Reagan and Gorbachev:
How the Cold War Ended
by Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
In Reagan and Gorbachev, Jack F. Matlock, Jr., gives an eyewitness account of how the Cold War ended, with humankind declared the winner. As Reagan’s principal adviser on Soviet and European affairs, and later as the U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R., Matlock lived history: He was the point person for Reagan’s evolving policy of conciliation toward the Soviet Union. Working from his own papers, recent interviews with major figures, and archival sources both here and abroad, Matlock offers an insider’s perspective on a diplomatic campaign far more sophisticated than previously thought, led by two men of surpassing vision.
“Engrossing …authoritative…a detailed and reliable narrative that future historians will be able to draw on to illuminate on the most dramatic periods in modern history.” Los Angeles Times Book Review
Matlock details how, from the start of his term, Reagan privately pursued improved U.S.—U.S.S.R. relations, while rebuilding America’s military and fighting will in order to confront the Soviet Union while providing bargaining chips. When Gorbachev assumed leadership, however, Reagan and his advisers found a potential partner in the enterprise of peace. At first the two leaders sparred, agreeing on little. Gradually a form of trust emerged, with Gorbachev taking politically risky steps that bore long-term benefits, like the agreement to abolish intermediate-range nuclear missiles and the U.S.S.R.’s significant unilateral troop reductions in 1988.
“Absorbing…The author excels in his descriptions of U.S. policy making, infighting and all, and also in giving the Soviet side of events, basedin part on interviews with Gorbachev and other Kremlin officials.” Business Week
Through his recollections and unparalleled access to the best and latest sources, Matlock describes Reagan’s and Gorbachev’s initial views of each other. We learn how the two prepared for their meetings; we discover that Reagan occasionally wrote to Gorbachev in his own hand, both to personalize the correspondence and to prevent nit-picking by hard-liners in his administration. We also see how the two men were pushed closer together by the unlikeliest characters (Senator Ted Kennedy and François Mitterrand among them) and by the two leaders’ remarkable foreign ministers, George Shultz and Eduard Shevardnadze.
“[Matlock’s] account of Reagan’s achievement as the nation’s diplomat in chief is a public service as well as a contribution to the historical record….It is also corrective, since it debunks much of the hype and spin. … The truth is a better tribute to Reagan than the myth.” Strobe Talbott, The New York Times Book Review
The end of the Cold War is a key event in modern history, one that demanded bold individuals and decisive action. Both epic and intimate, Reagan and Gorbachev will be the standard reference, a work that is critical to our understanding of the present and the past.
Questions and comments are welcome from registered participants who have read the book. (I don’t have time to explain again something I have explained in the book.)