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Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended Hardcover – July 20, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With the passing of Ronald Reagan, a rash of "insider" books can be expected, many of them fluff. But Matlock, who was Reagan's advisor on Soviet and European affairs and later ambassador to the Soviet Union, writes an important and serious account of the evolving relationship between the American and Soviet leaders. He also provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings and turf wars that inevitably occurred within the bureaucracies on both sides. Of course, Matlock is an unabashed admirer of Reagan, which colors his view, but his assertions that Reagan was far more flexible and committed to a lessening of tensions with the Soviets than was generally perceived seem credible. Furthermore, Reagan's core belief that the cold war would end only when the Soviet Union abandoned totalitarianism has been borne out by events. Matlock's views on Gorbachev are just as interesting. Gorbachev seems to have seriously believed in Marxist tenets, yet his decent, humane instincts led him away from his more doctrinaire colleagues in the Kremlin. He is a sympathetic figure who seemed vaguely aware that he was presiding over a doomed system that had become irrelevant to the needs of the citizenry. The struggle of these two men to deal with each other as well as with some of their recalcitrant advisors is a compelling story. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Praise for Autopsy on an Empire

“A superb analysis of the achievements and problems of the Soviet system and a fascinating account of the people and events that brought its collapse . . . Matlock writes with the authority of long years of service in Moscow, and at the State Department and the National Security Council. His close-up view of the most important events of our century is the unique product of careful scholarship and an extraordinary diplomatic career.”
–HERBERT J. ELLISON, professor of Russian history, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington

“No person is better equipped to describe the extraordinary change from the Soviet Union into Russia than Ambassador Matlock. His background in Russian history, language, culture, literature, and politics makes him one of the world’s outstanding authorities on the question. . . . [Matlock] knows practically all of the people about whom he is writing and conveys their character, prejudices, strengths, and shortcomings in vivid colors.”
–MAX M. KAMPELMAN, former counselor of the Department of State and U.S. nuclear arms control negotiator

“No other American had the opportunity to observe the Soviet government’s collapse at such close range. Thanks to Ambassador Matlock’s excellent contacts and mature judgment, his book represents a unique record of this historic event.”
–RICHARD PIPES, Frank Baird, Jr., Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (July 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679463232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679463238
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This past summer, I stood in sweltering heat along Pennsylvania avenue to crane my neck with thousands of others to catch a glimpse of the Reagan Funeral procession. Probably, many of us were not quite sure why we were there, other than the idea that some great moment had passed, and we wanted somehow to commemorate it.

Amid the many books of the Reagan era, this one must stand out as one that gets to the core of who Ronald Reagan was, and what exactly it was that he did. Ambassador Matlock was directly invovled in much of the policy making process, and has supplemented the work with research from both Russian and US sources. Not one of the media giants who haunt the memory of the period, (Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Haig, Weinberger, Schultz etc etc) Matlock was (and remains) a career diplomat and scholar, who like so many of his generation, was content to go about his business in a workman like fashion, without seeking the acclaim of the multitudes. A balanced account, though of course not without some home team cheerleading as well as internal infighting, Matlock gives an insightful reconstruction of the dramatic events that led to the end of the cold war "without a shot fired in anger". No doubt many factors contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, Matlock gives one perspective from his unique position from within the Reagan administration. I am sure some from both sides will not be happy with this account, which most likely means that Matlock has struck exactly the right balance.

In the Epilogue, Matlock writes "The world today might be a safer place if today's leaders studied more carefully the acheivements and mistakes of their predecessors". This book is a good place to start.
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Format: Hardcover
Jack Matlock's review can leave many Reaganites dissatisfied. He claims that Reagan DID NOT win the Cold War, at least single-handedly. He reveals, contrary to the moanings of the Communist fanatics, that the US DID NOT have an agenda to destroy the Soviet Union, whose collapse it actually feared for unforeseen circumstances. There WAS NOT even a plan to destroy the Communism, as it seemed unrealistic. What was at the beginning was a much more modest (by the count of today, not twenty-three years ago, though) agenda of not letting the USSR think that it can win the arms race and compel the world to subservance; to get the Soviets out of violation of numerous arms treaties and stop supporting terrorism; to get them out of the Afghanistan; to make it more respectful to human rights inside and around its empire. Not quite modest, though! Matlock shows quite convincingly that the US missile programs and especially SDI (Star Wars) were not enough to wear down the Soviet Union to the point of destruction: anyway, if the USSR did not chose to reform from inside, it could easily survive (although I would personally argue that the Reagan administration DID work to undermine the USSR economically - remember the pressure to push down oil prices, for example). And of course, Reagan did not force Gorbachev and perestroika. The latter happened largely due to a sequence of historic accidents: Russian leaders kept dying and the only one suitable to take (not one foot in the grave) office actually happened to be the one with aspirations to reform. Then Reagan found a partner at the table who can be sensible to his words and pressure. Former KGB head Andropov promoted Gorbachev for years, what an irony!!!

But here is what Reagan really DID.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Matlock, the author, was US Ambassador to the USRR and assistant secretary of state during the period of the Reagan administration. This book is written from a US perspective, with rich detail on US positions and thinking and relatively little form the USSR perspective, as is to be expected.

The book goes into detail on Reagan's attempts to negotiate first with Chernenko, then with Andropov and finally with Gorbachev. It goes into especially lively description of the Reykjavik meeting, a low point in the relationship but that turned out to open the door to future agreement. It follows with Reagan's visit to Moscow and his address to the soviet people, followed by Gorbachev's visit to the US.

Though interesting and definitely entertaining, this book is very focused on the specific negociations and meetings between the US and the USSR, not on the general scenario or the outsinde conditions that led the parties to make their choices. It is a bit thin on specifics about the leaders of the negotiation on the USSR side, especially I think because at the time of writing much of these were still not available. I recommend it to those already familiar with the topic who would like a more in depth knowledge of the negotiations, but there are many other books for the first time reader of soviet affairs.
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Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put Matlock's book down. Why?

It was a fascinating insider's account of the Reagan/Gorbachev relationship and how it led to end of the Cold War. Matlock, a Soviet Union expert, who had spent many years there as an American Diplomat has an expert perspective of the relationship between the US/Soviet Union. He applied this background and his insider's knowledge as an advisor to Reagan, to tell the story about how Reagan, Gorbachev and their staffs interacted during and at the end of the Cold War. I felt like I was there during one of the most important times of the 20th Century. Matlock also included his opinions about the people, their ideas, and their decisions during these times. His opinions were focused, timely, and added to my interest of the book.

In addition to being an interesting historical book, I would recommend it for anyone in the business world. It is a case study about how to build relationships and how to negotiate. The book details how Reagan and Gorbachev built their relationship. It also reveals the details of one of the most important negotiations in history. A business person, or anyone who has to build relationships or negotiate, can learn from this book.

Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in getting a knowledgeable perspective about why the Cold War ended. I would also recommend it as a relationship building and negotiating case study textbook.
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