“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.

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Allergic to Unions? Part three – a very English history of the illusion of being on top.   Leave a comment

Source: Allergic to Unions? Part three – a very English history of the illusion of being on top.

Posted September 19, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

Allergic to Unions? Part three – a very English history of the illusion of being on top.   Leave a comment

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Source: Allergic to Unions? Part three – a very English history of the illusion of being on top.

Posted September 19, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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

Imperial & Global Forum

View of the Cairo suburb of Helwan at the end of the nineteenth century. From the Library of Congress.

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

From America’s Cold War delusions to indigenous London, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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Posted September 17, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

World War II internment camps still have much to teach us   Leave a comment

Imperial & Global Forum


US newspaper headlines of the forced relocation of over 110,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry.

Rachel Pistol
University of Exeter

Read any newspaper in the United States or United Kingdom at the moment and it is likely to be full of news items related to refugees and immigration. Were you to open a newspaper in the 1930s, you would find very similar news stories. Despite the fact Second World War internment took place over 70 years ago, it could not be more relevant in today’s society.

Internment is a recognised function of war, and so the detention of enemy aliens during the Second World War was not unexpected. In times of peril, it can be hard to discern who is friend and who is foe, and there are inevitably casualties of war.

However, national security as a reason for action can sometimes be abused.

Such was the case with the mass…

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Posted September 15, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

Call for Applications: Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2018   Leave a comment

Imperial & Global Forum

GHRA2018.png

Call for Applications:

Global Humanitarianism Research Academy 2018

International Research Academy on the History of Global Humanitarianism

Academy Leaders:   

Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Johannes Paulmann (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz)

Andrew Thompson (University of Exeter)

in co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva)

and with support by the German Historical Institute London

Venues:  University of Exeter & Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva

Dates:               9-20 July 2018

Deadline:        31 December 2017

Information at: http://ghra.ieg-mainz.de/, http://hhr.hypotheses.org/ and http://imperialglobalexeter.com/

The international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy(GHRA) offers research training to PhD candidates and early postdocs. It combines academic sessions at the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter and the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz with archival sessions at the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva…

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Posted September 12, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

Disability, development, and humanitarianism   Leave a comment

Imperial & Global Forum

A picture from 1971 showing the ICRC prosthetics workshop in Sanaa, Yemen, from the rich audiovisual archives of the ICRC (picture by M. Convers).

Sam de Schutter
Leiden University
Fellow of the 2017 Global Humanitarianism Research Academy

Cross-posted from Rethinking Disability

Today “the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war”, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs recently declared. This statement shows that humanitarianism is very much alive today, but that it apparently also has a history. But why am I writing about that on a blog related to the history of disability? That is because I participated in the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA), organized by the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the University of Exeter, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Over the span of two weeks in July, spent both in Mainz…

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Posted September 7, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

North Korea & Apocalypse   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.

When I heard yesterday that North Korea had tested another nuclear weapon, it was the language that caught my attention. What was detected in Japan and South Korea was described as “an artificial earthquake”.

I know what is meant by this – that it wasn’t a case of the earth moving of its own accord, but caused by a deliberate explosion. Yet, it is still an earthquake and there is little artificial about its effects. These go well beyond the realms of the physical world – they shock our imagination.

Interestingly, the language of apocalypse is beginning to find its way back into common currency, coloured no doubt by biblical images conjured up over centuries to depict the fiery end of the world. And there is nothing artificial about the fear that such…

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Posted September 5, 2017 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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