The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991

By Ronald E. Powaski | Go to book overview

9

George Bush and the
End of the Cold War,
1989-1991

Reagan's Successor

The presidency of George Bush, who succeeded Ronald Reagan in January 1989, witnessed the end of the Cold War, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself. During Bush's presidency, the development of a new, post-Cold War relationship between the United States and what would become the successor states to the Soviet Union began. The new relationship would be characterized by cooperation rather than the confrontation that had been the hallmark of the Cold War.

Ironically, considering the important role that he would play in building the new Soviet-American relationship, Bush was slow to pick up the baton of détente. Gorbachev, in his speech before the United Nations on December 7, 1988, had challenged the then president-elect to end the Cold War. Not only did he announce a massive, unilateral reduction of Soviet armed forces and the withdrawal of ten divisions from Eastern Europe, he also challenged the United States to cooperate with the Soviet Union in resolving conflicts around the world, particularly in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and Angola. Gorbachev also recommended that a revived United Nations should be the instrument of superpower cooperation in creating a new world order.

In late January 1989 former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger urged Bush to boldly seize the initiative from Gorbachev by proposing the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Eastern Europe. Privately, Gorbachev's close aid, Aleksandr Yakovlev, warned Kissinger that Bush's

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