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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs