This is an exceptionally well-constructed volume of combined empirical and theoretical interest. The first third features protocols from a 1996 conference assembling nine former high US and Soviet officials. ‘The Cold War was something we tried to kill together – the United States and the Soviet Union’, says Alexander Bessmertnykh, deputy foreign minister of the Soviet Union 1986–1990, and co-organizer of the ‘Endgame’ conference with former US secretary of state James Baker (p. 23). How did it come to this? Did Gorbachev's enlightened ideas win out over the Soviet military–industrial complex, or did realist challenges compel the policy change?
Zubok and English both praise the personality and leadership of Michail Gorbachev, claiming a normative rather than instrumental role for ideas in the process. Gorbachev was part of a generation for whom the events in Hungary 1956 was a formative experience, setting their aversion to violence. Détente then made possible personal contact with the West, allowing Western social-democratic ideas of a new just and democratic world order to take root among Soviet intellectuals. Ideas that eventually led up to Gorbachev's historical 1988 speech in the UN assembly, where he declared that universal human values should take precedence over the international class struggle.
Continuing an earlier exchange in the journal International Security, Wohlforth and Brooks contest English's claim that the Soviet economy could have sustained Soviet world power ‘well into the next century’ (p. 245). The Soviet ideological turn was highly probabilistic. By the early 1980s, the USSR was spending roughly 40 percent of the state budget on armaments, helplessly isolated from a rapidly globalizing world economy. With its detailed dialogue, the debate signals an ongoing shift to a more pragmatic and empirically grounded style of international relations theorizing, emphasizing complexity, contingency and multi-causality.
2004. Vol. 2, no 3, 414-415 p.