Cold War Termination - The soviet perspective




All three perspectives note that little opportunity existed for significant changes in the Cold War before 1985. Under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union had attempted to maintain the détente relationship established with President Richard Nixon but at the same time pursue new opportunities to aid Marxist regimes. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on 27 December 1979 to restore reliable communist control of the government, the Carter administration abandoned any remaining hopes for an accommodation with the Soviet Union, most notably the unratified Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and moved to aid the Afghan resistance to Soviet forces.

Moscow may have hoped that Reagan would follow in the footsteps of Richard Nixon and shift from a career of anticommunism to a strategy of détente with the Soviet Union, especially since the Kremlin had not achieved very much in its recent international activities and faced a mounting crisis with Poland in 1980–1981. Economic problems in Poland, along with the deterioration of the Polish Communist Party, had contributed to the rise of Solidarity, an independent labor union. Soviet documents published by the Cold War International History Project reveal the desire of Soviet leaders to avoid another military intervention but at the same time defeat the challenge of Solidarity and keep it from spreading into the Baltic states and the Ukraine.

Ideology blended with great-power Realpolitik and regime preservation in the Soviet deliberations. Although the politburo received very detailed reporting on the Solidarity movement and the extent of public and worker support for Solidarity, Soviet officials and their eastern European allies filtered the situation through their ideological categories and jargon. In reports to the politburo as well as meetings of Soviet officials and Warsaw bloc allies, "forces of counter-revolution," "enemies of socialism," and "petit-bourgeois ideology" served as substitutes for challenging analysis of the situation. During a Politburo meeting on 29 October 1980, Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov worried about a "raging counterrevolution underway" in Poland with Solidarity leaders like Lech Walesa trying to "take power away from the workers." Brezhnev and other officials also frequently referred to Western capitalist forces seeking to aid counterrevolution in Poland. When Marshall Wojciech Jaruzelski finally imposed martial law in December, Soviet officials quickly stepped up their assistance to arrest Solidarity leaders. As a member of the politburo, Gorbachev participated in the many discussions on Poland in 1980–1981 but in his recorded comments never questioned the pressure policies and the traditional class struggle analysis.

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