did he come back to surprises every time?

320Chernyaev: First, regarding Tiananmen Square, and that terrible murder. Several days later, Gorbachev and I were in the FRG. That was a famous visit that became a turning point in Gorbachev’s understanding of the German issue, but that is a separate topic. At the press conference, which was extensive, very sincere, and sometimes harsh, Gorbachev was at his best, and they interrogated him about the events that had just happened. “Such events happened, you are a person of new thinking, you are against violence, for democracy, and human rights. You proclaimed those principles at home, and you abide by them. Look what happened.”

321Gorbachev responded in the following way, “I would advise you not to make rush judgments about China, about that great state, in which very serious processes are underway right now. I was there. I saw it. It is very easy to condemn it, but what’s next? What serious politician can allow himself not to take the Chinese factor into account in the perspective of development? Who would make a witches’ Sabbath out of it? Of course, it could be done at the level of Sakharov, but not at the level of state leaders. I cannot make such statements.” This is how he answered that question. He was asked again, but he did not change his position. When we got back on the plane, he was saying, “What did they want from me? To condemn China? I do not like what happened there, but I am a statesman, I am a leader of a great power. And we are talking about another great power. Why would I do such things!”

322This was his attitude. You may say that it was ambivalence again. No, it was the position of a statesman. I never liked that, I was emotionally upset. But I also recognized his right to do so. And sometimes, when I was too insistent with my opinions regarding duplicity, he used to tell me, “That is for you to do, that is your position, and I have other responsibilities, and I have my own position. You report to me, and I have huge responsibilities.” Georgy can add something here, because he was in China with Gorbachev, if I remember correctly.

323Now regarding the demonstration with candles in the Baltics. We learned about that when we were in Foros. Gorbachev was on vacation, and I was with him in charge of all the papers. He received phone calls from the KGB, from the Central Committee, I do not remember who exactly called, but they demanded that there should be a response, that we could not let it stand—that there should be a very harsh reaction. They sent us several drafts of statements from the Central Committee. I am not bragging about myself, but at the level of my responsibility, only to Gorbachev, and to nobody else, I told him that we could not do that—meaning that we could not make such a statement, that we would not have changed anything, but would only have made those people angrier, and thus made our own situation worse.

324So I can admit that I was categorically opposed to that statement. But he disagreed with me: “We have to show them that we have the Constitution, the law. They are demanding secession from the Union. We will deal with this issue within the framework of our Constitution, of the integrity of our state.” Stepping a little bit ahead of myself, I can give you my personal opinion—I am not hiding it, I wrote about it in my books. I think that Gorbachev made a very serious mistake with the Baltics. Had he let them go earlier, had he agreed with their independence and not tried to stop them with economic sanctions and other pressures, all the future problems related to the preservation of the Union as a new democratic confederate state on the basis of the New Union Treaty would have been easier. I am absolutely convinced. Because the Baltics always were an alien formation within the Soviet Union. And not only many politicians, but even common people perceived it as such.

325When our Russian people traveled to Latvian or Estonian resorts, they thought they were going abroad. They had a different way of life there, and a different standard of living. I can cite my personal experience. I fought in the war in the Baltics in 1944-1945, took part in the liberation of Riga. When we crossed the former border (of 1934), we had the feeling that we had entered a foreign country. And that was the people’s attitude toward us too. Of course, there were different attitudes. There were negative feelings, there were the “greens,” the guerillas, but there also were people who related to us positively. Those who saw us as liberators thought that after we liberated them from the Germans, after the war was over, they would return to 1939, and we would leave.

326And if we had done that, history would have been completely different. But in the late 1980s, when all the processes began, we had to let the Baltics go immediately, and then the tumor that later metastasized with separatism to all the republics would have been removed, cut off. This is my story, I was present at that statement’s origin. You did not believe that Gorbachev could have signed it, but unfortunately he did, he approved that very harsh document of the Central Committee.

327Now regarding Falin who went door-to-door in the Central Committee. I do not know about that. What could he have achieved with that? I do not know. I do not know anybody, except maybe several generals, who wanted it, but they kept it to themselves. But to propose the use of force, or introduction of troops, or anything like that—they did not. What could we do? Everybody was saying we need to do something, but what exactly? Nobody seriously proposed to use force.

328Now, regarding the trips to China, and what Gorbachev’s goal was there. The goal was very natural—we had to put an end to that abnormal situation where we were waging a Cold War not only with the West but also with China. The second one was even harsher—that the Cold War could have a very bad ending. That situation with China did not give anybody any benefits—economic, political, or psychological. He went there to normalize our relations. Moreover, we did not even think about the kind of relations we had in the early 1950s, the great friendship, or that the two great powers would revitalize the international communist movement together—that never even came to Gorbachev’s mind, let alone the Chinese. Gorbachev’s task was just the opposite—to remove the ideological aspect of the relationship with China, to free it from ideological nostalgia. This is what I can tell you.

329Shakhnazarov: I would like to begin by stating my disagreement, for the first time, with Anatoly Sergeyevich. Mao Zedong called it “contradictions within the people.” It concerns his position on the Baltics. The statement was primitive, and very dumb indeed, but in principle Gorbachev was right in reacting harshly in the beginning. He could not have done otherwise, it was his duty as head of the Soviet state. Yesterday I read in The Washington Post that there was a small group of people in Texas who are in favor of the secession of Texas. There was a commentary that Texas had joined the United States forever, I think in 1844, and that the issue was not a real one. But there is still that group.

330Now what is the U.S. president supposed to do—just let that develop? Or when the Lombardian separatists raised those issues? The Baltics were a part of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet president had to do everything possible to preserve it as such. I categorically disagree with the opinion that if we had let them secede earlier that would have made preservation of the rest of the Soviet Union easier. Nothing of the sort. Such an action, once it starts, inevitably leads to subsequent actions. If the Baltics can do it, then the Uzbeks can do it, and then the Ukrainians can do it too. That is why he had to undertake those measures. And he tried to do it. We had written a law, set a five-year timetable, with a necessary referendum, and the resolution of all economic and other issues, including territorial issues. If the breakup of the Soviet Union had happened on that basis, then at least Russia would have kept the Crimea.

331Therefore, I leave the question of justice aside for now. We are not talking about right and wrong. There are some laws of state life that no country would break. Take Yugoslavia for example, Kosovo. It is a very complex problem. The West is completely on the Albanian side, but it does not take into account the simple fact that the territory of Kosovo is the core of the Yugoslavian territory, and the Serbs were in the great majority in that area. It is their historic mistake that they let the Albanians become a majority there. Should they now give that territory away to the Albanians without any resistance? Therefore, I strongly doubt that.

332As far as China is concerned, I was there with Gorbachev, and took part in the discussions. There was a man who was very close to Gorbachev, Zhao Ziyang, then [general] secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Their discussions were almost at the same level as Gorbachev’s conversations with Jaruzelski, and with other people who were close to him. And that is why Gorbachev believed that there was a chance that China would choose their road. Unfortunately, it did not happen. But when Gorbachev talked with Deng Xiaoping, he understood that that man personified a very big trend in political thought, and that we should let China choose its own way, without forcing them to do anything.

  • 28 July 5, 1989.

333By the way, he explained it best in his lecture at the Sorbonne, if anybody remembers that episode.28 The French were insistently asking the question, how he, a democrat, a thinking person, could refrain from condemning China. And he told them, “What should I condemn? You have to understand, it is a completely unique society, in which the issues of democracy are not yet raised the way they are in your country, and now in my country too. They have to be ripe for that. We should not force them, but rather give them a chance to resolve those issues on their own.” Therefore, I believe that he was absolutely right on China, especially because in less than a year the Americans also had to normalize relations with China. Even more so now.

  • 29 Geidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.

334Now, I would like to add on the issues that have already been discussed here. I would like to add to what Sergey Petrovich said about Shevardnadze. I think that when a painter works on his painting, he does not start with details, like a boot, or a woman’s foot, or curtains. He starts with thinking about the composition of the painting. It’s the same with what was happening in our country—we have to look at it in its entirety, at the whole picture. In the beginning, all the secretaries of the republics—Shevardnadze, Aliyev, Nazarbaev, Karimov29—all presidents today—felt themselves as parts of one large system, and acted accordingly. And Shevardnadze felt that way too.

335But at a certain point in time they all realized that the national liberation movement for the independence of the republics was beginning. Then they were faced with the question whether they should remain a part of that system, or whether they should turn from communists into nationalists. And they have done that, one after another, some earlier, some later. Shevardnadze also followed that path. And from the moment when the thought about the possibility of Georgian independence crossed his mind, he stopped being a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and a Politburo member, and became a Georgian. All the rest of them experienced that. As far as the events in Tbilisi are concerned, you have to look at them from the perspective that I just mentioned. It was one of the bursts of the liberation movement, which eventually led to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

336Falin did go door-to-door. And he visited me too. He was angry, he wrote memos to the effect that we need to take harsh measures, we should not just sit and observe it. But Anatoly is right, there was nothing concrete in those memos. He was just making noise, saying that it was no good that we were giving everything away without a fight. But he could not propose anything concrete. The same with Kvitsinsky, and with some of our other German experts who are now writing their memoirs, their articles, where they pour dirt on Gorbachev, and accuse him of every mortal sin. But at the time, they could not propose anything of substance.

337And the final comment. You repeatedly posed the question of whether Gorbachev knew, whether he understood. What did he think when he acted one way but not another? Gorbachev’s influence as a deity in charge of the entire process had great significance. But you have to take into account the fact that as Gorbachev influenced events, the events influenced him too. He developed himself, moving to a large extent by trial and error. Life pushed him ahead and sometimes submerged him into some unpleasant situations. Every time he was forced to find answers.

338We do not have to look for a thought-out system. He did not do his reforms like other great reformers, like Luther, who nailed his 102 [sic] Points to the wall of the Wittenberg church, who knew far in advance what they were supposed to do; everything was planned out. No. He chose his direction correctly. The nonviolent method was also correct. The rest depended on God, and on the people, and on other politicians, and on the United States. And unfortunately, we did not hear much about the latter here.

339This is my final comment. To tell you honestly, I would like to hear more from your side. You see, we come, we bring the documents, we give them to you, and we are glad to do it because we see that there are people here who write history in a good sense, who preserve it for the future. But for our part, we would like to know: what did the Americans think about? Is it true what some of our politicians on the left are saying, that it was the Americans who had planned everything, who pushed Wałęsa ahead, who provoked everything?


341MacEachin: I am puzzled by the description of the [Soviet] 1989 response as an enigma. I will explain why I do not see it as an enigma.

342But let me offer some related information. I just checked this record of testimony I have here, which, if you do not have a copy I will get you one. This was testimony which by a coincidence occurred when I was asked to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (actually it was a Task Force of the Committee) on the 7th of December of 1988. While I was sitting in front of the Senate Committee Task Force, Gorbachev was up in New York before the U.N. General Assembly announcing unilateral military force cuts. As I was giving this testimony, I kept sending my colleagues out of the room to check the television broadcast. You will see if you read the testimony record that at that particular time, as late in the game as that was, this was something that had been forecast earlier. We all like to brag about when we were right and forget about when we were wrong, but it was nonetheless considered a very radical estimate, judgment, and had not been accepted even by the senator to whom I was talking that day. You can see this because I opened the briefing by saying that I won my bets, Senator, and then his staff started to denigrate the implications of the force cuts. You can see in the record how this conversation played out.

343What I am saying is that the developments at that particular time should be looked at in the context of what we have said here about 1987; we have agreed that by then national communism was the best outcome—it was acceptable, and was the best outcome—and that there would be almost certainly no intervention under circumstances where a government identified itself as national communist.

344I teach a course in analysis, and part of what we emphasize in the course is always asking the next question. If you come up with an answer, sometimes the answer itself turns over into another question. As I mentioned earlier, the question that we did not ask in 1987 was: if it is true that national communism is now the best outcome, and is acceptable to the Soviet government, to Gorbachev, when will the Poles believe that? Now we understand that it might take them a little longer, and certainly the Czechs, and certainly the Hungarians, all having had some unhappy experience. But when would they believe that national communism was acceptable?

345And once they did believe that, why were they going to stop necessarily at national communism? In other words, it was the case of once you let the tiger out of the box, how do you get the tiger back under control? As those of you who own cats know, when you open the cat’s box the cat would not jump out right away, it would check, sniff the air, and if it looks okay, then you cannot catch it, it is out and it’s running. This was the kind of picture that we thought might come about.

346Now, let me explain a part of the analysis. We did not have special knowledge; I wish we were half as good at that as people thought we were, but we were not. We did not have all the knowledge of all the discussions that necessarily must have been taking place, but we had seen Shevardnadze’s statement earlier in the year, saying that communism was not the basis for foreign policy. I think Medvedev had done a piece, something along those lines, about the same time. More importantly, again we had to take a look at what we were talking about. Somebody here today asked some of these questions: What do you mean when you say you will not “tolerate” something? If you will not tolerate it, what are you going to do besides calling it dirty names? What are you going to do to change it? Maybe you can get somebody in the country to pull off a coup. This can be very risky—at times these things get off track, and do not go the way they were planned. Maybe you can get the military there to do something. If you are going to use military force […] could the Soviet Union have used its own military forces exclusively, without cooperation or at least token participation by all the other Warsaw Pact countries?

347Now let us put ourselves in 1988 moving toward 1989 with these questions on the table. So you have to ask yourself: How big a military force could carry out a military intervention? And remember, if you are going to undertake military intervention of this nature, you want to be sure that it is the kind of military intervention that does not invite the “host” to fight back. So, how big an intervention force are we talking about? In my recollection, it was twenty-some divisions in 1968. And if we are talking about Poland, we are talking about a country twice as big as Czechoslovakia.

  • 30 In his U.N. speech, Gorbachev announced overall reductions of Soviet armed forces by 500,000 men, (...)

348What is the political setting in the USSR in 1988? Let us look at the events: a conference in June and July which put major developments in train for domestic purposes; the events of September 30th with even more major domestic political activities put in train, which I still think was one of the most important sets of actions taken; in December Gorbachev announces a cut of 50,000 in the Soviet forces based in Eastern Europe, a significant reduction; a 500,000-person reduction in overall Soviet military forces.30 All these things are in train. And getting out of the Afghan entanglement is still underway at this time. So you have to ask yourself the question: under those circumstances, is the USSR going to put together a huge military force for intervening into another country?

349So, military intervention not only ran counter to what the Soviet leadership was saying […] I agree there was ambiguity, but it was a calculated ambiguity, and while there was ambiguity there were reasonably forthright statements made by Foreign Ministry and other senior officials. There also was the question: What is the cost in 1989, with all these domestic issues on the plate—the political reorganizations, the reduction of overall military forces, the pullback of some forces from Eastern Europe—of putting together a military intervention in an East European country, which could very well result in a pretty awful outcome, which could make the repercussions of Tienanmen Square look fairly tame?

350So, I guess my point is that by 1989 the box lid was open, the cat was sniffing the air, and once it got out no one knew what would happen. But none of us where we were, rightly or wrongly, believed there was any potential for the leadership of the Soviet Union to sacrifice all the things that it had been attempting to achieve for the last three-and-a-half years, and all the challenges it had given itself for the next few years, to pay that price. We thought instead that the Soviet leaders would attempt to work out some kind of acceptable relationship based on economic interest and common interests in the politics of the region.

351So I keep coming back and saying: everyone that I talked to was always scratching their head, and affirming that […] we agreed that once the use of force was not an obvious penalty, a lot of things could happen. Nonetheless, it also always surprises me that so many people have so much trouble figuring out—Gee, why did the sudden developments in East Europe happen?—when it seems consistent both with what the leadership was saying and with the realities of the costs. I would have thought that to have made a case, to have made an argument, in 1989, that the USSR would intervene militarily to suppress something in Hungary or Poland or Czechoslovakia would have been a major credibility hurdle. I would have said to someone trying to make that case that the burden is on you to make that argument. If you had been working in Washington making estimates, I would have said you’ve got a tough case to make because it just does not stand up to every piece of evidence we have.


353Zubok: I would follow the example of my colleague, Mr. Hershberg, and I would just tell you a couple of jokes and general things, because I am really not the person to draw conclusions from this very interesting discussion. This reminds me of a phrase from De Tocqueville, from his famous book, The Old Regime and the French Revolution: The counterrevolution was already rising, but nobody was able to see it. Big events always come as a surprise.

354And a second idea. It was mentioned here many times, and it is also obvious. We are dealing with systemic processes, the process of destroying everything that was created under Stalin and after Stalin. And the collapse of Eastern Europe was simply insignificant in that context. And the third idea that I have, as a historian, is that we need to look at it from the perspective of the ability to defend oneself, to remain viable. And the system was unable to react adequately to the crisis. If we go back to the Kronstadt uprising [of 1921], there were no important movements that would arise along the entire perimeter of the Soviet Union since then. There were certain localized attempts at uprising and it was very easy for the system to put those down, so the system did not learn anything. It was just like Honecker was not ready to confront people in the streets […] The same in our country—our local leaders and even our central leaders were not prepared to deal with events on that scale. That is all I wanted to say.


355Blanton: […] We are going to begin this session on the superpower context, and I have asked Karen Dawisha to lead off with some provocative questions and mysteries, as she sees them […]

356Dawisha: [T]his book of documents is absolutely fascinating. We really owe a great debt of gratitude to those like Anatoly who provided them, and those who translated them. They are truly unique. One of two major conclusions that I reached from reading the documents, was that, I do not think we can underestimate the extent to which Gorbachev trusted the counsel of Western leaders. I would say he trusted Western leaders more than he trusted East European leaders. And to me it is very striking, the extent to which he was willing and felt free to talk in very negative terms with Western leaders about the failings of his East European colleagues.

357This is very striking, and of course it is something that the West European leaders would never do to Gorbachev. They would hint sometimes about the slowness with which the new Bush administration was reacting to events in the Soviet Union, but always counseled that it is a good administration, it is going to follow the same general line, and that they would carry the message to Washington. I think it is very striking because it does show the extent to which there was a complete revolution in thinking of this man, and the closest people around him.

358And in his thinking, I think, we see the emergence of two very important ideas and assumptions. And I would suggest, in the end, both of them proved to be wrong. One was—he assumed that Western leaders would support and would be able to deliver on the entry of the Soviet Union into Europe, and the transformation of European politics into a unified, open state—onto a non-militarized basis. His discussions with [Finnish President Mauno] Koivisto about reconvening the Helsinki process. His discussions with Thatcher, with Mitterrand, and, of course, most of all with Kohl indicate that he believed they supported this. And they, I think, gave him ample signals that this would, in fact, happen.

359The revolution in his thinking, although this document is not in the book, but I know all of you are familiar with it, was to me most amply demonstrated in his speech before the Sorbonne, where you have, basically, the embrace by Gorbachev of the ideas of the French Revolution—the liberal ideas of individual rights, and the rejection of class analysis, first of all. The first German idea and the second German idea, which was rejected, was a kind of Bismarckian geopolitics. So, the question is: Were those two German ideas thrown over too soon, particularly the second one? Was it unrealistic, and even naive, and hugely romantic of Gorbachev to reject the notion that geopolitics could be somehow transformed?

360The second aspect of his policy, which I think proves not to be the case was that he believed, and it is supported clearly in the documents, that the Western leaders would not take advantage of the transitions taking place in Eastern Europe, that they would not promote the collapse of the USSR itself. And, most importantly, that they did not even want the unification of Germany. And this is clearly there in the documents of his numerous discussions with Kohl, where although clearly Kohl does not say, “We do not want unification of Germany,” Gorbachev comes away with that; but Thatcher certainly says that they do not seek the unification of Germany. Mitterrand says the same, and it is reported that Italian Foreign Minister Attali [sic], also says that we do not want the unification of Germany, we do not want just one Germany.

  • 31 See Document Nos. 36 and 37 for discussions on this topic with Kissinger, and Document No. 96 for (...)

361He is also led to believe, I think, quite clearly by a back channel, and I would like to hear from Jack on this, back channels with Kissinger and with Brzezinski, including discussions with Brzezinski in November 1989, that the United States was willing to, in Kissinger’s description, enter into some kind of condominium arrangement with the Soviet Union in Europe. Brzezinski also says in November 1989 that a complete collapse in Germany could disrupt and lead to a collapse of European institutions […] this is not quite the way that he put it but the implication, I think, for Gorbachev was that the United States would itself not seek the unification of Germany.31

  • 32 Document No. 84.

362I think that both of these assessments were incorrect, and profoundly flawed. And clearly, while Gorbachev could not have known everything in advance, we need to find out from our colleagues here today the extent to which this perception was wishful thinking on Gorbachev’s part, and to what extent it was based either on a complete misreading of the nature of Western politics or on a correct reading of signals that were given to him as a part of a campaign to get him to provide concessions that were favorable to the West. On the first question—the misreading of Western politics—did Gorbachev appreciate the extent of resistance to cooperation with the Soviet Union, which still existed in the United States up to November 1989? I was very struck reading National Security Directive 2332, which was issued in the end of September 1989, where even in September 1989 it was the view of the U.S. government that we had to wait to see what Gorbachev was going to do, and we needed concrete actions, including the demilitarization of Soviet foreign policy.

363This is, I think, very striking that over four years after Gorbachev had come to power—and we have, I think, by then a major turnover in Eastern Europe—that the United States is still waiting for concrete actions. So, I would like to ask Doug MacEachin a question in this regard. Clearly, from his perspective in the CIA, he had gone through a decade of pretty hard times, infighting and so forth, in the CIA. And I know that many of the people in the CIA deeply resisted the politicization of intelligence, including, I am sure, Doug. To what extent was it still a real uphill battle in 1989 to put out into political circles a kind of very strong support for what Gorbachev was doing? What was the extent of self-censorship even among the analysts?

  • 33 A part of the 1974 Trade Act, the amendment restricted trade relations with the Soviet Union and o (...)

364I know that when I was working in policy planning and then in the Politico-Military Bureau in the State Department in 1986 and 1987, it was still strongly the view in State that the battle for the de-politicization of intelligence had not been entirely won, and I wonder what his view of that is, from the perspective of 1989? Also, I wonder if Jack could tell us something about the extent to which the struggle over the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment33 was very much constraining the extent to which we could really open up to the Soviet Union, and recognize the real changes that were taking place there, particularly since obviously the Soviet Union was still supporting radical Arab regimes, even if the arms flow had declined.

  • 34 Document Nos. 43, 45, 47.

365And finally, to our American colleagues, perhaps particularly to Jack, what was his view of the back-channeling that was going on? How much was there? And what was put into that channeling, for what purpose? Gorbachev is obviously worried in 1989 about cautiousness and resistance in Washington, and even speaks very directly about the rumor that there had been an NSC group set up to shape a more negative view of Gorbachev in the policy community. And it seems to me, reading your three memoranda from Moscow34, which were excellent, that without saying you are addressing the debate in Washington, you clearly do. You speak very openly about all of the problems, all of the resistance, and all of the potential real reasons why one should not, or one might not, support Gorbachev for this reason, and then try your best to shape a more positive view.

366So I wonder if you could help us out with what was going into the back channel, how did you know about it, what was your reaction to it, and how could you combat it—particularly, I think, Kissinger’s role?

367Matlock: There are also a couple of questions that Georgy raised yesterday, that I will try to cover, but taking Karen’s first, which are at the heart of the subject this morning. The first question: Was it unrealistic for Gorbachev to think that Bismarckian geopolitics could be transformed? I do not think it was unrealistic at all. As a matter of fact, I think Bismarckian geopolitics have been transformed, and not as a result of what any leader has done, but rather because the world has changed. I think that sort of analysis, that sort of thinking is no longer relevant.

368It still persists, and we see it on our side on such issues as NATO expansion. I would call that “perezhitki” [remnants] of old attitudes. I think the world has changed, and perhaps Gorbachev understood this better than some of the other leaders. One can say, perhaps, that he was premature in adapting his policies to it, but I do not think so. I think that the situation in the Soviet Union would have been much worse if he had not made these adjustments. And his difficulties really stem not so much from the unresponsiveness of the Western leaders as the structural difficulties he faced as a leader of the Soviet Union, which was essentially a system which was no longer capable of functioning as a fully efficient state. I think that is the fact of the matter. In dealing with these various things, he probably got the best deals with Western leaders that were objectively possible, particularly given the fact that the Western leaders each had his or her own concerns that tended to distract them.

369So, I do think that the Western leaders were absolutely sincere when in general terms they pledged their support. Now what Gorbachev understood by that we will have to ask our Russian colleagues. They did not mean at that point direct financial support, clearly. That was not what was on their minds. They meant a sort of political support, endorsement, certainly refraining from creating additional difficulties. So far as back channels, there were not any. Kissinger’s visit in January 1989 may have been perceived as such. I would be very interested in hearing our Russian colleagues’ understanding of this visit.

370He brought a letter from the president, but it was not a letter which in any way authorized him to deal with issues. It was a courtesy letter, the sort former secretaries of state and former presidents usually get from a sitting president, a sort of a letter of introduction: please see the guy. Presidents do it as a courtesy, understanding, and perhaps wrongly, that the other government knows that this person speaks only for himself. Otherwise, the letter would state explicitly that the visitor would discuss a certain subject on the president’s behalf. The letter Kissinger had was not such a letter.

371Kissinger wanted to go to Moscow and the president gave him the letter, simply a letter of introduction. Meanwhile, we tried to let it be known that he was not speaking for the president. Meanwhile, Kissinger had made certain proposals which Baker was considering—he did not reject them out of hand but after consideration Baker decided that what Kissinger wanted to do was not a good idea. And that was to enter in some sort of negotiation with the Soviet leadership about the future of Eastern Europe. That was the proposal I strongly opposed, not because it was Kissinger’s idea and it was outside the system, though that will always give the official representative in another country some problem, but because it was a bad idea. I explained in my book why. It was clear that what was going to happen in Eastern Europe was going to happen. And if we were seen in active negotiations, no matter how well-meaning, with the Soviet Union, this would be viewed by the East Europeans as somehow trying to settle their fate.

372We had gone through decades of misunderstanding about what had happened in Yalta. And Yalta had been a political issue at home. Roosevelt never intended to agree to Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. The question was where our armies would stop, and who would occupy which territory as the war ended. And, of course, Roosevelt thought he had an agreement that the Polish government would be democratic. Stalin’s understanding and his were quite different on these things, as we know.

373Negotiating the future of Eastern Europe was, I thought, the last thing we needed to do. This was finally the administration’s position, aside from the sort of discussion we had later at Malta where we made clear that any military intervention would destroy the growing relationship. And we also made clear that we did not intend to make use of changes in Eastern Europe against them; we did not attempt to discuss the future of the area. To negotiate how far the East Europeans could go without a Soviet intervention was not our business. Eventually Baker and Bush agreed.

374So that was never a back channel. As far as Brzezinski’s visit, that was even less of a back channel. He did not even have a letter from the president. He made some very interesting public statements and he made the same ones in private, and they perhaps got some people thinking. I was present when he gave the address at MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of International Relations], and you could see that his audience was shocked when he pointed out that you can have a divided Germany in a divided Europe, but if your policy is a common European home and a united Europe, you cannot have a divided Germany in a united Europe. He posed the question: Have you thought about that? Have you thought about the implications? He posed the question without answering it, other than saying that it was impossible to think of a united Europe without a united Germany. I do not know what impact it had. He was not speaking for the administration. He was speaking what I think was an obvious truth.

375He had a personal reason for that visit, and it was one that had been arranged for him, I think, directly through the Soviet Embassy in Washington, to visit Katyń. I went with him, and Strobe Talbott, who was then with Time magazine, also came along. The visit to Katyń took place a couple of months before it was officially admitted what had actually happened.

376We read this as a signal that the Soviet government was going to own up to that, and actually Brzezinski made some very conciliatory statements, that the truth about Katyń could be the basis for future Polish-Soviet friendship and accord, because both had suffered from Stalin and Hitler. Admitting the truth, he argued, could put the issue behind us. It was an eloquent statement, made to the public. It was not a “back channel.” Neither Kissinger nor Brzezinski was speaking for the administration.

377In general, I would say regarding back channels, if it is of any interest, that there were attempts in the Reagan administration, in 1983, ‘84, and ‘85, to get some going. Largely because of bureaucratic conflicts on our side in the first instance, and secondarily, bureaucratic problems on the Soviet side, none materialized. But there was a time, particularly when there were no arms control negotiations, that we genuinely thought that maybe the best thing to do would be to get some sort of authorized back channel going.

378Part of the reason on our side was to have a negotiation which the president and the secretary of State could control but would not involve in the early stages elements in the bureaucracy that would try to torpedo it. That was our problem in the administration, and though we could not cut out any Cabinet member, we could have cut out people lower down until we got something that the president was comfortable with, and then opponents could not torpedo it. In the early stages they could, by leaking, by developing a lot of public pressure. And they were doing that. So, on our side, it was an honest attempt to try to get negotiations going which would not formally violate the Soviet policy of not negotiating. We hoped to get some informal talks going and bring them at least far enough that we could go public and be somewhere close to agreement. The way it was, once early negotiating positions were publicized, it became like a sporting contest, with the media keeping score.

379Those of us who wanted to move toward an agreement needed a way to avoid a destructive internal debate in the United States. The Soviets, at that point, had a much easier time controlling their public statements than we did. Later they, too, had trouble keeping them under control. But in, say, 1983, ‘84, ‘85, this was a real problem for us. The special channel did not work. There were several reasons. We don’t have time to go into detail.

380We had no back channels, effective back channels, at any time during the Reagan and the Bush administrations. We did all business through the official representatives and the principals. Actually, that was preferable when it is possible. Once trust developed, there was no need for a back channel. There was not anything that Kissinger could have said that I could not have said, or somebody else from the administration. There was no point in using outsiders. Obviously, our society and others too have a number of self-promoters who try to leave the impression that they are speaking for the president. And maybe sometimes this created some confusion, though I suspect that the Soviet leaders at that point were familiar enough with us that they were able to sort this out and understood that for what it was.

381Now on Jackson-Vanik. This was a constraining factor on the whole economic side, but not only Jackson-Vanik. Frankly, we wanted to get the damn thing off, and for that we needed the emigration legislation passed by the Supreme Soviet, but it kept being delayed. Those who tried to push it, like Fedor Burlatsky, would come to me and say, “Look, Gorbachev is not doing anything, and until he weighs in with the Supreme Soviet, it is probably not going to pass.” And finally, in 1990, I called Gorbachev’s attention to the issue a couple of times, and the legislation finally passed before Gorbachev went to Washington. I believe it was in the spring of 1990, but it may have been later, but that was still an issue when Gorbachev visited Washington in June 1990.

382But a bigger issue by that time was the economic sanctions on Lithuania, which were imposed, I think, in April 1990. And as long as these were on, it was politically out of the question in the States to remove trade barriers. The whole Baltic issue began to play a greater role in the Soviet Union after the Lithuanian independence declaration, and what started out to be an economic boycott actually turned out to be very little. To what degree this was the result of our pressure, or of other things, I cannot say.

383In Washington, these factors militated against lifting Jackson-Vanik restrictions. There is no question about that. But in general, on Eastern Europe, until the discussion at Malta, we really refrained from any detailed discussions with the Soviet authorities, other than making it very, very clear that any Soviet military intervention would bring to an end whatever cooperation was developing between us. And that was simply a political fact, not a matter of saying: that is our policy. Our president’s hands would have been totally tied politically.

384By then, it was pretty clear to us that there would be no Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe. We did not have to be shrill about our position, and we did not have to repeat warnings in every conversation. Earlier in 1981, when the question was whether the Soviet Union would invade Poland almost every official conversation had to start with a statement on that topic. In 1989, we let events develop largely without comment. Some in Washington doubted that this was wise, but I think the events proved the position that I had set forth in the cables in February. Developments were confirming what those of us had said who thought perestroika was real.

385Now, just briefly to Georgy’s question yesterday. Why was there no economic aid to Gorbachev in June 1991? The short answer is: because there was nothing to aid, to be quite honest. There were other reasons. None of the Western leaders were particularly well-positioned at that time. George Bush was piling up the largest deficits in our budgetary history in the United States; he was being attacked in his own party for agreeing to a tax increase. And by then he was beginning to say that that was a mistake. We were going into a recession, which was going to cost him his reelection the following year. To come up with a lot of money was not something that was going to be easy to do. Some of the allies were better off, but the thing is, in order to get major economic assistance, the United States is key.

386There really was no possibility then of major government-to-government assistance, if by major one means a hundred billion dollars, the sort of magnitude Gorbachev was talking about. That amount of funds could have come only from private investment. And for that there had to be a Soviet policy that was credible to private investors. If the United States failed in any way, it was by not pushing harder in 1989 and ‘90 for some multinational structure to deal with the transition in Eastern Europe and the USSR. […]

387When I proposed in my February 1989 cable to expand our agenda to include economic matters, it was specifically discarded, and the idea reemerged only in December at the Malta summit. […]

388When I was asked about the prospects of aid by Soviet journalists at the time [1990-91], I said, pouring money into the Soviet economy now would be like pouring water onto a sandy beach. It is one thing to prime a pump; it is another thing if the pump does not work, or there is no pump. And as yet, we did not see a pump. […]

389Now, on the other question that Georgy raised: did the CIA work on undermining the Union? Absolutely not. I am absolutely convinced, and I was informed of every covert operation we had in the Soviet Union from the time when I worked in the White House in 1983, and while I was ambassador. We had no covert action designed to destabilize or undermine the Soviet Union. There were some covert actions, and most of these had been written about, in Eastern Europe, particularly in support of Solidarity, in ways such as providing some printing facilities, and so on. That would have been totally insignificant under most circumstances: help in getting things printed, and information distributed. That happened. But there were no such activities on Soviet territory, even resembling it. Our trade unions were criticized for providing fax machines to some of the independent unions that developed during the strike of the miners, but government was not involved in that. That was done entirely by the unions, and also, it was entirely open. There was nothing covert about it.

390Everybody had intelligence collection—this is the point I tried to make to [KGB Chairman Vladimir] Kryuchkov, when he was accusing us of these things—sure, everybody was looking for information on all sides. But covert action to destabilize—absolutely not. And as a matter of fact, there was always a great hesitance in our government because there was a certain ambiguity regarding the whole national question.

391On the one hand, we were unambiguous in our attitude toward the Baltic states. We had never recognized them as a part of the Soviet Union, and we could not act legally as if they were a part of it. But we recognized de jure the transfer of all the other territory that had occurred after World War II. After all, Czechoslovakia conceded Subcarpathian Ukraine voluntarily to the Soviet Union. The lands in Western Ukraine were conveyed by the peace treaty; Moldova was conveyed by the peace treaty with Romania, which the United States also signed. So, we did not call into question all these other territories.

392We recognized the twelve republics. We did not recognize the Baltic states as part of the Soviet Union. So, there was no way we could take any position other than that they should be given the freedom of choice. But, it stopped there. And clearly, we would have preferred, much preferred to see a voluntary Union and, I think, Bush made it very clear. We were not trying to stir up, and certainly not to the point of violence, because we did not see it in our interest then. Many people now in retrospect say it is in our interest to keep Ukraine independent. But at the time, most people did not consider independence a feasible alternative, and when we thought about it we were not sure we wanted it anyway. Obviously, it is much easier to deal with one nuclear power than with twelve.

  • 35 Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a long-time political dissident and nationalist during the Soviet era, became (...)

393We were not so stupid that we did not see by the middle of 1991 that the reform was coming from Moscow, and for the most part not from the regional capitals with maybe the exception of the Baltic states. So, if there was going to be reform and democratization, it was going to come because of perestroika and Gorbachev, and not because of the breakup of the Soviet Union. The very cause of democracy, which was important to us, though not always at the very top of the list, was served, we thought, by supporting the Union Treaty. We did everything we could—which was not very much—to support it, and that was shown mostly in Bush’s speech in Kiev on August 1st, 1991, when he said very clearly that independence is not the same as freedom, and urged that they make a choice for freedom. His speech was meant not just for Ukraine but for all the other republics, Georgia in particular, which was falling apart with this crazy Gamsakhurdia.35

394MacEachin: I cannot address Karen’s question about “politicization” of intelligence without first calling attention to the fact that as regards the USSR, ideological or philosophical splits between U.S. political factions did not begin in 1980. If you look at the political platforms in the United States, there were two fundamental subheadings. One was the role of the government in the well-being of a citizen—more active, less active. And the other was policy with regard to the Soviet Union. We can start with the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960 on the missile gap that did not exist; go to Johnson-Goldwater in 1964; go to 1968, again with Nixon, this time versus Humphrey; go to Carter-Ford in 1976, and obviously Carter-Reagan in 1980. […]

  • 36 In 1976, then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush authorized an alternative analysis of the Soviet threa (...)

395Th[e] Team B exercise36 criticized the analysis in the National Intelligence Estimates as being too soft on the Soviet threat. Its principal criticism was that too much attention was devoted in these estimates to the physical aspects of the force developments, and not enough attention was given to the evil intentions and goals, which this particular group had cast in a certain light. If you read those estimates on Soviet military forces and goals that were written in the subsequent four or five years, 1977 through 1981, they are among the most strident and ideologically slanted estimates in my entire experience. […]

396You have to understand, what I am trying to describe is the atmosphere. But it was poisoned. Different personalities take on these philosophical arguments differently, and the atmosphere in the mid-1980s was poisoned by the way this philosophical argument was conducted. I will tell you that I hated this and was prepared to resign in the mid-1980s because of this.

397In hindsight you will find that the written CIA products gave a pretty accurate portrayal. I have done my best to get as many of these products released as I can, and I will try to get some more. The truth of the matter was that there seldom was a problem with somebody at a senior level seeking to force a major change in the written product, it is just that they, in effect, threw it in the wastebasket by denigrating it in denial.

  • 37 The Senate hearings in 1991 to confirm Robert Gates as director of CIA.

398Another way to do it I can illustrate with a specific empirical example—an issue that was partially declassified in the Gates hearings37 having to do with chemical weapons. A paper done by the CIA which said, “We do not believe the Soviet Union is planning to use chemical weapons in Europe,” was the second-most-hated paper we did in my tenure in the Soviet office. I will tell you later what the most hated was. So, one way to deal with that was to call for a National Intelligence Estimate. Get all the agencies to the table, and you will have a vote of ten to one, and so what a policy person will see is this estimate and not the CIA paper.

399This acrimonious atmosphere was flourishing at a critical time in history, an absolutely critical time in history, because here we have these indications of potentially momentous changes taking place. And at this time the most heavily debated, and the mostly loaded, issue which I am not going to get into in much detail, dealt with “Was there a Soviet plot in the Third World?” If you check the ratification hearings of the incoming Cabinet members, such as Secretary Haig, you will see it was a central issue from the start. Go get the videotapes of his confirmation hearings and see what he was talking about, for example about the threat in Central America, moving practically to the Mexican border. So, a lot of the emotion that you hear about, Karen, is in that area, having to do with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

400There was no challenge to a whole series of papers done openly, given to Congress, and published by the government Printing Office in the 1970s and into the early 1980s that described the assessment of the economic problems being faced by the Soviet Union and the bloc and the Warsaw Pact, and the likelihood that sooner or later those things were going to result in some sort of major political development. When and how remained open questions. That is on the record.

401But this became the one issue on which I took the most […] I am trying to find a polite word with more than four letters to use for it […] heat—that is only four—the CIA estimate in the early and mid 1980s about the sad state of the economy in the Soviet Union, and that this meant that there was not going to be an increase in defense spending, and that there had not been, in fact, too much growth in defense spending since at least the late 1970s. […]

402At one meeting, I had given a draft assessment of the Soviet economic situation to a person who was supposed to read it to Congress, that person threw the draft at least as far as that pool table. It is a true story, and I have four witnesses to it, all of whom would testify under oath. It was always rather shocking to me that later we heard that nobody saw the Soviet economic problems.

403By 1985, and this is when you get into a different argument that I want to describe, by 1985 you cannot really argue that issue any more because the new first secretary has said, “We have an economic problem, and we have to do something about it.” And he starts a program. And then the issue is, what is his effort going to mean? And I will try to describe the debate that ensued on this question: there was a political and an economic aspect to it. And it related to a lot of things that happened in the late 1980s.

404There was one view that said, Gorbachev is just trying to buy time, hold down the arms race with new arms control proposals because the economy is in trouble, until he can fix the economy and then, boy, watch out. The other view said—and both of these views are in writing, you can read them—that Gorbachev is really serious and he will not back off. That was directly connected to the economic […] Is there an economist in the room? One, I am sorry to say. So I will try to keep this arcane economic language simple. The basic analysis was [that] the problem was productivity. Productivity is a certain function of capital and labor, and the problem with declining productivity is that it feeds on itself like a nuclear breeder reactor. Declining productivity affects the consumer, the consumer is also a laborer, that affects productivity, and it was a spiral.

405Brezhnev had been cheating, because faced with declining economic performance he had been shaving capital investment since the late 1970s into the early 1980s. And apparently, Gorbachev’s economists agreed with this analysis because one of the very first things he did with the economic program was to turn this around, or try to. And that confronted Gorbachev with the problem: where is the increased capital investment going to come from? If you did your analysis carefully you would conclude that it could only come from one place, ultimately, and it was the defense sector because it could not come out of the consumer sector, and that was not going to come from foreign investment.

406We told that to Secretary Shultz at a meeting a few of us had with him in March of 1986. It was a very pleasant meeting. It was the last pleasant meeting I ever had with Secretary Shultz, because when he saw me it was not the CIA but someone who worked for Bob Gates and Bill Casey, and anybody who was associated with them was dead on arrival when he walked into the room. I am using a little bit too colorful language, but it was a very emotional time.

407Matlock: He respected you and [Robert] Blackwill.

408MacEachin: Well, we were the only ones then, (Laughter) and unfortunately he may have leaked it back to our headquarters, in which case we were shot back there, too. (Laughter)

409Okay. So, the backdrop I have tried to paint contained philosophical confrontation, and then there was the economic reality. And there was our assessment that the reforms and cutting down alcohol and all those kinds of things were not going to produce the results Gorbachev hoped for; and that he would, sooner or later, more likely in a very short time, run into this decision on the need for more dramatic steps; that probably about 1987 or ‘88, in preparing for the next five-year plan, the defense spending issue was going to have to come up. That was our prediction, and that was the prediction that we gave to Secretary Shultz, and he agreed with it. That is when we had figured the time would come, that is, when we were looking for the defense spending cut, and we were clearly believing that Gorbachev’s arms control effort was not just going to be breathing space, that it was a serious, fundamental change.

410The opposing side of that argument in U.S. circles was: “Gorbachev does not need to go as far as you CIA analysts are saying. You are underestimating the potential for fixing the Soviet economy without making a fundamental change. That gets to the point Jack raised, whether this was going to be just a new and stronger threatening opponent, or was in fact the opponent going to be gone. And those were heated debates, very heated debates.


412March of 1985, Gorbachev comes in. I do not know if it is open or not, but we understood there was a discussion with the military leadership about a month later. Interestingly enough, we had noted in the Soviet media that Brezhnev had had a meeting with the military leadership about two weeks before he died. To us it signaled that the issue of resources and military strength was clearly on the table.

413Somebody asked me when did I think the Cold War was over. Intellectually, for me, it was November of 1985 in Geneva, when Gorbachev made his first 50 percent proposal. That was serious stuff.

414Matlock: Fifty percent was in Reykjavik, in 1986.

415MacEachin: No, I remember this one. Fifty percent was in Geneva, 1985. Reykjavik was when we went all the way up to the brink of a comprehensive arms control agreement, and then it broke on the Star Wars issue. And that was 1986. By February of 1987 we had “yes” to zero-zero on INF. Even more damaging to those who thought the answer to zero-zero was going to be a forever “no,” we also got a “yes” to intrusive on-site inspections. This was a new era.

416That said, I think Jack Matlock is exactly right, the momentum for that broke a bit in the 1989 transition. It broke because the new administration was seen, even though it was the same party as the outgoing administration, as bringing in some people who were viewed as a part of the “softies” from the earlier era. And they had to be constantly looking over their back, because everybody from the tougher line of their party was waiting for them to make their first capitulations. All politics is local. I think that these politics delayed a lot of steps that could have been taken with more confidence by, for example, President Reagan, who did not have to look over his back—assuming that the Reagan administration would have taken them.

417One more example, which I talked about yesterday that we have discussed many times was the question of what was going to be the impact of Gorbachev’s policies on Eastern Europe. By the end of 1988 the analysis was that it is now just a matter of when do the East Europeans begin to see the opportunity that is available for them. And once they start, you have no way of hoping it is going to stop at national communism. It might, but there is no reason to believe it will. And there is no reason to believe that there is going to be a military action. […]

  • 38 Schweizer, Victory.

418Two other quick things. I was asked and promised to address this Schweizer book,38 which I now understand is getting wide readership, but I cannot understand why, because I will go on record saying it belongs in the dust bin. There may have been people who thought they were running some kind of a plot to break the bank in the Soviet Union. [To Matlock] Have you read the book?

419Matlock: I have not read it, but I know the thesis, and it is absolute nonsense.

420MacEachin: Yes, it is utter nonsense, and I can even, with mathematics, demonstrate that it is absolutely dead wrong. There may have been some people who deluded themselves with thinking that that was what they were doing.

421The other thing that I was going to say is I have always looked back at that critical period—1986-87-88—and realized how much the Iran-Contra affair disrupted the efficient functioning of the foreign policy network, because the key players in it were all fighting for their lives in a major scandal, and there were a number of changes in key positions, and that was a very bad bit of timing. And it kind of left the secretary of state on his own when it would have been far better to have had cohesion among the foreign policy players.

422Matlock: Just a very quick one or two points. First of all, I think, Doug has given us a wonderful insight into the various disputes that went on in the intelligence analysis. However, an outsider sometimes has the impression that the president is somehow bound by these National [Intelligence] Estimates, and the thing is that those of us working on the NSC staff and in the State Department, we knew very well what the disputes were. I do not know of a case that Reagan ever read an NIE, a National Intelligence Estimate. We would send them to him, but our cover would say, “these things are highly controversial, and they were not able to get agreement because the military representatives do not want to undermine their budgetary proposals in Congress.” We can understand that. And the president is not stupid; he is going to support the things in Congress, but when he makes foreign policy, and also, particularly if it is a judgment over intentions, he makes up his own mind. Once Reagan met Gorbachev, he did not need an intelligence officer to tell him whether he was a guy he could deal with. He felt it instinctively.

423And so, you know, Doug was fighting the great battles, and they were important, and I am not saying they had no influence, but I am saying that you should not worry that the NIEs were watered down because, frankly, most of us did not read them. We knew what they were, but we were closer to the president, and we would send brief memos. We were always honest with the president. We never misrepresented what the intelligence community thought, but we put in our opinions, and they tended to be more persuasive than the watered down negotiated things.

424And then the final point. I think you are absolutely right about something most people do not recognize, and that is that probably we could have gotten a START agreement and other things in 1988, if it not had been for the Iran-Contra affair. Both Poindexter and MacFarlane had the whole game plan in mind to complete it then. They were highly supportive, something Shultz did not always understand. And clearly, in his memoirs, he did not understand to what degree these guys were supporting him. When Carlucci and Colin Powell came in, they were good people, but they did not know the game plan and they were not pushing. If it had not been for Iran-Contra, we would have accomplished much more in 1988; you are quite right.

425MacEachin: I would like to say just one more thing. Jack, on these NIEs, you are so right. In fact, I recently read an essay by someone who said that nobody ever—not just the president—nobody reads the NIEs. This essay was written in 1968 by a guy named Sherman Kent.

426Hershberg: Author of many of them.

427MacEachin: Yes. The fact of the matter is, the NIEs—this is the unfortunate part of it—are a sort of doctrinal showcase. This is what we “declare” we believe. For all those of you who want to get a leak of intelligence, it will be leaked from this authoritative document. I could not agree with you more. The only intelligence that counts is the stuff that you take in to the boss and put on his desk and talk to him about. That is the only stuff that ever affects anything.

428Shakhnazarov: Just very briefly. First of all, I would like to thank you for that most interesting presentation. I covered two pages with notes, and also it was very nice to learn that the CIA was supporting the USSR. But as for the fact that the president did not read the NIE, that is clear for us because our president does not read anything either. But if we talk about the substance of the comments, they did clarify a lot for me.

429I will tell you, we have people who believe that whatever happened was a direct result of a plot planned and operated by the CIA, by Washington, and by Western intelligence agencies, Israel; and in the long run that Gorbachev was a CIA agent, or an agent of influence, as they say. Gorbachev and Yakovlev are agents of influence.

430And this is the point of view represented not just by certain uneducated people—it is substantial. There are articles published. And I believe that for our historiography this is a very substantial theme that will continue to develop. Of course, to think that the United States did not play any role in the process is impossible, in spite of all that Jack has told us […] I believe him, I think that as ambassador he did his best to help a positive process. Still, some element of orchestrating on the part of Washington and Western leaders was there. Perhaps 10 percent maybe 20 percent, but we would be disrespectful of ourselves if we were to think that what happened in Russia was a direct result of simply Western influence and Western plotting, plotting of the enemy. Of course, there were a lot of mistakes and realizations on our part, etc.

431Still, I would like to ask my last question, which I still have some problems with. The question is: When was this break, the change of attitude in the U.S. leadership towards Gorbachev from the opinion about him as an intelligent and outstanding enemy that you can work with, from that position to assessing him as a human being, a partner, and perhaps even a future friend? And my second question: When did the United States leadership change from supporting Gorbachev to supporting Yeltsin? That is an issue of principal importance. And when Jack was telling us why it was impossible to help Gorbachev economically, I under-stand—funds are always short.

432You did not have the funds, but during times of catastrophe or calamity, countries usually can find enough in their purses to support the troubled country, as they supported Mexico, Korea, and others—you know, tens of billions of dollars. As Gorbachev said at the time, they found almost a hundred billion dollars to hit Iraq, but they did not find anything to support us. I still think that if a massive aid plan had been put together, maybe not like the Marshall Plan but, you know, just substantial help to cover the deficit of goods in the market and appease the people, the situation might have taken a totally different turn and development.

433I would like to simplify my questions again, and ask two questions. First: When did the United States start seeing a friend in Gorbachev, or rather, when did they stop viewing him as an enemy? Question number one. And the second question is: When did they stop viewing him as a friend, in the political dimension, not in the moral dimension? Morally, I know, the Americans, both the government and the people, like him a lot. He still enjoys appreciation, but they stopped supporting him as someone to bet on in our country. Thank you.

434Blanton: The part of the answer to that question which extends beyond 1989 I would like to put off to the next conference that we manage to put together, because I want to bring this discussion back to the superpower context for 1989, just to keep it useful for the development of agendas for the next year, which we are really focusing on. With that caveat, I want to call on Anatoly, and then I will come back to you, Jack, for a brief response.

435Chernyaev: I would like to go back somewhat to the problems that were put forth by Karen in her first remarks. Whether Gorbachev was not too quick in his reforms, was he not naive, was he not too hasty to renounce or to retire Bismarckian geopolitics? Perhaps that was his final mistake. Well, you see, we are running the risk of following a pattern that is not realistic. Gorbachev came to power with a very serious intent to reform the country, and reform it in a fairly brief time, because based on experience, on our history, he knew that if you take too long in reforming, then the reforms can rot before they develop.

436But in order to start economic and social reform, and then later political reforms, he had to deal with the arms race first. He had to stop the arms race. That was his priority. And he could only stop the arms race, and what I am saying might sound trite, but I just want to give a logical insight into what we were thinking at the time […] Gorbachev could only end the arms race if he was successful in changing relations with the United States. What was our interpretation of the United States and Reagan in the mid-1980s? Reagan was the leader of imperialism, of an aggressive superpower, and that was absolutely beyond doubt, that was absolutely clear for the leadership of our country.

437But Gorbachev also based his thinking on the fact that there were some reasonably thinking people in Washington, that they could see where the arms race was leading humankind, that it was already verging on a catastrophe, and doing major damage to the U.S. economy too, and that common sense could be a foundation for common process for Gorbachev. So Gorbachev based his thinking on that. And then he added universal human values to it. Then, when he met with Reagan tête-à-tête in Geneva, face to face, the mistrust was still there, but a sparkle of trust twinkled between them—human trust. And then what happened—it turned out that the mistrust had a real foundation.

438Of course, they rolled back, but the real ground for trust was there, and he could see it with his own eyes. Jack Matlock recently brought some documents to Moscow, and showed them to me. They impressed me greatly. Those were the speeches that Reagan made in 1983-84, long before Gorbachev came to power. It was under Andropov. When I was reading through those documents, I could see almost all the elements of the new thinking already, both in the actual proposals and in the philosophy. There was no intent to destroy the Soviet Union, there was an intent to set up a normal relationship.

439Then Reagan, of course, says that we are going to fight for human rights, that communism is unacceptable, and that some people blame him for calling the Soviet Union the “evil empire,” and the Soviet Union called him the imperialist aggressor; so what? Besides this, there is simple human interest—real people, and let us think about them and find a common language, let us come to negotiations, not only about arms but about relations in general, let us normalize them. We did not know about this in the Central Committee. Pravda was ordered to publish articles calling those Reagan statements “rhetoric” that cannot be trusted. Now it clear to us that he did mean those things, they were not just rhetoric. It was his actual sincere belief in the possibility of dealing with the Soviet Union. This is why when Gorbachev and Reagan met, when this sparkle of trust emerged between them, it had a basis in reality on both sides. That was the first issue I wanted to raise.

440Now, the problem of threat. From what has been said here, I could feel, and I have known it for a long time, that the Americans were even more blindfolded by the Cold War than we were in the Soviet Union. It was easier for us to pull out of the dogma, get rid of the stereotypes of the Cold War period in spite of the fact that we lived in an ideological state, and we had the party, and so on and so forth. I am reacting to your statements that Gorbachev was acting too fast. Gorbachev wanted to play fair. He genuinely wanted to establish trust. He realized that he had to make not only the first step—he used to say that everybody had to travel their part of the road—he also realized that, and he spoke about it at Politburo sessions many times, we would have to go further than the other guys because we had to earn trust, people had to believe us; until they started believing us, we would not get any support. I can see, and I was aware of it then, that the problem of the Soviet threat was developed in detail and in all directions in the United States. At the same time, the problem of the American threat was never even seriously considered in the USSR because by the time Gorbachev came to power nobody believed that the Americans would ever attack us or try to invade us, and so on. Propaganda was another issue—it continued to repeat the same things about the threat over and over again! Based on that, Gorbachev could be absolutely free on this issue. Nobody in the Politburo believed that the Americans were going to attack us. But the logic of the Cold War brought us to that difficult situation. Now we had to deal with that mess. So, these were the facts that he based his thinking on, and that is why he made concessions that he was blamed for later.

441Later, when he met with Shultz and held negotiations with him twice, he was very impressed. He saw a great statesman who considered not only American interests but also the full scope of global development. In Shultz, Gorbachev saw a man who did not come to destroy or undermine the Soviet Union. In a friendly way, he mentioned to Shultz a few times, “Let us not play games, it will not work, we know everything about one another. We know who the main spies are—Shevardnadze and Shultz are the main spooks, and your ambassador, sure. Let us not play games with one another. Let us play fair and straight.” So these were Gorbachev’s motives when he was beginning his dialogue with America.

442A lot of various issues have been raised during our discussion here. Perhaps I could take the floor again later to address some of them. For now, let us talk about Germany. When the issue of our attitude to the all-European process was raised, and the theme of the European home emerged, the German issue followed naturally—what to do with Germany? Can you have a divided Germany in a united Europe? Gorbachev talked about that with [German President Richard Von] Weizsacker in 1987. Weizsacker told him, “Well, of course, the European home is great, everybody has a room, and you can walk from room to room, but then there is a wall right in the middle of the house, right in the center of Europe.” He hinted delicately! Gorbachev then still supported the position of two states, the GDR and the FRG, that would both be members of the U.N. He said that there was the Moscow agreement. Let us start from here. Let history be our judge. Well, we did not have to wait long for that judgment.

443But still, it remains a mystery to me, an enigma. I do not know if you can answer this question: When, and whether at all, there was a change in the U.S. leadership’s position toward the unification of Germany?

444Gorbachev’s original idea was that, just as the British, Mitterrand and the Italians, the United States was not interested in the unification of Germany. He thought that if that huge state in the middle of Europe was to emerge, in a Europe that is being united, for geopolitical and economic reasons it would not be in the interests of the United States. Later on he thought that Bush and Baker joined the process of unification so actively, pushing Kohl towards unification at some point because they wanted to be the godfathers of unification, so that the historic credit for unification would go to them—Bush and Baker—not to Gorbachev. That is why they acted so fast. And they wanted to get Germany closer to the United States because they would have played a positive role in the unification.

445But again, going beyond 1989, I must tell you what happened. The present German leadership indeed believes that Germany was primarily unified through the effort of the United States. Last year, on October 3, when they celebrated the anniversary of unification, in Stuttgart this time, Gorbachev happened to be in Germany. He was not even invited to the celebration. Bush was invited—from the United States to Stuttgart. And the burgermeister [mayor] of the city, speaking at the opening ceremony, said something that shocked many Germans. He said, “Some people believe that we owe a lot to President Bush for the unification of Germany. No. We owe everything to President Bush, everything, 100 percent.” And what about Gorbachev? What was his role? I repeat, he was not even invited to Stuttgart.

446Returning to 1989, I would like to pose this question again: When (or whether) did the United States change its position towards unification?

447As to the comment about economic aid, you are quite right in your reasoning. At that time giving money to us would have been like pouring water on a sandy beach. Georgy already said that we were not talking about any kind of Marshall Plan. The money had to go not to the economy at the time, but to Gorbachev. If he were to have come back from London, from the meeting of the Big Seven, at least with some promises; if he were to have received at least the 14 billion that was approved later, not on December 3 but earlier, when [Rodric] Braithwaite, the British ambassador, brought a letter from [Prime Minister John] Major, which said that the G-7 decided to give us $14 billion—if that happened […] events in the Soviet Union could have taken a different turn.

  • 39 The agreement to dissolve the USSR signed by Boris Yeltsin, Ukraine President Nikolay Kravchuk and (...)

448However that assistance arrived when the object of the assistance—the Soviet Union—was already disappearing. There were just five days left until the Be-lovezhsky agreement.39 If Gorbachev had that money—not even $100 billion—indeed, he was asking the Americans from time to time, “Did you find the hundred billion to support this country?”—which became a new one, a peace-loving country, a democratic country, which you wanted to have as a partner, but you could not find this money. We were not talking about helping our economy, we were talking about helping Gorbachev as a state leader, in order to give him support and to keep the country together.

449So Gorbachev held a grudge about that. And when he became real friends with Baker, Baker was giving him advice on how to calculate interest, what to do with prices, and stuff like that. It started in Malta. At the breakfast in Malta, Jack, we were there together. The president and the secretary of state had shown a surprisingly high degree of interest in our purely practical problems; they were trying to give Gorbachev advice on how to make the market work better. I do not know what form the assistance might have had. But as I have said already, if Gorbachev had received that money, then he probably would have been able to keep the republics on this dollar leash. Of course, this is just my hunch.

  • 40 See Document No. 37.
  • 41 December 7, 1988.

450You also touched on Kissinger, his visit in January 1989.40 Now people put too much emphasis on this story. Gorbachev was not impressed by Kissinger at all, by his statement. Of course, he invited him, and talked to him in all seriousness, because he thought that there was a pause because of the change in the administration, and Gorbachev was really frustrated with that. He was afraid that everything he had achieved with Reagan, when they met on Governors Island41—Bush was there also; he nodded while Reagan was turning the job over to him—might have been lost. Reagan was convinced that Bush would pick up where he left off, that he would carry on with everything that Reagan was dreaming about, and that had just begun—the disarmament. Therefore, we were hoping that Kissinger would bring some important message. But he came in with this idea of an exchange of Eastern Europe for a “good attitude” from the American side. And then the pause continued until May, basically. And again, there was some misunderstanding of our relations between Moscow and Eastern Europe. Some people must have thought that they were our pocket satellites, and that they would do anything we would tell them to do. This was not so.

451This misperception became evident at first in Malta. Remember, Jack, they had a private conversation. Gorbachev thought that Bush would immediately raise some important questions so that they could then be addressed in detail at the meeting of delegations. And Bush started talking about Nicaragua and El Salvador. Gorbachev was very forthcoming. He promised to stop all the shipments of weapons to Cuba and Nicaragua. Then Bush raised the Cuban problem: Why are you still supporting Cuba? And Gorbachev took time to explain: “You overestimate my influence over Castro. He is not my puppet. He is an independent political figure. You should not think that I can tell Castro what kind of policies to pursue. I am not in a position to do that.”

452But that is, of course, a separate issue. But there was this pause in the relations. And it was very frustrating for Moscow for many reasons. We were not sure about the course that Bush was mapping out. We were concerned that the process could have been rolled back. There were opponents, and very serious opponents who thought that Reagan was too liberal, [moving] too fast in relations with us. That was Reagan! And by the way, Reagan expressed his concern about the pause in March and April of 1989, am I right?

453Regarding the question of when the breakthrough happened—when they started to believe Gorbachev, and when they became disillusioned in him and stopped believing him? I cannot answer the second question, but the first question has several stages. First they believed Gorbachev as a person—that he was honest and sincerely wanted to reform the Soviet Union, turn it into a democratic state. But there was a limit—they believed Gorbachev, but for a long time they did not believe that he would be capable of accomplishing what he wanted. And that mistrust regarding his ability to accomplish what he had decided lasted a long time.

454I always categorically disagree with the opinion that Bush and Baker were trying to undermine the Soviet Union, or that they were taking their time so that it would fall apart on its own. No, they did not have those intentions. They sincerely considered Gorbachev their partner, and they thought their policy was an accomplishment on the American side. Maybe I am mistaken. Later, when both Bush and Baker retired, some arrogant statements appeared in their memoirs where they praised themselves for being able to put an end to communism. But I never felt that in their real policy, and Gorbachev did not either. He believed in the sincerity of the trust that was established between them.

455I might ask for the floor later, but this is how I wanted to react. In sum, there was no rushing on Gorbachev’s part. There was no naivete. But there was not only the desire but an objective need to act assertively, a willingness to make concessions, an understanding that if we did not give something to the Americans during negotiations, and if we did not make concessions, they would never move to meet us halfway. This is how I explain his assertiveness.

456Matlock: On the question, when did the U.S. see Gorbachev as a friend in the full sense, that is as hard to answer as when the Cold War ended, and it depends, because this was a gradual process. I would say in the final sense, with Reagan, probably it would be when he came to Moscow in 1988. After that, I do not think there was any doubt on his part. With Bush, probably from Malta, the first full meeting at Malta in 1989. The question when did we transfer support to Yeltsin, I do not think we ever really transferred support, and I think that probably the whole thing was exaggerated. Washington was much less eager to deal with Yeltsin in any form than I was, and we had a few disputes over that. […] I felt that, with Yeltsin increasing in his political influence we had to maintain contact with him, and I had maintained contact personally, as ambassador, with him, even when he was out, and I felt this was important.

457Number one, to know what he was thinking, and after all, it was supposed to be a pluralistic political system. It was very clear to me that Yeltsin was incapable of somehow staging an unconstitutional takeover from Gorbachev. That was not his threat. I did think that Gorbachev had terribly mishandled the situation, that he should have kept him on the team from the very beginning, but, you know, that was his problem. But Washington was very cautious, and did not give him a very good reception.

  • 42 Chairman of the Moscow City Council and a reform-oriented economist.

458On the other hand, Yeltsin, in dealing with us, was always totally correct in his references to Gorbachev, and particularly at that time, in June 1991, when [Gavriil] Popov42 came to me, for example, it was to send a message to Yeltsin about the conspiracy against Gorbachev. And when Bush delivered it and said, “What shall we do?” the first thing Yeltsin says, “You’ve got to warn Gorbachev.” And that is why I came in. It was not only Bush’s, but also Yeltsin’s desire that he know this. But this was not support for him, and the transfer only occurred after I left, when it was clear that the Soviet Union was not going to continue, and I would say, after the coup, and even long after the coup—not really until November. And it was clear after the referendum in Ukraine that Ukraine was going to leave. We had to recognize that. There was no way that we could avoid it any more.

459So, yes, when it was clear that that was where the power was, of course, we had to start dealing with him. But until then, there was a great reluctance in Washington to think that he was an alternative. One thing—they really did not like him that much, to be quite frank.

460Blanton: A quick question for you, just on that point, though. You said that for Bush the turning point was at Malta. Separately you have said to me that from your perspective they could have held Malta in April and that it might have made some difference. The title of that chapter in your book for that period is “Washington Fumbles.” It is an interesting parallel because Anatoly’s [chapter] title is “The Lost Year.”

461Matlock: I think that is right. But the reason was not that he did not have a certain confidence in Gorbachev. They had hit it off. The problem was his right wing. And I think, also, the baggage they brought. After all, Scowcroft, who is a fine person, had been head of the commission to find a basing mode for the MX [missile], and this is still at the front of his mind—how he convinces the Congress to agree to MX basing. Now he was not going to do that if the Cold War was over. Now OK, they came around, they understood eventually, but it took a little time.

462Even though in a certain sense Bush was a part of everything we did in the Reagan administration, and at times when things were tough, early on, he was the most consistent one pushing the President to negotiate, and negotiate on a good basis—but his own political position was not as strong, and I think his political instincts were that the right wing of the Republican Party would do him in if he did not beat his chest a little bit. But beating his chest does not come naturally to George Bush, and he did not handle it very well. We did try to convey the whole time that this was domestic, and did not really have anything to do with our long-term policy.

463I had a long lunch without instructions with [Aleksandr] Bessmertnykh explaining to him that domestic politics was causing the pause, and please explain this to Gorbachev, just be patient, things are going to come back together. I could not predict just when. And I think Sasha [Bessmertnykh] understood it; he had been in Washington, and I think he understood our politics. But I think it was hard for Gorbachev to understand. No, objectively speaking, if we had not had that political problem, we should have been able to just pick up. But the Reagan group and the Bush group were two entirely different groups, and politically they did not trust each other that much. It was almost an unnatural alliance. Even when Jim Baker was chief of staff of the White House, his crowd was basically a different one from the Shultz group and the ones that were, say, original Reaganites. After all, they had campaigned against Reagan almost up until he became his partner in the campaign. This was the root of the problem; it was not anything substantive in the relationship.

  • 43 July 31, 1985.

464Tarasenko: I will take very little time. Because I was with Shevardnadze, I will tell you about his role. We cannot speak about Soviet foreign policy and about the U.S. perception of the Soviet Union without speaking about what Shevardnadze was doing. After all, the first contacts we had in the beginning of perestroika began with Shevardnadze. There was the first meeting between Shultz and Shevardnadze in Helsinki.43 There was some taking the measure of each other and their views on what was happening, and what could happen; some element of attention on Shultz’s part. It is not an accident that Shultz bet $10 against Gates that Shevardnadze was telling the truth. He won that bet on Afghanistan. In other words, we cannot say that Gorbachev acted independently, and that there was nothing else beside him.

  • 44 Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Kornienko, Ambassador to the U.S. Viktor Komplektov (1991-1992), Am (...)

465And I would also like to say a word for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which I belong. The American experts and the American school at the Ministry were quite strong. We had Kornienko, Komplektov, Dobrynin44—there were many good people there. From the point of view of the Ministry, and the American experts of the Ministry, the processes that were underway during the pause were absolutely clear to us, and we could easily explain them. Especially when a vice president becomes president he has to distinguish himself from the policies of his predecessor. He has to formulate his own policy. It is simply a law of politics. And we did not see anything tragic in it, and we had to make efforts to persuade our leadership that it was a normal process, that they were just sorting things out among themselves. Therefore, it would be incorrect to say that we were surprised, and that we did not understand. At some levels it probably was true, but not at others.

466Chernyaev: It was we who did not understand.

467Tarasenko: You had the entire world as the focus of your attention. I was only looking at the United States. American experts had their America. We did not deal with the whole world, for better or worse, but we did know something. When you study the same problem for 30 years, even the last idiot learns something. (Laughter) There was at least some understanding. Therefore, I would like to testify, as somebody who was present at all ministerial meetings with the American side, that Shevardnadze always made efforts to present Gorbachev and his policy and his intentions in the best possible light during all his meetings with the American side.

468He did not speak from a personal point of view, he always cited the general secretary, “Here is the general secretary’s line. I am telling this to you confidentially, trust me, this is serious, this is for the long term, this is a genuine, conscious choice.” Therefore, that was the preparation of the soil. You have to plow before you can plant anything. That is exactly what the Foreign Ministry in general and Shevardnadze in particular were doing—preparing the soil. And if it was not for this preparatory work, the Geneva summit would not have taken place. It was the ministerial-level preparation for everything that later transpired at the highest level. It would not have happened if there had been no understanding between Shultz and Shevardnadze.

469Blanton: I would like to ask Rick Hermann to start off with a couple of minutes right now with the perspective that was seen from Policy Planning at State, and Jim Baker’s perspective on the pause, and these other subjects, and on the German question as well.

470Richard Hermann: I will make a couple of comments on this pause. I hope they are not defensive, but explanatory, as best I can remember it. I agree very much with the argument that was made earlier that it was domestic politics, and I would say there were two dimensions to that. I arrived there [at the Office of Policy Planning] in April of 1989, and one of the buzzwords at the time was “the vision thing,” it was called, and Bush’s lack of it, and that we needed some kind of vision of where things would be going. So, there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to see. But what I really thought was related to that was Bush’s desire to create an image of himself as a leader coming out from under the shadow of Reagan.

471And he certainly sensed that in the Republican Party Reagan would be a hard act to follow in terms of a leader—the personality, and all that. And it was important that he declare the notion that there would be an assessment of where we were, and then decisions would start to get taken by him, Bush, and Baker. And that would be associated with him, rather than him as a junior to Reagan. And I think that was important to him. A part of the domestic politics, I thought, was already talked about by both Ambassador Matlock and Doug MacEachin, and it was the right wing. This was sporadic.

472There were places, there were pockets of the Republican right that were really powerful on some issues. And they were on the Hill, for example, on Afghanistan, and on Nicaragua. Some of these policies had established not just inertia, but strong political supporters, and they were not ready to do battle with them right off the bat. And some of the issues that were on the immediate lot, like Nicaragua and Afghanistan, would create a constraint. And they did not want to fight with those people right away. That is one set of ideas.

473There is a second, more mundane one. That is that the National Security Council was being reformed. Brent Scowcroft had authored, or co-authored the Tower Commission Report investigating Iran-Contra. And several very important players in the Bush transition team had either been scathed or close to it by Iran-Contra. The result of the Scowcroft commission, or the Tower Commission, of course, was to put not only checks and balances on the National Security Council [staff], but to reduce its size, and the initial decision was to reduce its size almost by half in the early period of the Bush administration.

  • 45 In 1989, James Baker had become secretary of state, Dennis Ross was director of the Office of Poli (...)

474Now, it is never a very large staff, but now we talking about numbers below fifty. And the decision was taken, at least as it was related to me, that a lot of decision making in foreign policy would move over to Baker, and that it would be run out of Dennis Ross’s shop with Bob Kimmitt his undersecretary, and [Robert] Zoellick,45 and that there would be policy staff, and so on. But running, of course, the State Department, is different than running the NSC: it is not an organization of less than a hundred, but thousands. And I think that this reform of the NSC slowed some things down, and, of course, as someone mentioned earlier, Brent Scowcroft was more skeptical about—I do not think the intentions of Gorbachev—but the prospects that he would be successful.

475And that leads me to another point I want to make. There were still, as Doug MacEachin suggests, deep divisions within the intelligence community, and—we were just talking at the break—I think it was evolving. It was not the old “dove”-“hawk” debate, as we all knew it for twenty years. It was sort of that. It was much more complicated. It was: Gorbachev’s for real, but given he is for real, can he in fact be successful? Or is what he is proposing to do impossible? And will he be blocked by other forces in the Soviet Union? And if he is, how should we position ourselves, given these now very difficult to predict eventualities. And there was back and forth, put our cards on Gorbachev and hope for him, and I think that was ultimately where most people came up. But it was not the consensus view by any matter of means, and once that assessment had begun, then a lot of to-ing and fro-ing went on over the spring and summer of 1989, as the intelligence community made all these assessments.

476Another item I would like to point out. Baker and his chief of staff, Dennis Ross, had very important roles in the campaign. They ended up, therefore, playing a very large role in the transition, and a very large role in appointments. Much of the early couple of months of the administration was making appointments, much of which was happening through their office, and they were busy, essentially, creating a foreign policy bureaucracy as they wanted it. Well, not bureaucracy, but appointments as they wanted to set it up. And related to that, I will just throw it on the table although it is a minor issue—well, not so minor—there were other issues that were really important to Baker and Bush.

477One was the Middle East, which commanded a lot of time in the summer of 1989, and was of particularly great interest to Dennis Ross, who had a lot of influence with Secretary Baker. And there was a lot of complaining about that, whether or not so much time should be devoted to the Middle East as opposed to larger strategic issues, but nevertheless, that was it. I thought, on the two points on Germany, that one real breakthrough came in […] I forgot if that was October or November [1989], when [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General [Colin] Powell went to Europe and came back, and people from our staff and his staff had concluded that we were way behind the power curve on arms control, and we needed to move a lot more quickly. And I think the JCS became supporters of change […]

478With regard to Germany, and I will finish here, because it is illustrative of the early part of the administration we were working with, I think that Mr. Chernyaev is exactly right, although I do not know if there was so much of a change. I think, initially, on the German question, there was a lot of discussion about whether this was good or not good for U.S. interests. And there was some hesitancy about whether or not this would be a good thing or not. But surely by late October, I cannot remember, I could look it up, I remember very specifically the secretary tasking Frank Fukuyama and me and a few others to write some points for him to take to a Sunday morning television show that would be four ideas about how the unification of Germany should proceed.

479And it is indicative for this administrative problem of moving from the NSC to State that I do not think in the early period, maybe not even in the later period, that the relationship between the secretary and some of the assistant secretaries, and in particular people in the bureaus, was everything it should have been. And that there was a lot of action occurring in the secretary’s office, sometimes with the rest of the building in the loop, sometimes not—and when not, then resentful that they were not, and back and forth, and back and forth. But the notion that the secretary, on Friday afternoon, would say, “On Sunday I want to make a statement that is important, draft me something,” and then he would say it, or say it from a plane somewhere in Moscow, and then the fight in the building would be: this is policy, the secretary said this. And then it would proceed like this.

480And it allowed both Zoellick and Ross to have a lot of influence, and I think, they decided on the German question that this was going to happen, and that we would be in a much better position to be in the front of the train trying to steer a little, than try to jump on the back of the train later on. And I think, by early November of 1989, the decision was taken—this train has left the station, it is not entirely clear just how the tracks are going to go, but this is the way it is going to be, and we will be better off up at the engine, not in the caboose. […]

481Gaiduk: I will try to be brief, and to state my opinion regarding Gorbachev’s foreign policy, and the Soviet international situation at the time Gorbachev came to power in comparison to what transpired by 1989. And my opinion on this is not just a personal opinion, it is substantiated by my conversations with veterans of Soviet foreign policy, for instance with Anatoly Fedorovich Dobrynin, and I also talked with a number of officials of the International Department of the Central Committee, who participated in developing this policy. And I would like to follow up on the point that in 1985, in contrast to the internal situation, Soviet international standing was quite solid.

482There were elements that Gorbachev could have used in his foreign policy, for example the fact that nuclear parity had existed, and that was a very important element of the strength of the Soviet Union—I would say its trump card—that Gorbachev could have used in his foreign policy. Therefore, Mikhail Sergeyevich had [an] alternative: to bargain—and then his genuine call for building qualitatively new international relations could only be applauded. But how do you build those relations?

483Gorbachev as a state leader should have based his policy not only on universal human values. He should have pursued universal human values, at the same time taking his country’s national interests into account. And that alternative was available for Gorbachev: either give up all the strengths that we had in the name of the highest goal of building qualitatively new international relations—or he could bargain. And the second alternative would have taken Soviet national interests into account. He could have bargained in order to preserve Soviet positions as much as possible. […]

  • 46 Dobrynin, In Confidence.

484Anatoly Fedorovich Dobrynin writes in his memoir on page 636: “At that critical, final moment of the Cold War, Gorbachev and Shevardnadze had no coherent, balanced, and firm foreign policy to end it in a fitting and dignified way on the basis of equality. As the Cold War had begun to wind down in the second part of the 1980s, this balance of power with the West was widely recognized and could have created a base upon which to transform international relations into a new and non-confrontational era. With an inexplicable rush, they actually gave away vital geopolitical and military positions which we had, instead of using them to achieve a new era of stability and equal cooperation.”46 This is the essence of what I wanted to say. I would like to hear from our veterans of Russian foreign policy what their reaction is to this opinion, which I share. Thank you.

485Chernyaev: Now you have heard both the positions of the new thinking and of the old thinking here. It is precisely the position of old thinking to present national interests as contrary to universal human values. If we had taken the position presented by Dobrynin, it would have meant prolonging the final stage of the Cold War for many more years. One has to use a global yardstick to measure the effectiveness of Gorbachev’s foreign policy. First of all, the result is that we managed to put an end to the Cold War, to the confrontation. We managed to begin a genuine process of nuclear disarmament, and later of conventional disarmament. This is the result. It is a historic, global result of the policy of new thinking.

486If we took the bargaining position—as Falin recommended then, and is still defending on the issue of German unification—if we had followed Falin’s logic, we would have failed with unification and provoked an unimaginable European crisis, or maybe even a global crisis. Because the “process has really started,” using the famous expression. Even the Americans jumped into the first car when they saw that the train was moving ahead. What was Gorbachev supposed to do? He was trying to find a middle-of-the-road position, but then he realized that it might turn against our own Soviet interests because it would put unified Germany in opposition to the Soviet Union, and we would not get the results that we counted on from a unified Germany.

487And we got those results—we got a unified Germany as a friendly state that values what had been done by Gorbachev, regardless of all the diplomatic moves by Kohl and others. But that is a different issue.

  • 47 Speeches before the Foreign Policy Association in New York on October 17, and the Commonwealth Clu (...)

488I would like to make one more comment. You have cited the document of the National Security Council. There are other documents that are no less important, for example two public statements by Baker in October 198947 in which he openly stated that we are looking for points of mutual interest. Neither Gorbachev nor anybody else expected America to give us presents out of some kind of sympathy. It [the United States] moves according to its own national interests. It negotiates with Gorbachev and reaches certain agreements. Baker formulated it very well in his two famous statements: We are going to meet Gorbachev halfway because it is in our own interest.

489And Gorbachev understood this very well. When he made concessions, they were justified from a moral and political standpoint. When somebody argued with him from the standpoint of the balance at the Politburo, in the Central Committee, etc., when the military tried to defend its positions, as they were supposed to do, he used to say to them, “Are you going to fight a war? I am not going to fight. Is anybody from my colleagues in the Politburo going to fight? No? Then let us start from here.” Our concessions were the result of that logic: we were not going to fight a war, we wanted to put an end to the Cold War, we wanted nuclear disarmament and the liquidation of nuclear arms. That was new thinking, which led to quite specific global historic results.

  • 48 Staraya Ploshchad’ or “Old Square,” was the site of Central Committee headquarters in the capital.

490Tarasenko: I would like to briefly comment on this particular issue because I worked with Dobrynin in the Embassy in Washington. I deeply respect him, and I owe him very much. He is a great ambassador, a great diplomat; there could not be two opinions about it. But the problem with memoirs in general is that a person always wants to be smarter with hindsight than he was at the time, when things were happening. It seems like we have this particular case here. If you recall the period of perestroika, Dobrynin had moved to the International Department of the Central Committee. As far as I know, he tried to create a counterbalance to the Foreign Ministry, in other words to transfer the Foreign Ministry to the Central Committee. He took several good experts with him to the Central Committee. And we practically had a competition between Dobrynin and Shevardnadze for influence in foreign policy. He lost due to purely physical factors, because the Foreign Ministry had a much better organized team than Staraya Ploshchad’48 in Moscow. I do not want to offend my colleagues.

491Chernyaev: That is absolutely correct.

492Tarasenko: We had better access to information. We could decide whether to disseminate that information or not, to inform a particular person or not. And that gave us substantial superiority over other internal agencies. I think that his statement that you quoted is completely divorced from reality. I have worked in the Foreign Ministry for 30 years, and I worked with good people—with Dobrynin, with Kornienko, next to Gromyko. In other words, I was lucky. I had a chance to learn from them. And I can tell you very honestly that in no other period except this period of perestroika did our foreign policy deal so much with our real national interests.

493Nothing was done that was outside a pragmatic approach: what is good for the country, what is necessary for the country at this moment, what would help the country. All foreign policy was based on those assumptions. I am a little bit baffled by all these discussions about national interests in our Russian context. I have never seen any papers or any conceptual statements as to what the national interests of Russia are. Or the Soviet Union. It was clear with respect to ideological interests—socialism should win and so on. But to speak about Russian national interests?

494I was in charge of the Middle East and I tried to understand: our “vital interests in the Middle East”—what were they? In general, we needed to have influence, we needed to have our presence there. But how? What do we get from that? There is nothing beyond this formal and general statement, which has no substance to it. Probably for the first time during the perestroika period, and my senior colleagues would probably agree with me, this was the first time we acted very pragmatically with specific interests in mind to help solve our domestic problems. That was our priority at the time—to remove, to shake off that huge burden that had accumulated on our shoulders. And we were quite expeditious in doing so.

495I remember the first time I came to Washington with Shevardnadze. You know, there were constant rallies, there was a group of protesters across the street from the Embassy. The very next time, the group was gone because Shevardnadze stepped out of the Embassy, walked toward the protesters, and asked them what was the problem. “Let us go inside the Embassy, let us talk. Send in your representatives. We will talk about the issue and find a solution. We are ready to find solutions.” And they were gone. Then there were the Baltic emigres, and the Afghanis came over. There were a number of demonstrations.

  • 49 On September 1, 1983, Soviet fighter aircraft shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007, which had dri (...)

496But it was a change of image for the Soviet Union that we were trying to achieve from the very start, and it was our priority after the Korean airplane,49 after some other acts. We tried to get everybody to treat us like normal people. And I think that the fact that we were successful dates back to the very early days of perestroika. People started looking at the Soviet Union with different eyes, and the respect that Gorbachev enjoyed was a direct result of the fact that his policy was viewed in a certain light.

497Shakhnazarov: I would like to disagree with one of the statements made by one of our young colleagues. They said that the Soviet Union had an advantage in foreign policy, in a situation of domestic weakness. This is not a logical comparison, because a country that is weak economically and unstable politically and also has internal conflicts would manifest it in foreign policy. Foreign policy, whatever your starting point is, regardless of whether you read Marx or Weber, foreign policy is an integral part of the general political course of a country, and it reflects all the difficulties and all the specifics of the situation in the country. What kind of advantages do nuclear weapons give foreign policy? What do you do with them? Quite often nuclear weapons can be a disadvantage. This is on the first issue.

498The second issue concerns bargaining. Of course Gorbachev was bargaining, as Sergey Petrovich has justly put it. He specifically considered the national interests of Russia more than anyone else. […]

499Gorbachev did bargain. Ilya, I think you are making one substantial mistake. You do not take into account the fact that the collapse of the Soviet Union and everything else voided any bargaining that Gorbachev was involved in. What we are blamed for, including us—the assistants—is that we did not have a document spelling out German obligations regarding property issues as well as others that should have been reflected in the agreement. People forget that should the Soviet Union have remained intact, then many obligations on the German and on the American part would have been carried out in full. But since the Soviet Union collapsed they all lost their value, they were voided.

500You are saying that we have lost everything. But the decisive factor in it was not Gorbachev’s foreign policy or those mythical concessions, because he got compensation for each concession that he made. Yeltsin was the major factor, the emergence of a new political power, starting from the Declaration of Independence of Russia on June 12, 1990. It practically voided the center as the old power. The center could no longer control or govern the country, and after that time all its energies were directed toward trying to help the Soviet Union by any means possible, including the agreement. That was the major problem, and not at all the fact that he would not fight for the national interests in his policy. Thank you.

501Hershberg: One quick point, and then one quick question coming out of that comment. The paragraph from Dobrynin’s memoirs that my friend Ilya read also appeared in the English edition, and it was the paragraph I most disagreed with, and thought it was the most wrong-headed, if not the most ridiculous, because it reminded me so much of the “who lost China” debate in the United States in the 1950s, as if China was the Americans’ to lose. It reflected, to my mind, a mindset that in 1989 the future of Eastern Europe could be decided by people in Moscow and Washington, and completely ignored the forces that were coming up from the ground in Eastern Europe.

502This leads me to my question, which is directed to the Central and East European guests that we have here, and especially to Andrzej [Paczkowski], and Vilém [Prečan], who were old enough to be witnesses not only in 1989 but to the earlier crises in East-Central Europe. At what point in the events—in 1989, or maybe you would say even earlier—did you stop believing that this was going be a repetition of past crises that would be decided by decisions in Moscow, and perhaps Washington, but would in fact be decided by people in Warsaw and Prague and Budapest? If our younger witnesses would like to also chime in, please. At what point did you realize that you were breaking out of this superpower narrative of the Cold War, and that you could actually determine your own fate? When in 1989 did that realization strike you? Thank you.

503Blanton: Vilém, do you want to address that?

504Prečan: Only in late November of 1989 did I start to believe that the Soviet Union would not interfere. The question was not only what kind of interference by the Soviet Union, but whether Gorbachev or Moscow gave a free hand to the domestic leadership. That means that if Jakeš decides to use weapons in Prague against demonstrators, what would Moscow’s reaction be? And there was one single hope on the 21st and 22nd of November 1989—that Gorbachev was very interested in his meeting in Malta, and he would not allow—this was my opinion at the time—Jakeš to spit into his (Gorbachev’s) soup.

505Hershberg: Let me clarify. Vilém, did you ever find evidence whether Jakeš communicated with Moscow, or considered this option and sought Soviet approval?

506Prečan: No, but I know that it was Thursday night, the night of November 23. I knew, or I learned later, that there was a telephone call between Jakeš and Štrougal. And Jakeš told—as I heard it—he told Štrougal that there was no hope for him to take over the leadership because he, Jakeš, would not give it up. But in the evening of Friday the 24th of November Jakeš gave up and resigned. So, I asked, why? Why this change of mind? And I thought that there must have been some message from the Czechoslovak Embassy in Moscow, information on how Moscow newspapers reported on the demonstrations; and it was my belief that this was what had changed Jakeš’ mind.

507Shakhnazarov: I will tell you how it happened because I was working on Czechoslovakia. Our ambassador called, and he sent a cable, and he said that the Czech leadership was thinking of using force against the demonstrators, and most probably after their Politburo meeting they would ask me what the reaction from Moscow would be. And he was asked: What do you think? Of course, our position was that it should not be done. And he was told, “If they ask you, that is what you need to tell them, that we do not support the use of force.” But then there was another communication from him—that he was not consulted, because the Czech leadership themselves decided not to use force, and Jakeš resigned.

  • 50 See Document No. 108.

508Prečan: Do you have any evidence of that? Any documents?50

509Shakhnazarov: I do not know right now, but I think there must be something like cables, or something like that.

510Blanton: Well, that is a good segue to the final session, which is “Mysteries and Evidence That We Need to Pursue.” Let me just call on Andrzej Paczkowski, perhaps, to respond to Jim Hershberg’s question in the Polish context that is very, very different than the Czechoslovak context.

511Paczkowski: This is not possible because the process in Poland was very long, and very, very complicated. I see that next year we will have an occasion to debate it for three days.

512Dawisha: Only three?

513Paczkowski: Only three (Laughter). If we need more—why not? I would add only a very general vision. This final period started in Poland in 1986. Maybe the precise day was September 11, when the minister of interior declared that all political prisoners were free. And at this moment processes started, which in the first stage would be very similar to the other reforms in Poland. [The goal] was to find some social body to co-opt into the political elite, but to stay within the political structure governed by the Communist Party. And this first stage was finished at the roundtable talks.

514But starting in the summer of 1988 there was a second current in Jaruzelski’s thinking and of his crowd, that it maybe was necessary to include another form in these processes—not co-optation, but negotiations. Negotiations with such social structures as Solidarity. And for me, the crucial period for Polish changes was between September 1988 and January 1989 because there was one group in the leadership of the Polish Communist Party, which tried to do all changes in the Chinese way, namely only economic reform without political change. And the creation of the Rakowski government, and the first decisions, economic decisions—a free market, liberalization of the zloty, free internal conversion of zlotys into dollars—it was possible that the Chinese way would be repeated in Poland. But in China there was no structural political opposition to battle against this current. In Poland the situation was different. And the existence of Solidarity, I think, protected all the people in the Communist Party who tried to do the two reforms in parallel—political and economic.

515This stage was marked, I think, by a conversation, a TV debate, between Wałęsa and the leader of the Syndicate [communist labor union federation], [Alfred] Miodowicz, and when Gorbachev was at the U.N. in December. The first ten days of December 1988 made the decision for the Polish leadership to try to move in two parallel ways. And this all happened only after their realization of this situation.

516Rainer: Jim’s question was when did we feel that we were free? I think, as it was in Poland, it was a long process in Hungary as well. From the point below, from the side of the opposition forces, there were three main steps, or three crucial events. In 1988 we definitely did not feel ourselves to be free. Not even in late 1988. It was quite characteristic that nearly all the main leaders of the democratic opposition traveled to the United States for long-term fellowships. It was worse to stay in Hungary where the domestic political situation was quite interesting, even at that time.

517The first main step was in February-March of 1989. It can be described by two events. One was the reassessment of the 1956 events. Why did certain circles of the party, the reformist [Imre] Pozsgay, for example, [do this?] […] And the acceptance of the principle of a multi-party system. And there was no official reaction from Moscow. Then came June of 1989. June the 16th, and I have to correct the movie, which we watched two days ago. It was not a state organized event, the state only accepted it under pressure from society. It was organized by the opposition forces. This is only a minor mistake, but it is quite important for us. And it was all the more crucial […] because it was only a few days after the Tiananmen Square events.

518And when we stood in our square in Budapest, watching hundreds of thousands—I personally was involved in the organization of this event—I thought, okay, we have done it, because there was still no reaction from Moscow. And the realization was full in September 1989. There were also two or three main events: letting the East Germans leave through Hungary, and just after they began to leave the so-called National Roundtable finished its work with an agreement between the party and the opposition—an agreement on certain changes in the Constitution, free elections for March of the next year, and so on. From the two or three points, I think, the crucial one was, both politically and morally, June 16.


519Blanton: In this final session, what I am asking for is your commission to us, in the broader sense, of a large cooperative multinational enterprise: what would be the research agenda that you would give us over the next year? As Andrzej pointed out, for just the events in Poland we are going to have a substantive discussion over three days or longer, and each revolution will be the center of a conference with its own briefing book. And so this session is simply a starting point for a baseline. I would like to start with Jack Matlock, and then Doug MacEachin, and then Anatoly Chernyaev and Georgy Shakhnazarov and Sergey Tarasenko to get their suggestions to us, commissions to us on the top three mysteries of the end of the Cold War to them—even now—and the three pieces of evidence that they would commission us to go get, if we can.

520Matlock: I will start. I am not sure that I can fulfill your task, and I do not want to seem arrogant or a know-it-all because this is not my attitude, but frankly, I do not see any deep mysteries here. There are a lot of unanswered questions, perhaps, of detail. But I honestly do not see a mystery. I think what happened was that maybe we had in our systems unique individuals at a crucial time in history who were able to look at things in a new way, and not be bound by the sort of stereotypes—some of which clearly even very capable people of the previous period, like Anatoly Dobrynin, continued to be bound by in their thinking.

521And I think it is important to understand why it is that Dobrynin’s view, which has also been expressed by others, is also, in my opinion, an invalid one. It is invalid because of one thing they never cite—of course, there are some exceptions: what precise agreements could have been reached in the Soviet interest which would have been different from those reached? They just say, “He could have made better deals.” I cannot think of a single issue on which a better deal was possible from the standpoint of the Soviet interest.

522Is one arguing, for example, that an attempt, even if it had been agreed to by the United States, to limit the sovereignty of East European countries would have been an asset to the Soviet Union? Oh, it would have been a problem. In fact, their previous policies had saddled them with so many liabilities. The real task was getting rid of those liabilities. And increasingly, the way we saw it in the United States, we were helping them to get rid of those liabilities because we too wanted stability, and we wanted peace. Obviously, arguing with our own people, we would use a certain rhetoric for that, sure.

523We wanted to use what influence we had to change the internal structure. We wanted to change it the same way that Gorbachev himself had said he wanted to change it. But that was not because we wanted to make the Soviet Union weaker. We wanted to see someone there who could be a partner, and could be a healthy economy, meeting the needs of its people, and therefore not a threat to its neighbors. You know, that was really our goal. It sounds very idealistic, but that was what we really believed. Now, in arguing with people you use all sorts of arguments, and some of them, if you take them out of context, may even sound somewhat aggressive, but that is only possible if you take them out of context, and lose the entire context.

524Now, I do not think it is a mystery, I think it is interesting to know, to go back to one of the questions raised earlier, and that is: why was there not more economic assistance? And to me, the answer is clear, and I gave it before, but I think it needs more amplification on both sides. On the one hand, it was very clear—the difficulty that Gorbachev had in finding a roadmap to the future. He was trying to change the system in effect—he may have not realized it—almost 180 degrees, from one of total centralized control over the economy to one that basically was a market economy, which the government would use in various ways—maybe not market ways, but on the basis of principles that were consistent with the market. He would not have put it in those terms. He was looking for a democratic socialism. And yet, put in our terms, it was a way to fundamentally create a free enterprise economy, but one that would be productive enough that would support a lot of social services. I think that is really what eventually was meant by socialism.

525Nobody—and I stress, nobody—knew how to do that, and anybody who says they did, and is sure about it, is simply talking through their hat. There was no roadmap. We did not know, they did not know. If the question from Georgy and others is why you did not want to put more money into supporting our socialist enterprises, the answer is very clear. And I gave it several times then. I would tell my Soviet interlocutors: if you want us to help you keep viable state-owned socialist enterprises, there is no way we can do it. We do not know how to do it. We cannot even run an efficient post office by the government.

526The only way we know how to run efficient enterprises is to privatize and create competition. De-monopolize, privatize, create competition. If you want to do that, we have some experience that is relevant, but it has to be fitted to your conditions. It is not a roadmap. If you do not want to do that, what we do is totally irrelevant, and throwing money into doomed state enterprises is not going to help one bit. And that was the problem. And yet I think there was a lack of action in 1989 and 1990, when something might have been started on both sides in talking frankly about the problem. Because by then, after Malta, there was a personal relationship, and if in private Gorbachev had gone to Bush and said, “Look, I’ve got a big problem ahead of me, which is also your problem. Let us put our heads together, and maybe get our experts very quietly to start looking at it. What can we do to get over this, and by the way, this is something that not only affects us, it affects our friends in Eastern Europe, it affects other economies. There is a big transition ahead of us, none of us knows how to do it. Let us see if we can do it in a supportive way.” Well, that was not really said. And then on Bush’s side, although it was increasingly apparent what the problem was, he was waiting for Gorbachev to come up with something. And maybe it was something that Gorbachev was unable to come up with. So, I do not see it as a mystery, but that is still a question that needs to be examined.

527And I will just give one example. I know we do not have much time. But I will give one example, and that is when Bush sent the businessmen to Moscow in 1990. And that was just after the September meeting in Helsinki. And actually, that was an attempt to send people who potentially could bring billions. Each individual could probably command, with the right projects, ten billion or more, in investment. And okay, they were given a lecture by the Chief of Gosplan with almost no mention of reforms but a mention of “we will let you invest in our things.” And they said “fine.” There was a guy interested in communications, telecommunications, the head of Sprint, there were people in the oil business.

528These were titans of American industry. They were also Bush’s political supporters. And so we said, “Fine, give us a list where you want your investment. Let us set up a committee. Fine, we will set up a committee.” We never received that list, that committee was never named. Our Embassy followed up. We were told we would get it in ten days. Our Embassy followed up a week later, two weeks later, six weeks later, three months later. Nothing happened. And meanwhile, how were they going to invest? What were the conditions? So, in a sense we were groping for ways without really focusing on it. Granted, they were focusing on the Gulf War and other things. My point is, I think we probably need more […]

529Shakhnazarov: When did that happen?

530Matlock: September 1990. It was just after the Helsinki meeting, which dealt mainly with the Gulf War and Iraq, and then from Helsinki they came directly to Moscow, met with Gorbachev, and at that time he told them: “The Chairman of Gosplan is going to brief you on what we are going to do.” And I thought at the time, good heavens, you know, it is like putting the fox in charge of your chicken coop. The problem was breaking up Gosplan for crying out loud. And how were you going to do that if you were not going to break it up? But that is not for us to say. But my point is, we really could not find a way to be helpful, and it would have taken a long time, and somehow our leaders did not focus on it—I think this is crucial—on the lack of support.

531But also, and I would just conclude by saying if those who say that Gorbachev could have gotten better deals, which would have gone down with the West, I would like to hear what they were, because I can think of none. Or, I can only think of one exception, and that is: during German unification, if he had pressed, and if it had been important to him, he could have probably gotten better assurances that there would be no further expansion of NATO. He did not press that issue, and therefore it was left sort of unclear. And people can argue that inasmuch as he agreed to allow East German territory to become a part of NATO, that there was no agreement really not to expand NATO eastward. My own view is that the expansion eastward is going to weaken NATO, and if it continues it will weaken it even more, and NATO will simply become irrelevant. Therefore, I do not see this as a huge geopolitical problem. I regret that it is happening.

532Blanton: That will be our second conference from now.

533Matlock: That is right. But my point here is, I think you’ve got to get out of the mindset that the previous positions on either side were necessarily in their interest. The zero option is a good example. That was in the Soviet strategic interest, more so than in the Western, if you are looking strictly in those terms. They just did not see it for a while. Therefore, it was not a concession. And this is true of many of the others. These agreements really were in our mutual interest, given the circumstances and given the alternatives.

534Blanton: Thank you very much. […] I am going to resume, and perhaps ask Anatoly to try to deal with the following: are there mysteries, or even just unanswered questions? Because we got at least two from Jack. We got these: What were the deals that could have been gotten that were better than what Gorbachev got? And what was the problem with economic assistance? So we’ve got at least two. But I want to ask Anatoly to give your unanswered questions or mysteries.

  • 51 See Document Nos. 111, 113.

535Chernyaev: Because you set a goal to define only three problems, I will propose the following. Maybe it is not for a single meeting like this. First, let us synthesize the results and the outcomes of the end of the Cold War in the context of those negative developments that subsequently unfolded after the end of the Cold War. This is a big, synthetic task. Second, there is an element of mystery: Helmut Kohl’s Ten Points, November 28, 1989.51 I do not think that anybody would doubt that they played a very important role in the further process of German unification. But what happened here, what went into this phenomenon? Was that the result of Kohl’s ambition to be the father of the nation, the Unifier? What came from his electoral considerations? And what represented a real need to hurry to do certain things to keep the process under control? Was there a realistic threat of being late? This is the second point.

536Now, the third point. Let us try to extract perceptions on the part of Soviet people from various strata—the former leadership, the elite, the common people—of the American threat by the mid-1980s. What did the American threat consist of in their perception? Then it would be easier to understand why Gorbachev’s policy was received with support. In order not to take the floor again, I would like to say just the following. We are eternally grateful to you for the work that you have undertaken because this is important not only for scholarly purposes, not only for the future. First of all, it is of assistance to us, because we cannot undertake such a project in Russia now. That is why we are thanking you personally, because you visit us all the time, you use us, you invite us all the time, but also we want to thank you in a more general—national, if you will—sense. Thank you very much.

537Blanton: Thank you very, very much. Now Georgy, please. You have five minutes. Three mysteries, three questions, and three pieces of evidence that you want us to find.

538Shakhnazarov: At Tom’s request, I am going to formulate three problems that in my opinion need to be studied. We more or less know why Gorbachev acted this way and not the other, what he wanted, what did not work. In other words, Gorbachev’s line has been more or less studied. But there have been no studies of the role played by Western Europe. It seems that it was all done in Washington. However, we know that maybe up to 40 percent of the international factors came from those meetings with West European leaders, like Thatcher, Mitterrand, Gonzalez, and others, what they said, the positions of the leading West European states. Anatoly Sergeyevich has his tremendous experience, his notes of meetings, his documents, his recollections. I think he can, as we say, dig out his closets, and find something interesting for us.

539The second issue is the role of our internal opposition, our internal processes. I believe that our young colleagues, historians, took a very critical position in assessing the policies of perestroika to a large extent because they underestimate what was happening inside the country. They underestimate the role of those explosive processes which occurred unexpectedly and broke up many of our intentions, plans, and calculations, including Gorbachev’s calculations. I think that this factor should be included in our analysis: the factor of internal processes.

540Third, even though Jack and Doug gave interesting presentations today, I am still not very satisfied by how we discussed the U.S. role. Not because I want some kind of new revelations like the document that Oleg has read to us. We should learn about this in more detail, with documents. We should know how the Americans acted in those situations? Not because we want to accuse anybody, or justify ourselves—just because we are writing history. As Balzac said, “History is most often forged while it is being made.” If we do not determine exactly how everything happened now, then the wrong information will go down to the next generations.

541I agree with Jack, and I understand it when he says that they could not give the money because it was like throwing it down the drain. Then I ask: how come you found 25 billion dollars to give to Yeltsin, the money that is being spent on patching up the budget, for the New Russians to steal and take out of the country? Why is there money available for this, but it was not available then? Just several billion to support Gorbachev? Let us try to explain this for ourselves. Maybe because Yeltsin in response began to sell out Russian resources? Maybe this is the answer? Aluminum is being exported, other things too. This is not to blame anybody, especially because we are not involved in real policy now, we are looking at it as old men, as historians. But we must have clarity as to the role played by the United States, by the American factor in all these events.

542And I would like to conclude by saying that I have several documents that I will pass on to you, including the document of the meeting of the general secretaries that took place in Bucharest in July 1989, some German documents, discussions that I have mentioned. We will give all these materials to Vlad. I would also like to add to what Anatoly Sergeyevich has said regarding the organizers of this project, that we are very grateful to the owner of this beautiful plantation for the opportunity to be here, to work, and to relax here, although it is not enough, of course. (Laughter)

543Blanton: It is never enough.

544Shakhnazarov: And thank to all of you who helped us.

545Tarasenko: I would like to join my colleagues in expressing our deep gratitude, and to say that we appreciate such events very much. This conference was very well organized, and it is very useful for history, and useful in every other sense because the question is about mysteries and evidence related to the mysteries. You know, for me the question that is not clear is whether the Cold War has really ended? For a couple of years I have been confident that the Cold War is over. When exactly it ended—under Shultz or under Baker—is a different question. But recently I found a quote from the [Cheshire] Cat, who said, “The war did not end, it just fell asleep.” And I started thinking—maybe the Cold War has just fallen asleep?

546If you want evidence—in March of last year the U.S. Embassy in Moscow refused to give me a visa to visit the United States to take part in a Hofstra University conference. I took it as a computer glitch. That was the only explanation: you know, things like this happen. My visa for this particular trip was only issued twenty hours before my departure, after you intervened. I have never, during the Cold War, experienced such a situation. My visa was always guaranteed at all times. Something is happening apparently between the two countries, and moreover, when my visa was denied, I was still the holder of a diplomatic passport […] I think that events like this are extremely useful, and we need to continue them, and we need to give everybody a chance to speak, we need to cover the picture from different angles. I cannot see any magic lens: you know, we need to do this, we need to do that. Just the process of communication—we talk, we share opinions, we look at things. Some of them make sense, some do not; it is a dialogue. We need to continue with the dialogue as best we can, continue developing the dialogue. I do not have a problem at all here. Thank you.

547Blanton: Thank you very much, Sergey. Let me just ask Doug MacEachin to do one of his famous bullet-point briefings, the way he used to do them for Ronald Reagan: punto, punto, punto, punto.

548MacEachin: I no longer have a diplomatic passport, and I no longer do that, but I will try. And I may not be contributing anything because this is my first session, and I do not know necessarily what you have already done.

549First, I thought the key question at the very end of our discussions was: what was the perception in the East European capitals, and when was what perceived? I would really like to be present some time where we go into that in great depth—

550Blanton: Come next year.

551MacEachin: —with views from different domestic factions, because I think that is critical.

552Number two, I have always been curious in great detail about what went on in the Brezhnev period from about 1978 to the end of it, in terms of the perceptions then about economic and social problems. How much concern was there—I know there was at least some, I read about some—and what kind of stage setting was done then for what would happen later under Gorbachev? It just seems to me that the world did not suddenly get invented under Gorbachev.

553Number three, a proposition: by 1989, the impact of the previous three or four years was roughly, as I would describe it, that Gorbachev had shown his commitment to reform, had moved beyond just economic adjustments to really make major political change in the society, and the political system had opened. That, however, created an enormous problem, and everything I have read from my own files, and from the files of the academics with whom I am now associated, shows we were all writing then about tremendous change, all kinds of social turmoil, […] ethnic uprisings in various places, the economy has not delivered. We wrote that in many ways people now have more freedom to express their dissatisfaction, and there is a backlash coming. Everybody I knew was saying that, and I would be very interested to know in as much detail as possible what was the perception on the other side, because I tell you we were saying that here, and the State Department was rejecting it. And a lot of people were saying that was wrong. You were seeing it in Moscow, but many people in Washington did not have your vantage point. And I really am interested to know: why was our perception that different from those in Moscow? It was a perception on this side of the Atlantic that caused people to say: whether Gorbachev is still in office in the next two to three years is a great question. And yet we did not seem to get any kind of sense of that from our interlocutors. Those are the three mysteries to me.

554Blanton: Thank you, Doug. I would like to give the floor to Jacques Levesque, and then Vlad has the last two questions here.

555Levesque: About Eastern Europe. We now know well enough that Gorbachev himself, personally, stood aloof and exerted very little pressure for change in Eastern Europe. When he did, he did it in a very indirect and a very prudent manner. However, you did send much stronger signs to Eastern Europe. The fact that your signs were not backed by Gorbachev, of course, limited their impact. For instance, I was surprised to see in Vadim Medvedev’s book, Raspad, how he was able to speak to Zhivkov in a much tougher manner than Gorbachev himself did, and he was much stronger in what he said to Zhivkov. I am talking now about the reformers.

556There were harder signals sent to Eastern Europe by other Soviet circles: the military, the KGB, for instance, and on these we know nothing. What were the signals those people were sending? Of course, they had a limited impact because also Gorbachev was not backing these signals personally. But some signals were certainly sent by the KGB, by the military, all over Eastern Europe. For instance, I would be very interested to know what is the part that the KGB played in Romania in December 1989? The KGB was there. It is unbelievable that it could have been entirely inactive and done nothing. So, what were the signals that the KGB was giving there? We know nothing. I would like to see some documents coming not from the reformers, because we know—well, if there is something else, the more the better—but we have had quite a few documents from the reformist side, but very little from the other circles that exerted their limited influence in the area.

557And my main question then, in terms of [an] enigma, the big enigma for me—maybe the answer is not to be found in documents—it is hard for me to understand how Gorbachev could stay so long in power before the putsch took place. After having lost the whole of Eastern Europe, and having lost the whole of Germany to NATO, after having begun to lose the Baltic states, it is only in the Summer of 1991 that the putsch took place. To me it is a big mystery how could he stay in power so long with what had happened before. I think you gave us a very interesting insight when you talked about the power of the function of the general secretary in traditional Russian and Soviet terms, how powerful his office was. It is a very important element of an answer. But to me, the enigma remains: how is it possible that he could have stayed in power so long after having lost not only Eastern Europe, but a part of the Soviet Union?

558Zubok: As a historian, I would like to point out that we have just started the study and research of all sides of the process, and all the factors that resulted in what started in 1989 and brought about what we have now. First of all, I would like to give my support to those who were speaking about the economic factor. And when Doug MacEachin asked who is an economist here, it turned out that we did not have an economist around the table. That is a major fault. Economic as well as internal factors were immensely important in 1989 for the Soviet Union. And Gorbachev admits that in this regard perestroika failed totally. That was clear by 1989.

559Looking at the excerpts from documents that we have, from the Politburo records, we may ask ourselves: what did he read, what was reported to him, especially after Chernobyl in 1986, about the deteriorating state of the Soviet economy, about the inevitable financial collapse of the country? There are some signs of this awareness of the ever-deteriorating situation when he was stating more and more seriously that we could not afford another round of the arms race. And he was doing it at the Politburo level, and he linked it to the actual economic crisis.

560Everybody knows that in 1985, when Gorbachev came to power, the country was not in the best shape. But many reformers admit that the policy of reform turned the gradual economic deterioration into a total collapse, and how much that influenced the tactics of the time. That, I think, has not been studied at all. We tried to invite people like Batsanov, who was Kosygin’s aide and for a while an aide of Ryzhkov, but that did not work out. I think we need to do better next time. We do not have the information—we have some general ideas, none of them specific—[about] how the drop in oil prices in 1986 influenced the situation. If you read our materials, we did look at that issue, we gave the chronology of oil price decreases.

561Second issue. We need to find out how, and to what degree, the U.S administration, and precisely the administration of George Bush, reacted when they realized that the Soviet economy was not just in bad shape, but was in a state of collapse. Nikolay Shmelev mentioned in his memoirs about going to Jackson Hole with Baker and Shevardnadze, when he actually, basically, overwhelmed Baker with his analysis of the Soviet economy, and Baker was shocked, according to Shmelev. Then Baker realized finally that he was dealing with a superpower about to collapse economically. Whether that is true—or maybe he had realized that before—there are a lot of specific questions and they bring us to the issue of the economy. The rest really does not matter. There are problems all around. We know very little about the military other than that they behaved. We really do not have any documents, we do not have any records of the Defense Council sessions, none of their proposals. The same goes for the KGB.

562My mystery, my enigma, as a scholar, is why, in your personal files, Anatoly Sergeyevich, there are basically no military- or KGB-related notes. You were Gorbachev’s aide on foreign policy. Did they not send you those materials, or maybe you did not keep them? There is testimony to the fact that Gorbachev, actually, worked directly with the KGB. They would bring him their briefings, and then they would take them back without showing them to anybody else. And also those power structures—the military, the KGB—this issue has not really been developed in our discussions of 1989, nor actually of 1988.

563And I would like to say that I believe that at this conference we realized that it all started before 1989. All this mess started before 1989, and if there were any options to re-organize the East European policy, those opportunities existed only before 1989. And we have to study the events of 1988 in order to understand how it all developed. We need to find out what Gorbachev was thinking at the time.

564And also, an issue of concern for me [is] the cause of the inevitable continuing politicization of the subject of 1989 […] It is quite inevitable that perestroika suffers from the shadow of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the fact that we all, Soviet citizens, could see what was happening to Russia at the time. To what degree do we, as historians, honest historians, need to get rid of this shadow? It is a matter of personal choice, personal ethics.

565I would like to call for a closer study of documents rather than relying on the memoirs of our hard-liners, which I went through very earnestly. All these memoirs, perhaps with the exception of Kornienko and Akhromeev, Through the Eyes of a Marshal and a Diplomat, actually were met with no interest among the public. At least in this book they tried to prove that they were right in their certain views. All the other memoirs say something like, “We cannot say anything about it. We did go to Berlin in October 1988, but we cannot tell you anything about what we did there.” They only blame the policies of Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. This is an unfair position. That they are reluctant even to discuss this subject, even to participate in the discussion is a very sad symptom for me. I believe that we will need to make a lot of effort before we can hope to pull something from those people that can realistically be judged by history. Thank you.

566Blanton: I would just end with two thoughts. One of them is rather famous, for historians at least, concerning whoever it was who asked Mao Zedong at one point, “Well, Chairman Mao, what is your opinion now about the French revolution?” And Chairman Mao said, “It is a little too early to tell.” And this is a caution, I think, to all of us.

567The final comment, I think, should be the last word for this particular conference. And it really comes from Svetlana’s ten-year old daughter, Natasha. And I do think this was the ultimate compliment to any conference I have ever been a part of. Natasha last night said two things. When she saw us dancing, she said, “I want to be like them.” (Laughter). And then the second thing she said was, “This is better than a sleepover!” (Laughter) And indeed it is. And it is all due to you. Thank you very much.


1 Document No. 42. The Institute of the Economy of the World socialist System, directed by Oleg Bogomolov, was part of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

2 Document No. 98.

3 Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) was a Dominican friar based in Florence and a religious reformer devoted to asceticism and the renunciation of paganism and vice.

4 At the September 1988 Central Committee Plenum, Gorbachev engineered a major restructuring of the Central Committee apparatus, which among other things created the International Commission headed by Alexander Yakovlev and produced a radical leadership shake-up, removing several hard-liners from their posts, including Andrey Gromyko, Yegor Ligachev, and Viktor Chebrikov.

5 June 28-July 1, 1988.

6 A village on the southern tip of the Crimean peninsula where a government dacha was located. The Soviet leader was vacationing in Foros on August 19, 1991, when hard-liners instigated the coup against him.

7 The meeting in question was almost certainly June 14, 1989, in Bonn; see Document No. 67

8 Nina Andreyeva, a teacher from Leningrad, wrote a letter critical of Gorbachev’s educational reform program that became a focal point for public and internal party debates after it was published in the conservative newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya on March 13, 1988.

9 The CC CPSU’s Department of Relations with the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Socialist Countries was known internally simply as Otdel, “the Department.” liberal-minded friends called us, followed by official phone calls—“Is this really the official point of view of the new leadership? If so, it is a scandal. Where are we going?”

10 Rakhmanin published the articles under the pseudonym “Vladimirov.” See Document No. 2 for a related Politburo discussion.

11 The Vendee was an area of major counter-revolutionary activity in France in the 1790s.

12 This is the date of the Politburo’s discussion. See Document No. 16.

13 See Document No. 43.

14 Document No. 29.

15 Document No. 45.

16 A reference to the mass execution of several thousand by the Soviet NKVD in the Katyń Forest near Smolensk in 1940. In all, some 15,000 Polish officers were known to have disappeared after their internment in Soviet camps in September 1939, but it was not until April 1990 that the Soviet Union finally admitted the NKVD’s responsibility.

17 See Document No. 31.

18 Babiuch served in the post from February to August 1980.

19 Olszowski lost his Politburo seat at the VIII PUWP Congress in February 1980, and was appointed envoy to East Berlin the following month.

20 Jakeš was named head of the CPCz in December 1987.

21 Document No. 39.

22 CC CPSU Presidium member Vladimir Malin took handwritten notes of meetings during this period. This document from October 30, 1956, appears in Csaba, The Hungarian Revolution, Document No. 49.

23 Document No. 41.

24 In September 1989, Hungary began allowing East Germans to transit the country and cross the border freely into Austria, despite the GDR’s long-standing prohibition against travel by its citizens to the West.

25 See Document No. 107.

26 Col. Nikolay Petrushenko and Col. Viktor Alksnis were outspoken members of the hardline Soyuz (Union) bloc in the Soviet Duma who publicly attacked Gorbachev’s reform program in 1990 and helped prompt Shevardnadze’s resignation.

27 Oskar Fischer.

28 July 5, 1989.

29 Geidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.

30 In his U.N. speech, Gorbachev announced overall reductions of Soviet armed forces by 500,000 men, 10,000 tanks and 800 aircraft. Out of this number, 50,000 men, 5,000 tanks, and other combat equipment would be withdrawn from Eastern Europe.

31 See Document Nos. 36 and 37 for discussions on this topic with Kissinger, and Document No. 96 for discussions with Brzezinski (in October 1989).

32 Document No. 84.

33 A part of the 1974 Trade Act, the amendment restricted trade relations with the Soviet Union and other non-market economies that denied emigration rights to Jews and other citizens.

34 Document Nos. 43, 45, 47.

35 Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a long-time political dissident and nationalist during the Soviet era, became president of Georgia in May 1991 but his brief rule was criticized as dictatorial and he was toppled from power in January 1992. In September 1993, he undertook an unsuccessful armed rebellion from his base in western Georgia against the successor government of Eduard Shevardnadze.

36 In 1976, then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush authorized an alternative analysis of the Soviet threat to be undertaken by hard-liners who were sharply critical of CIA assessments. The exercise became known as “Team B.”

37 The Senate hearings in 1991 to confirm Robert Gates as director of CIA.

38 Schweizer, Victory.

39 The agreement to dissolve the USSR signed by Boris Yeltsin, Ukraine President Nikolay Kravchuk and Belarus leader Stanislau Shushkevich in the Belovezhsky Forest region of the former Soviet Union (present-day Belarus) on December 8, 1991.

40 See Document No. 37.

41 December 7, 1988.

42 Chairman of the Moscow City Council and a reform-oriented economist.

43 July 31, 1985.

44 Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Kornienko, Ambassador to the U.S. Viktor Komplektov (1991-1992), Ambassador to the U.S. and later head of the CC International Department Anatoly Dobrynin.

45 In 1989, James Baker had become secretary of state, Dennis Ross was director of the Office of Policy Planning, Robert Kimmitt was undersecretary for political affairs, and Robert Zoellick was counselor to the Department.

46 Dobrynin, In Confidence.

47 Speeches before the Foreign Policy Association in New York on October 17, and the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on October 23, 1989.

48 Staraya Ploshchad’ or “Old Square,” was the site of Central Committee headquarters in the capital.

49 On September 1, 1983, Soviet fighter aircraft shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007, which had drifted into Soviet airspace near Sakhalin Island. Soviet officials later claimed they did not know the airliner was civilian.

50 See Document No. 108.

51 See Document Nos. 111, 113.

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