How Khrushchev and Gorbachev Ended the Cold War

and other tales from lake wobegon

By streiff Posted in Comments (7) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

I have never ceased to be amazed at the left’s romance with totalitarianism so long as it is cloaked in a pretense of socialism. Slaughters, whether in Nicaragua, Cambodia, Vietnam, sub-Saharan Africa, or in Soviet Gulags, went unremarked while emerging democracies and, of course, the United States were held up to scorn. When Amnesty International was formed in 1961 it established a policy of naming equal numbers of cases from the West and from behind the Iron Curtain.

When the Soviet Union went belly-up, much of the left went into mourning.

Sometimes, though, things are said that simply beggar the imagination. This morning Garrison Keillor gave a monologue and opened a window into the soul of an aging lefty.

Read on.

I have to confess to being a fairly regular listener to National Public Radio. I stopped contributing to it some years ago. Just as William F. Buckley once explained his love for Cuban cigars as not being a violation of a boycott but rather putting the torch to Castro’s crops, I rationalize my listening as stealing from a beggar (who am I, after all, to challenge one of the core beliefs of their reporting on conservatives).

Shortly before 7am my local NPR affiliate airs a segment called Writer’s Almanac. It is sort of a Volvo-Birkenstock-and-camembert version of Paul Harvey’s Rest of the Story read by Garrison Keillor.

Usually it is pretty harmless fare. Typically it is a celebration of minor literary figures and how they changed society in ways we just can’t fathom and even more obscure events associated with that day’s date in history. Today I did a double take when Keillor highlighted Nikita Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union.

The text below is from the Writer’s Almanac website, I’ve edited the transcript, within the brackets, to conform to the sound file. But the boldface text is from the sound file and does not appear on the website. If you want to follow along the transcript picks up at 0:35.

It was on this day in 1958 that Nikita Khrushchev assumed control of the Soviet Union when he took over as premier of the country, five years after the death of Joseph Stalin. […] Khrushchev […] [was a leader who actually] came from the working class. […] [He] worked his way up through the ranks of the party until he became a close ally of Joseph Stalin, and [somehow survived all of Stalin’s purges].

So […] when Khrushchev [took over] there was no reason to believe he wouldn't just continue Stalin's reign of terror. [However], in 1956, [he] gave a four-hour speech to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, […] attacking Stalin's legacy and abuses of power, detailing all the innocent people Stalin had imprisoned, tortured, and murdered […] [S]ome members of the audience fainted from the shock […].

The speech was never […] [published], and Khrushchev never admitted to having made it, but word […] [got] out to intellectual circles [in the Soviet Union] […]. It was a bombshell,

Here Keillor makes a substantive departure from the transcript:

One of those young people who heard that speech was Mikhail Gorbachev who went on to finish the work Khrushchev had started: helping to end the Cold War.

After this flight of fancy Keillor returns to the transcript.

Khrushchev spent his last few years living quietly in Moscow, [after he was ousted from power]. But in 1970, the year before he died, he published the first volume of his memoirs, Khrushchev Remembers, [appeared in the US and Europe].

Leaving aside a probable historical embellishment, I don’t have Gorbachev’s memoirs in my library but it seems unlikely that he attended the 20th Congress, it would be an unlikely omission from his bio, let’s look at the statement: he went on to finish the work that Khrushchev had started: helping to end the Cold War.

Considering Khrushchev sent the Red Army into Hungary, instigated the Cuban Missile Crisis, and presided over the Berlin Wall it is hard to see how he was interested in ending the Cold War. Similarly Gorbachev used Cuban proxies to push Soviet objectives in Africa and Latin America. His interests in ending the Cold War were driven by the economic failure of the Soviet Union.

On the flip side, if Khrushchev and Gorbachev were dedicated to ending the Cold War then something and/or someone must have fought to keep it going. Keillor didn’t offer an answer here, but I’m guessing “Reagan” would appear in whatever explanation he offered.

As we grow older we’re all entitled to remember things a bit differently than they actually were. But this crosses the threshold into borderline dementia.

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It was all part of the previously unpublished 40 Year Central Plan of the Soviet Union.
Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

...that Nikita also did some nifty tile work in the foyer of the Lubyanka prison? Quite the craftsman, that Khrushchev.

Why is Lefty nostalgia so intent on making this nation's enemies appear to be slightly flawed anti-heroes struggling against all odds? Why is it easier for them to believe that Cheney put on his Spidey suit and detonated the twin towers than it is for them to believe that mass murderers aren't victims of imperialistic provocation, but evil?

"We can all do our part to save the planet by dying." - R.E. Finch

Seems to me, Gorbachev was helping to end the Cold War WITH THE SOVIET UNION AS THE VICTOR!!!!

"My equations, the Big Bang, and the accuracy of Genesis convince me God exists." - Albert Einstein

"As I Soviet, I know the future. It's the past that keeps changing."

as a political commisar, maybe even Mayor, (working from memory) of Stalingrad during the seige. He had ruthlessness and bombast down at least as well as his benefactor and mentor. He wanted to end the Cold War alright, its just that those nasty old American ICBMs kept interfering with the great plan. Only a complete lefty useful idiot could believe such tripe.

In Vino Veritas

...nor entirely incorrect. Gorbachev actually attended the 22nd Party Congress several years later, rather than the 20th which featured Kruschev's rejection of Stalinism. And Kruschev was entirely devoted to the supremacy of Soviet power; his reforms were simply efforts to further the survival that system, rather than indications of any lack of desire to dominate the world.

Gorbachev is another matter. He, too, desired not the demise of Soviet power, but rather its reform, and was overcome by the forces he unleashed. Be that as it may, he, more than any other man, unleashed them, and at a critical fork in the road in 1988, made it clear to the Eastern Europeans that their restive urges would not be met with force. Thus the Hungarians soon rolled up the fences on the Austrian border and the Poles began the process of tossing out a remarkably foolish regime. Gorbachev made a conscious decision against most of the bloodshed and naked force of previous decades, restricting overt repression primarily to Soviet territory, and for this should receive some measure of credit.

If one phrases the question as "who won the Cold War", then I give coequal credit to one, the United States and its Allies, and two, the brave people of Eastern Europe, who spent decades marching, conspiring, and fighting and dying in their streets. What ended under President Reagan's and Bush Senior's watch reflected the sacrifice of generations since Kennan penned his article on containment.

If the question is phrased as "who ended the Cold War", then I must give greatest credit to Gorbachev, if for no other reason than walking away from a fight. This isn't adulation, simply a recognition that his actions altered the course of events more than those of any other relevant figure. Honorable mention goes to, yes, President Reagan, but also Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Matthias Rust, Günter Schabowski, the music of the Beatles, and the illustrious designers of the Chernobyl reactor, along with a cast of thousands of other noteworthy heroes and incompetents.

Ronald W. Regan set out to systematically reduce the options of the Evil Empire one by one. He looked at their whole society from economics to military capability, and moved America in the directions where he knew they must TRY to follow, but would be unable to do so.

Ronald Regan trapped Gorbechev into an economic death spiral, till his only options were relinquishing control or total disaster. Everything Regan did was aimed at winning the Cold War without fighting a shot, from the 1000 ship Navy, to Star Wars, to supporting anti-communists, to CIA actions behind the Iron Curtain, Regan changed the tone of the debate in Washington, and called evil what it was. Regan’s military escalation is unprecedented in human history.

Since the failed Afghanistan campaign the Soviet Military was in a doldrums, and the leadership no longer had confidence in the “Soviet Man”. When faced with the exponential technological advances of their sworn enemy they saw no light at the end of their tunnel. We know from declassified Soviet documents that they were terrified of Star Wars, Global Orbital Mind Control Lazers, and everything else in our grab bag of military advancements. Even the SR-71 had them shaking in their boots. A plane that could penetrate their radar screen terrified them.

Gorbachev did end the Soviet regime peacefully, but he did not end the Cold War. He followed the only path he could as Regan road blocked, booby trapped, and destroyed one path at every fork in the road. He is remarkable for being an intelligent and reasonable leader, but nothing more. He is so deep in Regan’s shadow that he is practically a ghost.

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem." - President Ronald Reagan

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