Jack F. Matlock Jr. is Rubenstein Fellow at Duke. He is the ­author of Autopsy on an Empire, Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, and Superpower Illusions. Between 1987 and 1991 he was US ­Ambassador to the Soviet Union. (June 2016)

Russia: A Big Part in the Big Change

Alexander Yakovlev (center) with George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev at their summit meeting in Malta, December 1989
No other unfounded myth has caused as much damage to US foreign policy over the last quarter-century as the idea that the collapse of the Soviet Union represented the victory of the West in the cold war. The fact is that the cold war ended by negotiation to the benefit …

The Nowhere Nation

On November 14, 1999, President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine won re-election to a second term in a runoff vote against his Communist opponent, Petro Symonenko, a former apparatchik who was opposed to a market economy and in favor of a confederation with Russia and Belarus. Official results showed Kuchma, who …

Russia’s Leaking Nukes

In September, General Alexander Lebed, the defeated presidential candidate who was briefly the head of Russia’s Security Council, said in a television interview that more than a hundred suitcase-sized nuclear bombs were missing from Russian military inventories. Earlier, in May, he had told an American congressional delegation that the Soviet …

Success Story

On March 8, 1990, as I was leaving Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze’s office following a private meeting, he shocked me when he said, “Jack, I’ll tell you one thing. If I see a dictatorship coming, I’m going to resign. I’ll not be part of a government with blood on …

Gorbachev: Lingering Mysteries

While Mikhail Gorbachev was in control of the Soviet state, three events transformed the world’s political landscape: the cold war and the division of Europe ended; the Soviet Union and most of the countries allied with it ceased to be ruled by their Communist parties; and finally the Soviet state …

The Struggle for the Kremlin

In January most people thought President Boris Yeltsin could not win a free election. Their attitude was reflected in a story that made the rounds in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yeltsin,it went, was taking an evening stroll across an open field near his dacha and stumbled on an old bottle.

The Russian Prospect

Back when the Soviet Union was still around, American policy makers often argued that we needed to base our policy on Soviet capabilities, not on the professed intentions of its leaders. Intentions are hard to pin down and can change; a country’s capacity to carry out a given policy can …

The Go-Between

Anatoly Dobrynin is by all odds the most conspicuous diplomat of this century. For twenty-five years of cold war tension he was the representative of one of the two superpowers in the capital of the other. Remarkably, he managed not only to satisfy a succession of Soviet leaders whose ignorance …

Russia: The Power of the Mob

Early Thursday morning, June 8, 1995, FBI agents burst into an apartment in Brighton Beach and placed a burly, balding Russian under arrest. Subsequently, when he was taken to the Federal District Court in Brooklyn for a preliminary hearing on charges of extortion, the FBI identified him as Vyacheslav Ivankov, …

The Chechen Tragedy

My last—and only—visit to Grozny was in the spring of 1991. My wife had been invited to mount an exhibit of her photographs and I could not resist the temptation to see what was then called Chechen-Ingushetia, an area which had until recently been closed to foreigners, especially diplomats. I …