“If Perestroika Fails…”: The Last Summer of the Cold War – June-July 1991.   1 comment

President Gorbachev had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, but gave his acceptance speech in Oslo on 5 June 1991, twenty-five years ago. In it he warned that, if perestroika fails, the prospect of entering a new peaceful period of history will vanish, at least for the foreseeable future. The message was received, but not acted upon.  Gorbachev had embarked on perestroika; it was up to him and his ministers to see that it did not fail. Outside the Soviet Union, his Peace Prize was acclaimed, and the consequences of his constructive actions were apparent everywhere. In June 1991 Soviet troops completed their withdrawal from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Czechs and Hungarians cheered as the last Soviet tanks left. At the same time, both Comecon, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact were formally dissolved.

Two sets of arms negotiations remained as unfinished business between Presidents Bush and Gorbachev: START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) and CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe). The CFE agreement set limits to the number of conventional arms – tanks, artillery, aircraft – allowed between the Atlantic and the Urals. It effectively ended the military division of the continent. It had been signed in Paris the previous November, 1990, but the following summer some CFE points of interpretation were still giving trouble. The Soviets sought to exclude naval units from the count, insisting that they might need them for internal purposes in the Baltic and Black seas. The United States argued that everything should be counted, and it was not until June 1991 in Vienna that the final text was installed, the culmination of two years of negotiation. Below are some of the thousands of tanks which were put up for sale as the CFE agreement came into force. These armaments had helped keep the peace, but in the end only the junkyard awaited them.

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START’s broad objective was also quite clear: the reduction of long-range strategic weapons. Achieving this was complicated. Should the two sides reduce the number of warheads or the number of missile types carrying the warheads? The Soviets had two new missile types in development, so they wanted to download warheads instead. The US was against this, and the Soviets were negotiating against a clock that was ticking away the continued existence of the USSR. Eventually, just minutes before Bush and Gorbachev were due to meet in London, on 17 July, minor concessions  produced a text acceptable to both sides of the table. A fortnight later, on 31 July, the two presidents signed START 1 in Moscow. The two superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear warheads and bombs to below nine thousand, including 1,500 delivery vehicles. Thus began a new sequence of strategic arms reduction agreements.

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Meanwhile, within the new Russian Republic, Boris Yeltsin had become its President on 12 June, elected by a landslide. He received 57% of the eighty million voted cast, becoming Russia’s first ever democratically elected leader. However, the Soviet Union, including Russia, was desperate to receive American economic aid; it was no longer its strength as a nuclear superpower which posed a threat to world peace, but its economic weakness. Gorbachev calculated that the US would recognise this and, in a ‘Grand Bargain’ offer massive dollar aid – say, twenty billion a year over five years – to do for the Soviet Union what the Marshall Plan had done for Western Europe after the Second World War. A group of Soviet and American academics tried to sell this plan to the two governments. Some of Gorbachev’s colleagues denounced this ‘Grand Bargain’ as a Western conspiracy, but, in any case the US was not interested – the USSR was a poor credit risk and President Bush had no backing in Washington for bailing out the rival system.

The climax of Gorbachev’s attempts to get American aid in propping up the ruble and in stocking Soviet shelves with consumer goods came in London on 17 July at the Group of Seven (G7) meeting, the world’s financial top table. His problem remained that of convincing the US that he was serious about moving directly to a free market economy, as Boris Yeltsin had sought to do when he had proclaimed himself a free marketeer on a visit to Washington. At the G7 meeting, Gorbachev was unconvincing, and left empty-handed.

After the START 1 summit in Moscow on 31 July, George Bush kept his promise to visit Ukraine, and went on to Kiev. The Ukrainians were looking for US support in their attempt to break away from Moscow and declare independence. Bush perceived how perilous Gorbachev’s position really was. In June the ‘old guard’ Communists had been foiled in their attempt to oust him by passing resolutions in the Congress of People’s Deputies, the so-called ‘constitutional coup’. The CIA was now warning of a hard-line coup to dislodge him from power, this time using force. The warning was passed on to Gorbachev, who ignored it. Bush didn’t want to do anything to make matters worse. In Kiev he denounced the grim consequences of “suicidal nationalism.” Croatia and Slovenia, having left the Yugoslav federation, were already at war. The Ukrainians were disappointed. Bush’s speech went down even less well in the United States, where the president’s own right-wing critics picked up a journalist’s verdict and damned it as Bush’s “Chicken Kiev” speech.

Andrew James

Source: Jeremy Isaacs & Taylor Downing (1998), The Cold War. London: Bantham Press.

‘Cry God for Queen Bess, England and St Cuthbert….!’   Leave a comment

Source: ‘Cry God for Queen Bess, England and St Cuthbert….!’

Posted April 23, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History   Leave a comment

Imperial & Global Forum

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From when America bombs countries to save them to why the French presidential candidates are arguing about their colonial history, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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Posted April 22, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

The People’s Challenge – Thank you and a brief moment to draw breath.   Leave a comment

Say Yes 2 Europe - Remain in the EU

We have achieved very nearly all we aimed for during The Second People’s Challenge. This has only been possible because of your support. Thank you for the time, effort and money you have given us.

We collectively must not forget just what we have achieved together and how it all works towards our being able to protect people’s EU citizenship rights and the Sovereignty of the UK’s Parliament.

  1. We have challenged the Govt. over its intention to use Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 and we won in the Divisional Court and the Supreme Court.
  2. Whilst doing this we also successfully challenged the Government over its demand to keep its and others’ arguments secret.
  3. In challenging the Govt. on its right to use the Royal Prerogative, we established an important Constitutional point – only the UK’s Sovereign Parliament can remove or restrict fundamental citizenship rights, and to do so…

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Posted April 17, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

He is risen! So what?   Leave a comment

Nick Baines's Blog

This is the text of this morning’s sermon for Easter Day at Ripon Cathedral:

Acts 10:34-43 & John 20:1-18

Language matters. Describing the latest military attack on Afghanistan as the ‘mother of all bombs’ is shocking in its ‘boys’ toys’ trivialisation – or glorification of extreme violence. And it does not bode well at a time when nuclear war seems more likely than at any time since the end of the Cold War – especially given the unpredictability of the President of the United States and his predilection for changing his mind quickly and inconsistently. To say nothing about the Great Leader of North Korea.

An unusual way to begin a sermon for Easter Day? Maybe. But, this is the world we now live in at Easter 2017, and Christian worship cannot be an escape from it. But, rather than dropping high explosives onto other human beings, Easter explodes something…

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Posted April 17, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

Sunday into Monday – 48 Hours that Changed the World: ‘…He is risen indeed!’   Leave a comment

hungarywolf

A tenth-century manuscript was found in the monastery of St Gall in Switzerland some years ago which contains a dramatisation of the visit of the women to the tomb on Easter morning. It was evidently used in the form of worship, as a dramatic litany. The scene is the tomb with the stone rolled away. An angel guards the place. The women enter and the angel speaks, ‘Quem quaerites?’ he asks, ‘Whom do you seek?’ ‘We seek the Lord’ says Mary Magdalene. ‘He is not here – he is risen and gone before you.’

English: Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene English: Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This short dramatisation marks the beginning of a religious drama. Certainly the dramatic message of Easter is – ‘Christ is risen’. The response from the congregation in most English churches is ‘He is risen indeed.’ Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, is the oldest of the

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Posted April 16, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History   Leave a comment

Imperial & Global Forum

Ghana’s first post-independence president, Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown in a US-backed military coup in 1966 [AP]

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From neocolonialism in Africa to when humanitarianism became imperialism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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Posted April 15, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

Good Friday   Leave a comment

Nick Baines's Blog

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I have no idea how I would handle watching children being brought into a makeshift hospital following a chemical attack. Or anyone caught up in war, for that matter. Mark de Rond is an ethnographer who got himself embedded with a medical unit at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in 2012, and his book ‘Doctors at War’ is a raw, honest account of his experiences watching surgeons at work. Two things came over to me: first, the questions raised about mortality and meaning when senseless human brutality is all around, and secondly, the challenge – interspersed with sheer boredom – of not being in control of the dramas when casualties are brought in.

On Good Friday Christians stare into the eyes of helpless cruelty and loss, and are forced to live with it. But…

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Posted April 14, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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