News / Europe

Gorbachev's Foreign Policy Helps Bring Soviet Collapse

December marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this second, of a two-part series, we examine how the foreign policy of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.

Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader in early 1985 and represented a new, younger generation of leaders.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Thomas Pickering said “There was the famous [British Prime Minister] Maggie Thatcher visit that took place fairly quickly in which apparently she reported back to President Reagan: “This is a man we can do business with.'"

Gorbachev's Foreign Policy Helps Bring Soviet Collapse
Gorbachev's Foreign Policy Helps Bring Soviet Collapse

Analysts say Gorbachev understood that the Soviet Union could no longer use its military force to increase its influence in the outside world. He realized the military would have to, in some areas, retrench.

One of those areas was Afghanistan, where Soviet troops had been fighting mujahedeen guerilla forces since December 1979.

Ambassador Pickering says Gorbachev’s decision to withdraw Soviet troops sent a message to the world that Moscow had failed.

“I think it also indicated to us, it should have indicated to us, that military solutions to diplomatic problems don’t always work out the way you want," he said.

The last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan February 15th, 1989.

Foreign policy analysts say Mr. Gorbachev’s foreign policy also had dramatic effects in Eastern Europe, where people were clamoring for an end to communist party rule. Mr. Gorbachev made clear that he would not intervene militarily to stop demands for national independence.

Ambassador Pickering said “They [Soviet leaders] were loath to chance another large-scale deployment of military force to impose upon Eastern Europe the full-range of communist ideas and communist rule."

Gorbachev's Foreign Policy Helps Bring Soviet Collapse
Gorbachev's Foreign Policy Helps Bring Soviet Collapse

The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 in large part due to Mr. Gorbachev’s non-interventionist policy.

And, says Ambassador Pickering, the events in Eastern Europe had other consequences.

“And it was remarkable how it led to the doors and the gates of the Soviet Union itself - and then helped, in effect, to liberate the 15 republics, constituent republics, that were one way or another ready to separate themselves," he said.

In October 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Fourteen months later he resigned as Soviet president - experts say a victim of forces he unleashed, but could not control.

Former National Security Adviser General Brent Scowcroft says Gorbachev’s legacy is the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the communist system.

“Because if he had been a different kind of person, let’s say he had been another [Leonid] Brezhnev, the system could have gone on for some time," said Scowcroft. "I think it eventually would have collapsed, but it didn’t have to collapse when it did.”

The irony is that Mr. Gorbachev is often criticized in his country for bringing down communism, but is regarded as a hero in the West.

You May Like

Computer Crash Halts US Visa, Passport Operation

Problems with database have resulted in extensive backlog of applications, affected State Department's consular offices all over the world More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

World Bank: Boko Haram Stalls African Aid Projects

Islamist group’s terrorism sets back agriculture, health efforts in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid