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

By Raymond L. Garthoff | Go to book overview

Foreword

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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