An analysis of the role of political leadership in the Cold War’s ending, which shows why the popular view that Western economic and military strength left the Soviet Union with no alternative but to admit defeat is wrong. The Cold War got colder in the early 1980s and the relationship between the two military superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, each of whom had the capacity to annihilate the other, was tense. By the end of the decade, East-West relations had been utterly transformed, with most of the dividing lines – including the division of Europe – removed. Engagement between Gorbachev and Reagan was a crucial part of that process of change. More surprising was Thatcher’s role.
Archie Brown is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy, and an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of numerous books on the former Soviet Union and its demise, including The Gorbachev Factor (1996) and The Rise and Fall of Communism (2009), both of which won both the Alec Nove Prize and the Political Studies Association’s W.J.M. Mackenzie Prize for best politics book of the year.