Eastern Europe has become a region of critical importance for the stability of the continent after half a century of cold war separation from the West (Michalak and Gibb 1992). M. Gorbachev's independence declaration to Eastern Europe, revoking the Brezhnev doctrine which insisted on the primacy of the Soviet-bloc interest, signalled a major change in military strategy. Suppression of the 'Prague Spring' in 1968 blocked any move towards pluralism in Eastern Europe and reformist tendencies including the Hungarian NEM were always constrained by the need to maintain the communist monopoly on power. Yet it was clear to Gorbachev that the FSU could neither win a nuclear war nor sustain an effective blitzkrieg capability in Europe. More fundamentally perhaps, the Soviets came to reject the long-held Leninist view that war between the capitalist and socialist worlds was inevitable (Stokes 1991). Belief that war might be averted by political means paved the way for the achievements of the Gorbachev years: arms reductions and more effective independence for Eastern Europe. Reducing military tension and scaling down the ideological cold war was, in turn, fundamental to an integration of the Soviet economy with the capitalist world; very necessary in the light of the faltering performance of the command economy during the 1980s. For the strategy of supplying raw materials at concessionary prices and providing a market for large sections of East European industry could no longer maintain steady growth. Investment in Siberian resource regions was falling, manufacturing industry was not being modernised and large amounts of gold were being sold to pay for essential imports.
At first there seemed little likelihood of immediate political change. Gorbachev anticipated that reform of the governing communist parties would allow them to stay in office. But he failed to appreciate the pressure for change building up as major institutions were undermined, and through his defence of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union he became a victim of his initial success. Hungary and Poland were the first countries to seek reform but their respective leaderships (under J. Kadar and W. Jaruzelski) were hardly contemplating radical departures from communist orthodoxy, while other regimes remained staunchly conservative in outlook. Towards the end of the