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Gorbachev discusses De-Militarization


In the midst of a chaotic year of economic and political reforms, Communist Party General Secretary (and head of state) Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the politburo on the delicate issue of the Soviet military presence throughout Europe. Conventional Soviet military thinking was that any troop buildup by NATO countries must be met by tit-for-tat by the Warsaw Pact countries; to act otherwise was to admit weakness. Gorbachev sensed a trap—the US-inspired "arms race" of the 1980s had meant that Soviet countries were devoting steadily more and more resources to military budgets, at the expense of infrastructure. Having concluded this, Gorbachev was faced with a difficult task of selling the "humanization" of Soviet international relations, including phased withdrawal of Soviet troops from key European locations, to the politburo. To that end, he emphasizes that the Western powers want the USSR to continue its current policies, because they feel these policies will certainly lead to military "exhaustion."


Anatoly Chernyaev, Notes from the Politburo Meeting, 8 May 1987, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

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