The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War


The decade from 1981 through 1991 saw the remarkable transition from a renewed U.S. confrontation with the Soviet Union to the end of communist rule and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. This turning point is now history, history that is the foundation for what has been occurring between the United States and Russia and for what will evolve. In this book, one of America's foremost specialists on Soviet affairs provides a major contribution to our understanding of U.S.-Soviet relations. Raymond L. Garthoff picks up this story from his earlier account of the rise and fall of the detente of the 1970s. Covering the period of 1969 through 1980, Detente and Confrontation (first published by Brookings in 1985) studied American policy toward the Soviet Union under the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, and Soviet policy toward the United States. This new book turns to the final chapter of American relations with the Soviet Union in the succeeding decade, 1981-1991, bringing to an end boththe final period of American-Soviet relations and the story of the Cold War. The Great Transition features a detailed account of relations during the Reagan and Bush administrations and the Soviet leadership from the end of Brezhnev's rule through the revolutionary transformation of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. Through his unusual access to many formerly secret Soviet documents, declassified American documents, and interviews with key American and Soviet officials, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Garthoff provides a rare, authoritative analysis of recent events. He examines the turn from renewed confrontation in the early 1980s to a new detente in the late 1980s in the interaction of theUnited States and the Soviet Union. The interrelationships of domestic factors and foreign and security policies in both countries are examined, as are the involvements of both powers with other countries around the world that in


The end of the Cold War has created a new world, in which we are all seeking to get our bearings. Much has changed; the Soviet Union is no more, its place taken by Russia and other successor states. Yet even with these greatly changed conditions, history continues. American-Russian relations are a new phenomenon, but they can only be built on the foundation of the preceding stage of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. That is one reason why it remains important to understand American-Soviet relations in their final decade, from 1981 to 1991.

There are other reasons as well. It is of intrinsic interest to know why and how the increased tensions of renewed Cold War in the early 1980s could move to a new if undeclared détente in the latter part of the decade. Still more, it is important to understand how the end of the division of Europe and the world, the end of the Cold War, could come in 1989-90 even while a communist-ruled Soviet Union continued to exist. Finally, there are lessons to be learned from both the American and the Soviet experiences of the 1980s that may be pertinent to relations between the United States and Russia, and more generally to international politics.

The author of this study, Raymond L. Garthoff, came to Brookings in 1980 after retiring from a long and distinguished career in government service. His first major study after resuming a career of scholarship was Détente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, published in 1985--and now to appear in a revised and updated edition. The present volume, although it stands on its own, is a sequel to the earlier one.

The period from 1981 through 1991 encompasses the unexpected and significant transformation of American policy under President Ronald Reagan from confrontation in his first term to a new détente in the second. Even more unexpected and more far-reaching in its consequences was the emergence of a new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was seeking to transform the Soviet . . .

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