US Exclusionary Policy Post-1989

As the Berlin Wall fell, historian Mary Sarotte argues that the then exclusionist US Policy in Europe formed an ‘ordering point’ upon which the excluded Soviet Union forms its foreign policy to this day. The ‘ordering point’, according to Sarotte, is “the historical evidence now available from both Eastern and Western countries shows what alternatives ‘seemed real at the time’, and what chances they had of becoming actual outcomes of the upheaval of 1989.” What we can now see was not clear to individuals at the time, but the way in which these events played out now shapes our understanding of European-US and US-Russian relations. President George H.W. Bush’s mentality of trying to secure the US’ Cold War victory and failure to identify the long-term issues between Russia and the West provided much context for Sarotte to then justify actions for individuals such as Vladimir Putin. She believes that one can trace all of his actions involving Eastern Europe and the West back to Bush’s policies in the early 90s. With our current inability to reason with and control Putin, politicians and political pundits need to revisit the United States’ decisions during the H.W. Bush Administration and rediscover how the US’ exclusionist policies have more or less back the Russians into a corner. As ‘Baby’, their corner position has forced some of their aggressive actions, all in the name of trying to be seen and included in the world’s superpowers.

Sarotte, M. E.  “In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism”. International Politics, 48(4-5), 482-495. doi:

Sarotte, Mary. “A Broken Promise?”  Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct2014, Vol. 93, Issue 5, 90-97

Kohl’s Revivalist Vision

Mary Elise Sarotte is a professor at the University of Southern California in their International Relations department. She focuses on Cold War history and especially the post-Cold War period, immediately following the destruction of the Berlin Wall. In her piece, In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism, Sarotte discusses the alternative structures that were proposed following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. She discusses four main possibilities, the second of which was proposed by Helmut Kohl, and deemed a revivalist vision. Kohl was the West German Chancellor and upon witnessing early American consent to Gorbachev’s attempted restoration of quadripartitism he created a different plan ((Sarotte, Mary. In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism. 2011.)) .

The revivalist vision was focused on recreating the ideas of German statehood, that is, recreating a confederation of German states. If it had been implemented, East and West Germany would have had independent social and political policies, however they would have been united under a single, national roof ((Sarotte, Mary. In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism. 2011.)). This architecture would have been successful in diffusing tension between East and West Germany, as they would be technically reunited under one German name, however, they would be allowed to have their own politics and remaining communist influence would have had the opportunity to be present in East German politics. It would have restored the self-governing capabilities to East Germany; however, it would not have created the strongest German state possible. By 1990, Kohl realized that his vision of a divided Germany under a united roof was not possible and switched towards advocating for American involvement in extending prefabricated institutions to Eastern countries.

Many of these possible architectures for restructuring took into account American involvement. Did American’s have the right to be so heavily involved in the restructuring of Europe or should they have been able to do it on their own? How would the outcomes have differed if Americans were not involved?

The Search for Peace

In January of 1957, the U.S. Department of State Press released a statement in favor of the initiative to create a European common market. The economic community included Belgium, France, the German Federal Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, and desired unfettered trade between member nations. To bolster the union further, members planned to instate a tariff on trade from all non-member nations. ((United States Department of State Press Statement: On the European Common Market And The Free Trade Area, January 15, 1957)) Those not directly included in the common market were not excluded entirely; the United Kingdom entered an agreement with the six nations which waived many trade barriers between the UK and the “free trade arena,” while upholding member nation’s common tariff on British goods. ((United States Department of State Press Statement: On the European Common Market And The Free Trade Area, January 15, 1957)) The proposal for the common market and the United States’ official support represented the growth of a global economy and a push towards stability in the years after the devastation of WWII.

The rationale for United States support was drawn from the “traditional policies” of supporting political and economic unity in Western Europe, and a general backing of all initiatives which promote freer trade. ((United States Department of State Press Statement: On the European Common Market And The Free Trade Area, January 15, 1957)) A goal of the common market was to expand trade with many nations, not simply those included in the specific agreement, a vision which appealed to American leaders looking to bolster their own economy. Despite the seemingly global initiative, the rhetoric of the U.S. Department of State Press clearly limited trade expansion and the resulting economic prosperity to the “free world.” In 1957, the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union had already spurred multiple proxy, guerilla-style battles in developing nations. The U.S. sought free trade in the non-communist sphere as a bulwark against leftist and Soviet advances. Agreements which entangled multiple powerful nations and bolstered stability also acted as a safeguard against future war. Similar institutions such as the United Nations were created in the postwar years for the same reason. If the economies of many nations are completely intertwined and dependent on one another, these nations will not go to war, and excluded nations will fear allied backlash if they attack a member nation. The push for globalized economies and politics was a push for lasting peace.

Animosity between World Leaders

Winston Churchill is one of the most famous British politicians of all time. He was born into an upper class family, and served in the British military when he was young. He rose through the ranks of British government after returning from the military and became Prime Minister of Britain following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation in 1940. As an active political member, Churchill warned against the rising powers of Nazi Germany and argued against appeasement. In his “Iron Curtain Speech” he says that “Last time I saw it all coming and I cried aloud to my own fellow countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention” ((Churchill, Winston. “Iron Curtain Speech”. 5 March 1946.)). He is strongly anti-communist and uses the comparison of communism to Nazi Germany to convey his message about the iron curtain being cast down upon Eastern Europe.

However, he uses his speech to call upon the English-speaking world to enforce the United Nations agreement and prevent the Soviet Union from expanding their sphere. Stalin critiques this in his Reply to Churchill, where he accuses Churchill of following the same lines as Hitler and creating a system of racial determination to establish who should rule the world ((Stalin, Joseph. Reply to Churchill. 1946.)). Both Churchill and Stalin compare the other to Hitler, indicating a huge amount of animosity between them even though they were on the same side of World War II. What do you think sparked this animosity so quickly after the end of the war? Would there have been a way to avoid this, or was communism just the next enemy to take on after fascism was defeated?

Post-Cold War Consumerism; Mary Elise Sarotte

Mary Elise Sarotte’s book, The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, aptly depicts the status of West/East Germany and how it was the centerpiece for the recreation of Europe after the Cold War.  Sarotte begins the book by discussing five major changes that occurred in the summer of 1989 which opened up the Berlin Wall. 1) The failure of events like Tiananmen to transfer over to a European context; 2) the choice of the American government to remove itself from the issue; 3) East Germans taking on the status quo; 4) an increase in East German self-confidence; and 5) the impact of television at this pivotal moment.  I will not go into detail for each of these, as Sarotte does so in the book, however number 5 did provoke some questions from me.  For instance, how is a media snafu like one such as this not caught or fixed before being released to the public?  Is it possible that this fumble of information was intended?

To focus on a more relevant topic of which we have been discussing, in the second chapter of Sarotte’s book, she talks about consumer goods.  The lack of consumer goods in East Germany posed a large problem for stores in West Germany as refugees settled in the West.  Stores had a difficult time managing the extreme increase in demand resulting from new consumers entering the market.  East German citizens were fleeing not only from the poor living standards but more specifically the poor economic status that contributed to it.  They were experiencing a massive demand deficit in East Germany thanks to low wages and high priced goods.  Refugees placed a large stress on the economic system of the West which could have had unpredictable effects on reunification of Germany.

The Truman Doctrine

Author: Harry S. Truman- He was the 33rd president of the US. He was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president before Roosevelt died.  He helped to end World War II when he dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. He helped to start the Cold War using communist containment. [1]

Context: He was giving this speech during the Cold War, which was not a physical war fought with weapons, but rather a period of military tension after World War II between the capitalist US and its allies and the communist Soviet Union and its allies. [2] In addition, this was also taking place during the time of the Greek Civil War, which left Greece essentially economically devastated.

Language: Truman uses persuasive and simple, clear language to get his point across to those that he is addressing. He lays out his viewpoints very well.

Audience: He is addressing Congress during a joint session.

Intent: This was Truman’s attempt to stop Soviet expansion during the Cold War. His intent was to contain communism throughout Europe and to provide help to any country threatened by communism.

Message: Truman’s message was that communism needed to be contained. He uses Greece as an example for this. He describes how the Greek Civil War has left Greece with “cruel enemy occupation, and bitter internal strife.” He argues that Greece’s very existence is highly threatened by Communist activities and that the US must provide support for Greece, Turkey, and any other country in need under the threat of communism.




Why do you think Truman was so adamant about containing communism?

Before the Cold War

After World War 2, the world is still on its head from a much longer war than expected. Along with the change, there is a change in boarders. The ”Iron Curtain” as Winston Churchill called it fell over part of Europe as the Soviet Union claimed more land and created a new boarder. This new force of the Sovient Union and communism put the world on edge, and not only the United States and Britian were worried.

Churchill and Truman were trying to rally democracy ruled countries together with their speeches. Churchill told the United States how much power they had now that the war was over and how they needed to watch the Soviet Union, unlike they had with Germany. Truman’s doctorine was explaining why the United Nations needed to help Greece and Turkey. They were trying to build up resistance to the Soviet Union so it couldn’t expand beyond what it already had.

As for Stalin and Brezhnev, they explained the importance of communism. Stalin compared Churchill’s view on English speaking countries to that of Hitler’s view on German speaking nations. He wanted to inspire the people of his nation, make them believe the Soviet Union would be able to take out Britian and the United States just as they did with Germany in World War 2. Brezhnev’s Doctrine explained how important it was for communist countries to support each other. With internal problems, communism wouldn’t be able to spread.

These documents show the two sides of the Cold War starting. Both feel like they need to help the smaller countries under their control and preach to them that they are the strongest nation in the world. Both know they the power of the other after World War 2, making them hesitant to take action during the Cold War

Soviet youth sets out on a ‘new, heroic and revolutionary path’

For Soviet Leadership, the 1957 Moscow World Festival of Youth and Students was a prime opportunity to illustrate the Soviet Union as “an international, active, peace-loving population that was collectively committed to promoting an alternative to American exploitation around the world.” The festival contributors were depended upon to exhibit Soviet Youth as superior, having admirable ethics and awareness. These youth were not only expected to convey these ideals, but also give the impression to the world delegates that they were invigorated by the memorandum in Khrushchev’s 20th Party Congress speech and embody “Soviet openness and international mobilization.” The Youth was supposed to present these sentiments and ideals as “participants who were acting of their own free will” as a means to revise the public assumption of a forcible Soviet government. Margaret Peacock portrays the 1957 festival as endeavoring to “replace older Stalinist visions of grateful, insulated Soviet youngsters with new images of well educated, independent, creative and activist youth” competent of international opposition with capitalism.

The perils of building Cold War consensus at the 1957 Moscow World Festival of Youth and Students

The importance of the young people to the Soviet regime is widely known. Children were to have sheltered, happy, healthy and vibrant childhoods to show the prosperity of Stalin’s reign. By 1957, the political party leader has changed and the propaganda is shifting. Fortunately, the problem of the thousands of homeless and vagrant youths no longer exists. The child labor camps and the elapse of time allowed many of these orphans from WWII to grow up. The Soviet youth are now to symbolize the organized populace peacefully and actively demonstrating against the propaganda of the United States during the Cold War. The Soviet Union and the United States fought their ‘proxy wars’ in third world countries, but also in the media. Each side attempted to highlight their own strengths and their opponent’s faults. This sets the stage for the massive campaign organized by Russia to host the 1957 Moscow World Festival of Youth and Students. Russia obviously has to appear to the world as the more virtuous and successful nation. Therefore, years before the event, construction takes place to many of the buildings within Moscow and throughout the city, a rejuvenation of the landscape commences. Months before the event, the police have orders to clean up the streets of any undesirable people. The Soviet youths who will participate in the large-scale project of showing the world that the Russian people are prospering, united, active and willing participants of the government had thoroughly rehearsed the party line to respond to all questions. The grandiose events were numerous and designed to show case the achievement of socialism.
The soviets “saw this festival as a project that would ultimately present a choreographed display of Soviet popularity and moral ascendancy…and would provide a public venue for the demonstration of Soviet wealth and benevolence.” ((Margaret Peacock, The perils of building Cold War consensus at the 1957 Moscow World Festival of Youth and Students ((Cold War History, 2012) 518)) Overall, the event is successful and praised by attendees, but contact with Moscow from the outside world allowed the emergence of debate on both sides. Ironically, one journalists proved that they were successful. Rinto Alwi, a correspondent for an Indonesian newspaper said that, “this is all artificial, perfected and directed from higher up.” ((Margaret Peacock, The perils of building Cold War consensus at the 1957 Moscow World Festival of Youth and Students ((Cold War History, 2012) 524)) What do you think? Would the Soviets have been better off not attempting to control every detail of the event? Could all of the delegates have then been able to focus more on the magnificence of the events and less on the propagandized slogan of willing youths robotically saying the same thing? More importantly, would it have been any different if the United States were hosting such an event? Ironically, maybe the US and Russia had more in common than they presumed.

The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’

The thesis for this article is how the superpowers proxy wars and conflicts fought in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America continue to flourish and shape the world in these countries 30 years later ((Roger Kanet, The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’) Cold War History 6 no. 3, (2006), p. 331))).

Kanet sources are primarily from academia, with institutions in the United States. One very prominent reference source is himself. It seems reasonable if you are an expert on a subject then it is appropriate to use yourself as a key source in your article ((Roger Kanet, The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’) Cold War History 6 no. 3, (2006), pp. 349-352)))..

This article is in line with my previous understanding of the cold war. As someone that came of age during the 1980s and saw the fall of communism this subject was a source of discussion while going to school. From reading and having teachers that often spoke about the cold war the idea of the US and the USSR in a proxy war was a common theme. The view of the US as always being king of the hill is a modern phenomenon. The author brought out nicely the effects of the Vietnam War and the whole Nixon affair and the toll this had on the psyche of the US population ((Roger Kanet, The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’) Cold War History 6 no. 3, (2006), p. 338))). During the 1980s, the news constantly dealt with the US involvement in these struggles in aiding various factions. They at times backfired such as the Ollie North mess. The cold war was real to me growing up. One was constantly aware of the doomsday clock. This article only highlighted or reminded me of how different the world is today.

A personal observation deals with the point the author makes of the continuing effects from this involvement in these third world countries. It reminds me of the years I lived in Zimbabwe, a communist country. As a nation, they are extremely poor. Most people do not have indoor plumbing or electric, let alone televisions or cellphones. They did however have a large army with modern weaponry. The effects to these third-world countries may have a bearing on them for many more years to come.

Finally, I would disagree with the author in stating the nuclear superiority of the USSR. Both sides possessed enough missiles to destroy the world over many times. Therefore, any seeming nuclear superiority is an irrelevant topic.