The Great Transition

American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War

Raymond L. Garthoff examines the fateful final decade of U.S.- Soviet relations, from the start of the Reagan administration in 1981 through the end of the Soviet era—the collapse of the communist bloc, the end of Gorbachev's failed perestroika, and the demise of the Soviet Union itself at the end of 1991. While standing on its own, the book is a sequel to the author's earlier acclaimed Détente and Confrontation: American- Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, which covers the period 1969-1980.

This volume features a detailed examination of the perspectives and actions of both the United States and the Soviet Union and their interaction, including the interrelationships of domestic factors with foreign and security policies in both countries and the involvement of both powers with allies and other countries around the world that infringed on their direct relationship. Besides analyzing the turn from confrontation to détente and beyond over the years of the Reagan and Bush, and Brezhnev through Gorbachev, administrations, it reflects on the significance of the great transition from the cold war to a new era. It thus illuminates the very relevant recent history that underlines and informs American-Russian relations and the new situation of a post-Soviet, post-cold war world.

Garthoff has obtained access to many formerly secret Soviet documents on this period in the Russian archives, as well as to a number of official American documents that have only recently been declassified. In addition, he has been able to interview and discuss the issues with many active or former Soviet and American officials.

The author concludes that the key development was the advent of a Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who recognized the need to cast off a failed world view and to end the cold war—and who successfully moved, with the United States under the Reagan and Bush administrations, and others, to achieve that goal, notwithstanding his failure in the parallel attempt to revitalize and transform the Soviet Union.

Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Book of 1994