Moments Posted in Russia/Soviet Union

This is an archive of Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History posted in the Russia/Soviet Union category.

“Austria is Free!” Part II — Negotiating with the Soviets

For several years since the end of World War II, the U.S., UK and France had done what they could to support war-torn Austria economically and promote fledgling democratic institutions. Efforts to negotiate a treaty which would grant Austria its full independence and allow the withdrawal of the Four Powers were continuously blocked by the […]



“Austria is Free!” Post-War Vienna Escapes the Soviet Bloc

May 15th, 1955, was a momentous occasion for a war-battered Europe, and for the national history of Austria as the Foreign Ministers representing the Occupying Powers  gathered to sign the Austrian Independence Treaty. Leopold Figl, the former Chancellor and then the Foreign Minister, famously appeared on the balcony of Vienna’s Belvedere Palace (now home to a dazzling […]



The Saur Revolution: Prelude to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

The government of Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan came to a violent end in what was called the Saur Revolution when insurgent troops led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] stormed his Kabul palace on April 27, 1978. Daoud had taken power five years before by overthrowing and exiling his cousin, King Zahir […]



The INF Treaty, Part III — Crossing the Finish Line

A unified stance by NATO members and Gorbachev’s realization that it was better to go to global zero than to deal with the Pershings ultimately led to the signing of the INF Treaty by President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev on December 8, 1987. It was ratified by Congress in May 1988 and helped mark the end […]



Paul Nitze and A Walk in the Woods  — A Failed Attempt at Arms Control

In 1976, the USSR deployed hundreds of intermediate-range SS-20s (pictured), which were an upgrade of the older SS-3 and SS-4  missiles. They carried nuclear warheads and, with a range of about 3400 miles, were capable of reaching almost any target in Western Europe and were thus considered a threat. Oddly enough, many arms control experts […]



A Crack in the Iron Curtain: Freeing Sharansky

As General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev authorized the release of thousands of Soviet Jews who wanted to leave the USSR. In 1986 only 914 Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate; by 1990 the number was 186,815.  A group of about 11,000 who had been denied emigration visas were known as refuseniks. Natan Sharansky, a spokesperson for […]



George Kennan — Containment and the Cold War

George Frost Kennan was, and still remains, a very controversial and legendary figure in American diplomatic history. As a historian, political scientist, and diplomat, Kennan focused most of his career on Russian culture and history. Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant diplomats of his day, he was collegial with his staff and, despite […]



What Goes on Behind the Scenes When POTUS Comes to Town

One of the most daunting and stressful tasks a Foreign Service Officer abroad can face is supporting a visit by POTUS, the President of the United States. Concerns about security, cultural sensitivities, press coverage and political effectiveness turn such events into an all-encompassing, embassy-wide obsession from the day the idea of the visit is floated until “Wheels […]



Two Shades of Red: the Sino-Soviet Split

After the 1949 defeat of the Chinese Nationalists at the hands of Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army, the newly-proclaimed People’s Republic of China (PRC) established friendly relations with the Soviet Union. The fact that the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union shared a Marxist-Leninist ideology kept the two countries […]



The Fight for Non-Proliferation Begins at Home

The development and potential use of nuclear weapons defined the Cold War era and kept the world under the shadow of Mutually Assured Destruction. A major step towards dispelling that threat came with the 1970 ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is predicated on the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to […]