The United States and Western Europe since 1945: From "Empire" by Invitation to Transatlantic Drift

By Geir Lundestad | Go to book overview

8 The End of the Cold War and Cooperation in the End, 1984-1993

In Reagan's first years Washington's hardline policies towards the Soviet Union had been met with concern in most Western European capitals. While there was broad understanding that the Soviet Union's expansion in the Third World and its arms build-up had to lead to Western countermeasures, the feeling was that many of Reagan's policies went just too far. But in 1984 Reagan changed dramatically and the emphasis was now on American-Soviet cooperation, particularly in arms control. “The evil empire” was out and before long, apparently, the new man in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev, could be trusted. The two leaders held spectacular summits. In Western Europe almost everybody appreciated the change in the East-West climate, but again there was concern. This time the concern was that Reagan would go too far in the direction of Soviet-American harmony, not to say hegemony. In US-EU relations the second Reagan administration took a dim view of what it saw as clear signs of a Fortress Europe developing.

Even George Bush thought that Reagan might have been too captivated by Gorbachev. Yet, after almost a year of reflection, the new Bush administration concluded that East-West cooperation was indeed to continue at full speed. The resulting benefits seemed incredible: the old Soviet-Communist system was swept aside in Eastern and Central Europe, Germany was unified, and the Soviet Union even disappeared. These were huge changes for the Americans as well as the Europeans to deal with, mostly for good, but potentially also for bad. US-EU relations improved markedly under Bush. But what should be the role of the United States in this Europe united from “the Atlantic to the Urals?” Paris's vision was of a much more limited role for America now than during the Cold War, but in this the French were to be largely disappointed. Britain and the now unified Germany were definite supporters of a continued strong role for the United States in Europe. So were many others.


Reagan and Gorbachev: The Lovefest 1

During most of his first term Ronald Reagan condemned the Soviet Union in the strongest of terms and rearmed at a rather hectic pace. He did not meet with

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