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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 31: Notes of a Meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Policy Advisers, October 31, 1988

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1In this document Gorbachev in effect brainstorms with a narrow circle of foreign policy experts on the content of his upcoming speech to the U.N. General Assembly. In addition to Shevardnadze and Chernyaev, the group includes Yakovlev, Dobrynin, and Dobrynin’s deputy, Valentin Falin. The major thrust of Gorbachev’s initiative, as he envisions it, relates to disarmament and the gradual withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe. But its spirit is less pragmatic than messianic. He visualizes himself as a world figure who will not only assuage the security fears of Western countries, but will outline an entirely new cooperative global order. When he says, “In general this speech should be anti-Fulton—a Fulton in reverse,” he means nothing less than to undo the Cold War, declared most famously by Winston Churchill in his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946.

  • 1 Blanton, “When did the Cold War End?” 184.

2Indeed, Gorbachev’s U.N. address on December 7, 1988, would endorse the “common interests of mankind” as the basis of Soviet foreign policy and—most significantly for Eastern Europe—declare “the compelling necessity of the principle of freedom of choice” as “a universal principle to which there should be no exceptions.” Reaction in the West would range from disbelief to astonishment. U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan would call this speech “the most astounding statement of surrender in the history of ideological struggle,” while retired Gen. Andrew Good-paster, a former NATO commander and top aide to President Eisenhower, would describe Gorbachev’s announcement of unilateral troop cuts as “the most significant step since NATO was founded.”1



3Gorbachev: This is what I think. First of all, we need to define new thinking—how our policy is reflected in the minds of the people, politicians, and the military. Single out significant, permanent factors.

4We should present “the new us,” show them how we are changing, how we comprehend the changing world, and how we are developing along with it. This is the first part of the speech.

5The second part—and the main one—is to affirm that the new thinking, our new foreign policy, is fully connected with perestroika and with objective processes within the country. Tell them what we are going to do next at home.

6Present the basic principles of our new military-political doctrine, as concretely as possible, and what it means for the international situation.

7Show them our new military thinking as a part of the new political thinking and emphasize the military-technological side of our doctrine. In the speech we should make public the figures regarding our armed forces. Identify the reductions we are going to make unilaterally. It would be better if we could unburden ourselves of weapons in two years and then publish how much we had and how much we have left.

8Recently, I met with Komsomol members at their exhibition on science and creativity. They overwhelmed me with questions: What do we need such an army for, Mikhail Sergeyevich? Why do we need so many tanks, so many missiles? In short, the people will accept the idea of unilateral disarmament in the event that the international situation changes. However, we are already working in this direction. We have just given 6 billion rubles for public health—precisely by cutting military expenditures.

9Shevardnadze raises the issue of whether it is time to withdraw our troops from Hungary.

10Gorbachev: Yes, but first we need to reduce the numbers, not withdraw all at once. By the way, Khrushchev had all the right intentions in the military sphere. But look how he implemented them.

11The third part—about the United Nations. Describe what it has lived through during the Cold War. Emphasize that it was created for purposes of cooperation and coordination, and therefore it was only natural that its role diminished during the Cold War; its role “decreased.”

12This organization is called the United Nations for a reason. In this context it should have a universally accepted doctrine, which would reflect the rights of the peoples, their right of free choice, human rights. Show the U.N. role as an instrument of the new world.

13The fourth part: How do we see our contribution to the creation of the new world? We are not just calling for it, we are going to act. In the speech, we should present a set of responses to Western anxieties.

14In general, this speech should be anti-Fulton—a Fulton in reverse. And we can already lean on some of our experience with work we have done according to the new thinking; we can show movement in the right direction. But they will believe us only when they see that we are making clearly evident, real steps.

15The American theme should be present in the speech, i.e. our look at Soviet-American relations now and in the future.

16We should present our worldview based on the results of the last three years. We should stress the process of demilitarization in our thinking, and the humanization of our thinking.

17We should point to the fact that today international politics and contacts are expanding not only to the ranks of the people and politicians, but to the generals as well.

18[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation. Fond 2. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]


1 Blanton, “When did the Cold War End?” 184.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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