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New Digital National Security Archive Document Collection Spotlights Soviet-U.S. Relations at Cold War’s End

December 19, 2018

The National Security Archive, working with our partners at ProQuest, is publishing a new compilation of documents on Soviet-U.S. relations at the end of the Cold War. The 1,911-document collection, Soviet-U.S. Relations: The End of the Cold War, 1985-1991, is relevant for researchers studying a range of issues, including:

  • The transformation of U.S.-USSR relations from perestroika until the dissolution of the Soviet Union;
  • The dynamics of superpower relations at the end of the Cold War;
  • And the transformation of the international system in the late 1980s.

The collection features a complete series of U.S.-Soviet summit transcripts from Geneva 1985 through Madrid 1991, between Gorbachev and U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as memoranda of numerous phone calls between Bush and the Soviet leader, and Reagan and Gorbachev’s letters to each other. From early exchanges of letters between Reagan and Gorbachev after the latter came to power in March 1985 to the last phone call with Bush on December 31, 1991, these documents show the development of a productive relationship based on trust and a mutual interest in reversing the arms race, which provided a basis for spectacular achievements across the entire spectrum of foreign policy issues for both countries and even domestic reform in the USSR.

During the seven years covered in the set, U.S.-Soviet cooperation produced major advances in bilateral relations and in settling third world conflicts. In the most important area of arms control, the two countries signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in December 1987, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapon for the first time in history. In 1990, members of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization signed the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty reducing force levels in Europe. In July 1991, at the Moscow Summit, Bush and Gorbachev signed the START I Treaty which decreased numbers of strategic nuclear arms. Documents on negotiations of these treaties from both sides are part of this set, including very rare verbatim records of military-to-military negotiations from the Soviet side.

The end of the Cold War and the new partnership between the United States and the Soviet Union allowed the superpowers to actively engage in mediation of third world disputes, often putting pressure on their own allies in the local conflicts to resolve them peacefully. Primary sources documenting U.S.-Soviet negotiations and joint work on issues such as ending the Soviet war in Afghanistan, resolving conflicts in Southern Africa and Central America, and promoting democratic elections in Nicaragua show how far both sides were willing to go to transform the entire system of international relations and alliances.

In Europe, where the effect of the end of the Cold War was most dramatic, the set covers negotiations on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, the evolution of Gorbachev’s idea of the “common European home,” as well as Bush’s concept of “Europe whole and free,” and the interactions of both U.S. and Soviet officials with leaders of East European countries. Discussions of German unification and the related issues of the future of NATO and the Warsaw Pact constitute an important facet of the collection.

U.S. documents in this collection were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the State Department, Defense Department, the CIA, and the Clinton and Bush presidential libraries. On the Soviet side, notes of Politburo sessions produced by official stenographers and by Gorbachev’s chief foreign policy adviser Anatoly S. Chernyaev document crucial Soviet discussions and evolving cooperative policy toward the United States. Soviet materials relating to the period covered in the set were obtained by National Security Archive staff with the cooperation of the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow and from declassifications in key Russian archives.

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