Between Moscow and the West, widely divergent readings on the end of the cold war

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While the opinions on the period 1989-1991 differ according to the times and political positions, the idea that the former Soviet Union suffered a defeat is largely rejected in Russia.

By Benoît Vitkine Posted today at 06:30

Time to Reading 4 min.

Analysis. Has the West won the cold war? In the West, the question arouses little debate. And the fall of the Berlin Wall, whose thirty years are celebrated on November 9, is a landmark, at least a commonly accepted symbol of Soviet defeat. As early as January 1992, George H. W. Bush, hitherto opposed to any triumphalism, proclaims: "By the grace of God, America has won the cold war. "

According to this reading, it would have been up to President Bush to complete the work of his predecessors and, in particular, that of Ronald Reagan. The latter would have, in a determined way, accelerated the collapse of a decaying Soviet Union, pushing it towards a new ruinous arms race and helping the Afghan insurrection against the Moscow army.

Differences of appreciation

This view of events is far from unanimous in Russia. The opinions on the period 1989-1991 may well differ according to the times and the political positions, one finds there, majority, a rejection of the idea that Russia would be to class in the camp of the losers. However, the differences of opinion on the outcome of the cold war contribute to the current mistrust between Moscow and the West, as well as the supposed "humiliation" of Russia that would have followed in the 1990s.

The main difference is probably the way of defining this conflict, born at the end of the Second World War. In the West, we see a clash between two systems, two ideologies, but also two geopolitical blocks. Therefore, the fall of communist ideology and that of the Soviet empire can only mean a complete defeat.

On the Russian side, the cold war is reduced to confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. The fact that this clash did not take place is to proclaim the draw. The epilogue of the Cold War is therefore to seek not in the collapse of a camp, but in the series of summits (Reykjavik 1986, Malta 1989) and arms control agreements (treaty on nuclear forces to intermediate scope in 1986, Start I treaty on the reduction of strategic offensive weapons in 1991) concluded between the two blocks.

This vision was defended from the beginning by Mikhail Gorbachev, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. In his "Political testament" published this year, The future of the global world (Flammarion, 216 p., 18 euros), the former Soviet leader repeats this mantra: "The end of the cold war was a common victory, achieved through dialogue, negotiations on very difficult issues of security and disarmament. "

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