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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 64: Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Richard von Weizsacker June 12, 1989

Traduction de Svetlana Savranskaya

Texte intégral

1This conversation between Gorbachev and West German head of state Richard von Weizsacker demonstrates the FRG’s role as intermediary, bridge, and messenger between the superpowers. The country’s leaders were eager to see the two sides engaged and talking. Weizsacker comments that the atmosphere in the United States is much less conservative than it was even three months earlier. Gorbachev expresses his frustration with the Bush administration’s “pause”, which he sees as yet another “characteristic” of the U.S. approach—to wait for the USSR’s “difficulties” to force movement “toward more concessionary positions” rather than engage directly with Moscow. However, we now know from American memoirs and documents that the pause actually represented something of a policy split in Washington as well as a reflection of Bush’s own go-slow mentality, not a strategic angling for concessions.


2Weizsacker: […] Kissinger told me about your conversation, and he emphasized the importance of keeping up confidential contacts. Such conversations should be held not just between Gorbachev and Bush. They could be conducted by specially authorized representatives as well.

3In any case, I can say that the atmosphere in the United States now is much less conservative than three months ago. And the numerous conversations that the chancellor, the minister of foreign affairs, and other representatives of the FRG had with the American leadership made a significant contribution to the change in atmosphere.

4Gorbachev: Since we touched upon President Bush’s line, I would like to emphasize that we enjoyed a confidential, positive atmosphere during our personal conversations. In order to preserve that atmosphere, even though the administration took such a long time to clarify its line regarding the further development of Soviet-American relations, we contained our impatience and did not criticize Bush and his government. We did not get pulled into polemics even when criticism over such a long pause began to grow exponentially among the public in the United States and Western Europe. Now we can see that we made the right decision.

5Speaking of American foreign policy, I should point out that it has a number of inherent, permanent weaknesses. First of all, when President Bush speaks one-on-one, he exhibits both pragmatism and the desire not to get stuck on ideological principles. However, when he makes public appearances, he makes statements that often sound like what we used to call “Reagan’s crusade against communism.” We believe that such returns to the past do not help to establish the atmosphere for a long period of peaceful interaction and cooperation [of the kind] we are proposing to the Bush administration. Those are things the American president needs to think about.

6And secondly, the position of waiting and taking their time in their approach to developing relations with the USSR is characteristic of the Bush administration as well as of its predecessors. Again and again they make efforts to see if the Soviet Union, because of various difficulties it is experiencing now, will move toward more concessionary positions, which would give an advantage to the United States. We have told them repeatedly about the illusory nature of such an approach, and about the fact that one cannot build policy on the basis of misconceptions. But they continue to cling to such an approach.

7[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 1. opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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