Jack Matlock Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
Photo by L. Carper
Page 5 of 10
We've talked about three sets of ideas: Kennan's, Reagan's, and you mentioned Yakovlev. And what merges in all three of those is a link between foreign policy and the domestic ideology which moves us from "A" to "B." In the case of both Reagan and Yakovlev, who was advising Gorbachev, there was the emergence of the notion of a foreign policy based on the common interests of humanity and a national interest that takes account of the other national interests involved.
It's not that you ignore your national interests. You try to interpret them in a way which is consistent with the interests of others.
Was the arms race and the danger of nuclear war the key here? Or was it other issues like the environment that led them to make this leap, to see the "common interests of man" which turns on its head their philosophy of the class struggle?
It was a combination of things, but of those things the arms race was
by far the most important. Because I think they could see more clearly that
their emphasis on the military had so distorted their economy (though they
couldn't measure how much), and in fact their life, that it made reform very
difficult. It was becoming such a burden that the Soviet Union was losing
out in the technological race and many others. Not just to the United States
and not just to Japan but even to South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan -- you know,
the "Asian Tigers." They began to see that and it was clear that something very
fundamental was wrong. And what was most obviously wrong was the amount of
money and emphasis, effort, going into armaments. Very early on, I recall some
early discussions particularly between Secretary of State George Shultz and
both Shevardnadze, who also contributed to this, and Gorbachev (and, as we
mentioned earlier, Yakovlev).
And would you say this to each other?
Yes, absolutely. Shultz actually brought in graphs and things and almost like a graduate seminar in economics, and maybe not even a graduate seminar, he would say now, "Let's think about this. Look at the future. Look at what has happened. Look at these trends." He talked to Ryzhkov, the Prime Minister, about it and Ryzhkov said in his memoirs that this was very important. But they were already thinking that, even before Gorbachev came to power. I recall that Gromyko, in a meeting with Reagan -- it must have been in the fall of '84 just before he was elected for the second term -- started out by saying that we're sitting on these piles of weapons which we don't need and cannot use, this is irrational. So I think that even some of the hard-line Soviets were beginning to draw these conclusions, even before Gorbachev came to power. In effect, on his watch he had to do something about it. So yes, people were worried about the environment, particularly after Chernobyl, but this was also related to the whole nuclear question, and these other issues were not unimportant. The whole fact that their economy was not keeping up technologically was very important. They could see that it was running down. The system just wasn't working. But the key element was the amount going into arms.
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