On June 14th, Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) hosted Ambassador Jack Matlock in Cincinnati to speak on NATO & Resurgent Russia.
Jack Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War and was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended. Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has focused on understanding how the Cold War ended and how the lessons from that experience might be applied to public policy today.
The event drew in about 70 people all interested to hear Matlock’s firsthand experiences with the fall of the Soviet Union.
Matlock breaks down the myths of The Cold War:
Myth 1 – The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union
In actuality, the Cold War ended well before the Soviet Union broke up.
The implications of this myth create the idea that an authoritarian system can be brought down by military and economic pressure from the outside. When in reality external pressure typically strengthens a dictator.
Myth 2 – Western (especially the United States) military and economic pressure defeated Communism
Mikhail Gorbachev maneuvered the Community Party out of power. He could not have done so if the arms race had continued. Communism collapsed from within the Soviet Union.
Building off of myth 1, this implies that the Communist Party lost control because of the pressure from the outside. Yet it was Gorbachev’s attempt to reform the system and internal pressure that defeated the Communist Party.
Matlock also points out this gives a false notion that American power could transform other nations.
Myth 3 – The Cold War was, in effect, World War III (and the ‘war on terror’ can be considered World War IV).
The Cold War was completely different from the World Wars. There was no direct conflict between the United States and the USSR, neither side surrendered, and the negotiations benefited both sides.
Matlock agrees that the United States won the Cold War, but everyone else did too.
And this leads to a false notion that metaphorical wars can be won by the same methods as real wars.
Myth 4 – Russia was defeated in the Cold War
The Russian Federation of today was not a party of the Cold War. The Soviet RSFSR was subordinate to the Soviet Union and not a sovereign state. Its elected leaders helped to end the Cold War, and also to break up the USSR.
Lastly, this myth nourishes the idea that Russia is a defeated nation, and is not worthy of being a part of the ‘West.’
To learn more about Jack Matlock’s experiences and thoughts check out the following:
Blog on JackMatlock.com
Recent book: Reagan and Gorbachev – How the Cold War Ended
Live interview on WVXU Cincinnati Edition – Applying Lessons of the Cold War to Current US-Russia Relations
Personal Facebook Account where he posts frequently
This event was hosted by GCWAC, however the beliefs of the blog are all owned by Jack Matlock and not GCWAC.