Previously, in 'A Return To Nuclear Paranoia'...
The grim discovery that nuclear weapons don't just kill communists finally convinced President Ron to ease up on his pro-Armageddon policies, and in the Soviet Union, three dead General Secretaries in as many years had led the Politburo to question the wisdom of selecting really old men to run the country. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, at a sprightly 54, represented the next generation of Russian politicians, and his reform platform was playing well to a population increasingly disillusioned with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In March of 1985 he took over the leadership. And Gorbachev, it seemed, was a man the Reagan administration could do business with. Unlike the CPSU old guard, Gorby had come up from the streets - well, a peasant village, but I'm sure you get the drift. He'd grown up with the promises of socialism, and could see that it was going to take more than parades and shiny tanks to hold the union together. Fighting an increasingly unbalanced arms race against America had started out of necessity, continued through a combination of pride and fear, and was now just bloody stupid. It was time to
For the Americans, enlightened self-interest was motivation enough. There's plenty of profit in war, but much less in mutually assured destruction. Ronald and Mikhail held their first summit meeting in Geneva, in 1985, after which Reagan was quoted as saying: "There is much that divides us, but I believe the world breathes easier because we are here talking together". He was quoted as saying that, though his press secretary Larry Speakes later admitted that he'd made it up, because the Prez hadn't said anything
much worth reporting. "Luckily the Russians didn't dispute the quotes," chortled Larry. A continuation of the talks in 1986 were politically unsuccessful, but Soviet/US relations continued to thaw nonetheless. Glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction) were Gorby's buzzwords, and changes in social and economic policy were favourably reported in the Western press. Inside the Iron Curtain the mood was optimistic, though behind closed doors more guardedly so. In 1987 the Soviet nuclear stockpile decreased for the first time.
But it was too late. In the end, all the diplomacy and negotiation amounted to very little. Gorbachev was progressive but he couldn't stop the nation's financial freefall, and the Soviet Union was still committed to weighty military funding obligations with its Eastern Bloc neighbours, who were in similarly dire straits. The Brezhnev Doctrine - a policy unifying international communism - was ended by Gorbachev in 1988, and with the implicit cutting of their ties to Moscow, communism in Eastern Europe began to crumble. Soviet republics declared independence. Economic barriers were relaxed as the ruling parties fought to prop up failing services, Western industry was quick to smell the buck. And once the greedheads got their teeth into them, the party was over. Hardline governments in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany fell in quick succession. In 1991, a coup d'état marked the end for both Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. Though defeated, Boris Yeltsin - the Russian Chairman of Congress - won the publicity war, and on Christmas Day that year Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his leadership. The following day the Supreme Soviet dissolved itself.
History, or more accurately, historians, seem to be shaping up to cast Reagan in the role as "The Man Who
Won The Cold War". Apparently, the massive military expansion program was all part of Ronnie's brilliant
master plan to bankrupt the dirty commies and force them into a bloodless surrender, rather than - for
example - the massive military expansion program you might build to actually fight a war. It's probably much
too clever for me.
So the fuse had been dampened, but the cannon was still packed with gunpowder. It's an unnecessarily
elaborate metaphor. The US-Soviet threat had effectively ended, but tens of thousands of warheads don't disappear overnight, is what I'm getting at.