Soviet Union–United States relations

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Soviet–American relations
Map indicating locations of Soviet Union and United States

Soviet Union

United States
Diplomatic mission
Soviet Embassy, Washington, D.C.United States Embassy, Moscow
Maxim Litvinov (first)
Viktor Komplektov (last)
William C. Bullitt (first)
Robert S. Strauss (last)
U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin in Yalta, Crimea, Soviet Union in February 1945. The results of the meeting shaped the world order for the next half-century up until the Revolutions of 1989, which culminated in the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond, eventually resulting in the dissolution and subsequential collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The relations between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1922–1991) succeeded the previous relations between the Russian Empire and the United States from 1776 to 1917 and preceded modern-day relations between the Russian Federation and the United States that began in 1992. Full diplomatic relations between both countries were established in 1933, which was late due to the countries' mutual hostility. During World War II, both countries were briefly allies. At the end of the war, the first signs of post-war mistrust and hostility began to appear between the two countries, escalating into the Cold War; a period of tense hostile relations, with periods of détente.

Country comparison[edit]

Common name Soviet Union United States
Official name Union of Soviet Socialist Republics United States of America
Emblem/Seal State Emblem of the Soviet Union.svg Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
Flag Soviet Union United States
Area 22,402,200 km2 (8,649,538 sq mi) 9,526,468 km2 (3,794,101 sq mi)[1]
Population 286,730,819 (1989) 248,709,873 (1990)
Population density 13.0/km2 (33.6/sq mi) 34/km2 (85.5/sq mi)
Capital Moscow, RSFSR Washington, D.C.
Largest metropolitan areas Moscow (8,967,332 in 1989)

Leningrad (5,024,000 in 1989)

Kiev (2,587,945 in 1989)

Tashkent (2,072,59 in 1989)

Baku (1,795,000 in 1989)

New York City (7,322,564 in 1990)

Los Angeles (3,485,499 in 1990)

Chicago (2,783,600 in 1990)

Houston (1,697,873 in 1990)

Philadelphia (1,585,577 in 1990)

Government Federal Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic Federal presidential constitutional republic
Political parties Communist Party of the Soviet Union Democratic Party
Republican Party
First leader Vladimir Lenin George Washington
Last leader (1991) Mikhail Gorbachev George H. W. Bush
Established November 7, 1917 (October Revolution)
December 30, 1922 (Formation Treaty)
October 7, 1977 (constitution adopted)
July 4, 1776 (independence declared)
September 3, 1783 (independence recognized)
June 21, 1788 (constitution adopted)
Most common language Russian English
Currency Soviet ruble United States dollar
GDP (nominal) $2.659 trillion (~$9,896 per capita) $5.79 trillion (~$24,000 per capita)
Intelligence agencies Committee for State Security (KGB)

Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
National Security Agency (NSA)
Military expenditures $217.579 billion (1990)[2] $624.852 billion (1990)[3]
Army size Soviet Army (1989)[4][5]
  • 41,580 tanks
  • 8,840 ATGM launchers
  • 45,000 BMP/BTR
US Army (1989)[6]
  • 24,000 tanks
Navy size Soviet Navy (1990)[7]
  • 63 ballistic missiles submarines
  • 72 cruise missiles submarines
  • 64 nuclear attack submarines
  • 65 conventional attack submarines
  • 9 auxiliary submarines
  • 6 aircraft carriers
  • 4 battle cruisers
  • 26 cruisers
  • 52 destroyers
  • 33 frigates
  • 200 corvettes
  • 35 amphibious warfare ships
  • 425 patrol crafts
US Navy (1990)[8]
  • 33 ballistic missiles submarines
  • 93 attack submarines
  • 13 aircraft carriers
  • 4 battleships
  • 4 command ships
  • 22 mine warfare
  • 6 patrol boats
  • 43 cruisers
  • 57 destroyers
  • 99 frigates
  • 59 amphibious warfare ships
  • 137 auxiliary ships
Air force size Soviet Air Force (1990)[9]
  • 435 bombers
  • 5,665 fighters/attacks
  • 1,015 reconnaissance
  • 84 tankers
  • 620 transports
US Air Force (1990)[10]
  • 327 bombers[11]
  • 4,155 fighters/attacks[12]
  • 533 reconnaissance
  • 618 tankers
  • 1295 transports[9]
Nuclear warheads (total)[13] 32,980 (1990) 21,392 (1990)
Economy Communism, specifically Marxism–Leninism Capitalism, mixed economy
Economic alliance Comecon Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Military alliance Warsaw Pact North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Countries allied
during the
Cold War
Soviet Republics seat in the United Nations:

Warsaw Pact:

Other allies:


Other allies:

Leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States from 1917 to 1991.

Woodrow WilsonWarren G. HardingCalvin CoolidgeHerbert HooverFranklin D. RooseveltHarry S. TrumanDwight D. EisenhowerJohn F. KennedyLyndon B. JohnsonRichard NixonGerald FordJimmy CarterRonald ReaganGeorge H. W. BushVladimir LeninJoseph StalinGeorgy MalenkovNikita KhrushchevLeonid BrezhnevYuri AndropovKonstantin ChernenkoMikhail GorbachevUnited StatesSoviet Union


Pre-World War II relations[edit]


American troops marching in Vladivostok following Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, August 1918

After the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in the October Revolution, Vladimir Lenin withdrew Russia from the First World War, allowing Germany to reallocate troops to face the Allied forces on the Western Front. This caused the Allied Powers to regard the new Russian government as traitorous for violating the Triple Entente terms against a separate peace.[14] Concurrently, US President Woodrow Wilson became increasingly aware of the human rights violations perpetuated by the new Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and opposed the new regime's atheism and advocacy of a command economy. He also was concerned that Marxism–Leninism would spread to the remainder of the Western world, and intended his landmark Fourteen Points partially to provide liberal democracy as an alternative worldwide ideology to Communism.[15][16]

However, President Wilson also believed that the new country would eventually transition to a progressive free-market democracy after the end of the chaos of the Russian Civil War, and that intervention against Soviet Russia would only turn the country against the United States. He likewise advocated a policy of noninterference in the war in the Fourteen Points, although he argued that the former Russian Empire's Polish territory should be ceded to the newly independent Second Polish Republic. Additionally many of Wilson's political opponents in the United States, including the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Henry Cabot Lodge, believed that an independent Ukraine should be established. Despite this the United States, as a result of the fear of Japanese expansion into Russian-held territory and their support for the Allied-aligned Czech Legion, sent a small number of troops to Northern Russia and Siberia. The United States also provided indirect aid such as food and supplies to the White Army.[14][17][15]

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 President Wilson and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, despite the objections of French President Georges Clemenceau and Italian Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino, pushed forward an idea to convene a summit at Prinkipo between the Bolsheviks and the White movement to form a common Russian delegation to the Conference. The Soviet Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky and Georgy Chicherin, received British and American envoys respectfully but had no intentions of agreeing to the deal due to their belief that the Conference was composed of an old capitalist order that would be swept away in a world revolution. By 1921, after the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in the Russian Civil War, executed the Romanov imperial family, repudiated the tsarist debt, and called for a world revolution by the working class, it was regarded as a pariah nation by most of the world.[15] Beyond the Russian Civil War, relations were also dogged by claims of American companies for compensation for the nationalized industries they had invested in.[18]

Leaders of American foreign policy remain convinced that the Soviet Union was a hostile threat to American values. Republican Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes rejected recognition, telling labor union leaders that, "those in control of Moscow have not given up their original purpose of destroying existing governments wherever they can do so throughout the world."[19] Under President Calvin Coolidge, Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg warned that the Kremlin's international agency, the Communist International (Comintern) was aggressively planning subversion against other nations, including the United States, to "overthrow the existing order."[20] Herbert Hoover in 1919 warned Wilson that, "We cannot even remotely recognize this murderous tyranny without stimulating action is to radicalism in every country in Europe and without transgressing on every National ideal of our own."[21] Inside the U.S. State Department, the Division of Eastern European Affairs by 1924 was dominated by Robert F. Kelley, a zealous enemy of communism who trained a generation of specialists including George Kennan and Charles Bohlen. Kelley was convinced the Kremlin planned to activate the workers of the world against capitalism.[22]

Meanwhile, Great Britain took the lead in reopening relations with Moscow, especially trade, although they remain suspicious of communist subversion, and angry at the Kremlin's repudiation of Russian debts. Outside Washington, there was some American support for renewed relationships, especially in terms of technology.[23] Henry Ford, committed to the belief that international trade was the best way to avoid warfare, used his Ford Motor Company to build a truck industry and introduce tractors into Russia. Architect Albert Kahn became a consultant for all industrial construction in the Soviet Union in 1930.[24] A few intellectuals on the left showed an interest. After 1930, a number of activist intellectuals have become members of the Communist Party USA, or fellow travelers, and drummed up support for the Soviet Union. The American labor movement was divided, with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) an anti-communist stronghold, while left-wing elements in the late 1930s formed the rival Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CPUSA played a major role in the CIO until its members were purged beginning in 1946, and American organized labor became strongly anti-Soviet.[25]

American Relief Administration operations in Russia in 1922

American relief and Russian famine of 1921[edit]

Under Herbert Hoover, very large scale food relief was distributed to Europe after the war though the American Relief Administration. In 1921, to ease famine in Russia, the ARA's director in Europe, Walter Lyman Brown, began negotiating with the Soviet People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Maxim Litvinov, in Riga, Latvia. An agreement was reached on August 21, 1921, and an additional implementation agreement was signed by Brown and People's Commissar for Foreign Trade Leonid Krasin on December 30, 1921. The U.S. Congress appropriated $20,000,000 for relief under the Russian Famine Relief Act of late 1921. Hoover strongly detested Bolshevism, and felt the American aid would demonstrate the superiority of Western capitalism and thus help contain the spread of communism.[26][27]

At its peak, the ARA employed 300 Americans, more than 120,000 Russians and fed 10.5 million people daily. Its Russian operations were headed by Col. William N. Haskell. The Medical Division of the ARA functioned from November 1921 to June 1923 and helped overcome the typhus epidemic then ravaging Russia. The ARA's famine relief operations ran in parallel with much smaller Mennonite, Jewish and Quaker famine relief operations in Russia.[28][29]

The ARA's operations in Russia were shut down on June 15, 1923, after it was discovered that Russia renewed the export of grain.[30]

Recognition in 1933[edit]

Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet foreign minister (1930–1939) and ambassador to the United States (1941–1943)

By 1933, old fears of Communist threats had faded, and the American business community, as well as newspaper editors, were calling for diplomatic recognition. The business community was eager for large-scale trade with the Soviet Union. The US government hoped for some repayment on the old tsarist debts, and a promise not to support subversive movements inside the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the initiative, with the assistance of his close friend and advisor Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and Russian expert William Bullitt, bypassing the State Department.[31][32] Roosevelt commissioned a survey of public opinion, which at the time meant asking 1100 newspaper editors; 63 percent favored recognition of the USSR and 27 percent were opposed. Roosevelt met personally with Catholic leaders to overcome their objections. He invited Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov to Washington for a series of high-level meetings in November 1933. He and Roosevelt agreed on issues of religious freedom for Americans working in the Soviet Union. The USSR promised not to interfere in internal American affairs, and to ensure that no organization in the USSR was working to hurt the U.S. or overthrow its government by force. Both sides agreed to postpone the debt question to a later date. Roosevelt thereupon announced an agreement on resumption of normal relations.[33][34] There were few complaints about the move.[35]

However, there was no progress on the debt issue, and little additional trade. Historians Justus D. Doenecke and Mark A. Stoler note that, "Both nations were soon disillusioned by the accord."[36] Many American businessmen expected a bonus in terms of large-scale trade, but it never materialized.[37]

Roosevelt named William Bullitt as ambassador from 1933 to 1936. Bullitt arrived in Moscow with high hopes for Soviet–American relations, his view of the Soviet leadership soured on closer inspection. By the end of his tenure, Bullitt was openly hostile to the Soviet government. He remained an outspoken anti-communist for the rest of his life.[38][39]

Map showing supplies that were delivered to the Soviet Union

World War II (1939–45)[edit]

Before the Germans decided to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941, relations remained strained, as the Soviet invasion of Finland, Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Soviet invasion of the Baltic states and the Soviet invasion of Poland stirred, which resulted in Soviet Union's expulsion from the League of Nations. Come the invasion of 1941, the Soviet Union entered a Mutual Assistance Treaty with the United Kingdom, and received aid from the American Lend-Lease program, relieving American-Soviet tensions, and bringing together former enemies in the fight against Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.

Though operational cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union was notably less than that between other allied powers, the United States nevertheless provided the Soviet Union with huge quantities of weapons, ships, aircraft, rolling stock, strategic materials, and food through the Lend-Lease program. The Americans and the Soviets were as much for war with Germany as for the expansion of an ideological sphere of influence. During the war, President Harry S. Truman stated that it did not matter to him if a German or a Soviet soldier died so long as either side is losing.[40]

Soviet and American troops meet in April 1945, east of the Elbe River.

The American Russian Cultural Association (Russian: Американо–русская культурная ассоциация) was organized in the US in 1942 to encourage cultural ties between the Soviet Union and the United States, with Nicholas Roerich as honorary president. The group's first annual report was issued the following year. The group does not appear to have lasted much past Nicholas Roerich's death in 1947.[41][42]

In total, the U.S. deliveries through Lend-Lease amounted to $11 billion in materials: over 400,000 jeeps and trucks; 12,000 armored vehicles (including 7,000 tanks, about 1,386[43] of which were M3 Lees and 4,102 M4 Shermans);[44] 11,400 aircraft (4,719 of which were Bell P-39 Airacobras)[45] and 1.75 million tons of food.[46]

Roughly 17.5 million tons of military equipment, vehicles, industrial supplies, and food were shipped from the Western Hemisphere to the Soviet Union, with 94 percent coming from the United States. For comparison, a total of 22 million tons landed in Europe to supply American forces from January 1942 to May 1945. It has been estimated that American deliveries to the USSR through the Persian Corridor alone were sufficient, by US Army standards, to maintain sixty combat divisions in the line.[47][48]

The United States delivered to the Soviet Union from October 1, 1941 to May 31, 1945 the following: 427,284 trucks, 13,303 combat vehicles, 35,170 motorcycles, 2,328 ordnance service vehicles, 2,670,371 tons of petroleum products (gasoline and oil) or 57.8 percent of the high-octane aviation fuel,[49] 4,478,116 tons of foodstuffs (canned meats, sugar, flour, salt, etc.), 1,911 steam locomotives, 66 diesel locomotives, 9,920 flat cars, 1,000 dump cars, 120 tank cars, and 35 heavy machinery cars. Provided ordnance goods (ammunition, artillery shells, mines, assorted explosives) amounted to 53 percent of total domestic production.[49] One item typical of many was a tire plant that was lifted bodily from the Ford's River Rouge Plant and transferred to the USSR. The 1947 money value of the supplies and services amounted to about eleven billion dollars.[50]

Memorandum for the President's Special Assistant Harry Hopkins, Washington, D.C., 10 August 1943:

In War II Russia occupies a dominant position and is the decisive factor looking toward the defeat of the Axis in Europe. While in Sicily the forces of Great Britain and the United States are being opposed by 2 German divisions, the Russian front is receiving attention of approximately 200 German divisions. Whenever the Allies open a second front on the Continent, it will be decidedly a secondary front to that of Russia; theirs will continue to be the main effort. Without Russia in the war, the Axis cannot be defeated in Europe, and the position of the United Nations becomes precarious. Similarly, Russia’s post-war position in Europe will be a dominant one. With Germany crushed, there is no power in Europe to oppose her tremendous military forces.[51]

Cold War (1947–91)[edit]

Soviet Union-United States (including spheres of influence) relations
Map indicating locations of United States and Soviet Union

United States

Soviet Union

The end of World War II saw the resurgence of previous divisions between the two nations. The expansion of communist influence into Eastern Europe following Germany's defeat worried the liberal free market economies of the West, particularly the United States, which had established virtual economic and political primacy in Western Europe. The two nations promoted two opposing economic and political ideologies and the two nations competed for international influence along these lines. This protracted a geopolitical, ideological, and economic struggle—lasting from the announcement of the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991—is known as the Cold War, a period of nearly 45 years.

The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon in 1949, ending the United States' monopoly on nuclear weapons. The United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a conventional and nuclear arms race that persisted until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Andrei Gromyko was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, and is the longest-serving foreign minister in the world.

After Germany's defeat, the United States sought to help its Western European allies economically with the Marshall Plan. The United States extended the Marshall Plan to the Soviet Union, but under such terms, the Americans knew the Soviets would never accept, namely the acceptance of, what the Soviets viewed as, a bourgeoisie democracy, not characteristic of Stalinist communism. With its growing influence on Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union sought to counter this with the Comecon in 1949, which essentially did the same thing, though was more an economic cooperation agreement instead of a clear plan to rebuild. The United States and its Western European allies sought to strengthen their bonds and spite the Soviet Union. They accomplished this most notably through the formation of NATO which was essentially a military agreement. The Soviet Union countered with the Warsaw Pact, which had similar results with the Eastern Bloc.

Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1967 Glassboro Summit Conference.


Détente began in 1969, as a core element of the foreign policy of president Richard Nixon and his top advisor Henry Kissinger. They wanted to end the containment policy and gain friendlier relations with the USSR and China. Those two were rivals and Nixon expected they would go along with Washington as to not give the other rival an advantage. One of Nixon's terms is that both nations had to stop helping North Vietnam in the Vietnam War, which they did. Nixon and Kissinger promoted greater dialogue with the Soviet government, including regular summit meetings and negotiations over arms control and other bilateral agreements. Brezhnev met with Nixon at summits in Moscow in 1972, in Washington in 1973, and, again in Moscow in 1974. They became personal friends.[52][53] Détente was known in Russian as разрядка (razryadka, loosely meaning "relaxation of tension").[54]

The period was characterized by the signing of treaties such as SALT I and the Helsinki Accords. Another treaty, START II, was discussed but never ratified by the United States. There is still ongoing debate amongst historians as to how successful the détente period was in achieving peace.[55][56]

President Gerald Ford, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, and Henry Kissinger speaking informally at the Vladivostok Summit in 1974

After the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the two superpowers agreed to install a direct hotline between Washington D.C. and Moscow (the so-called red telephone), enabling leaders of both countries to quickly interact with each other in a time of urgency, and reduce the chances that future crises could escalate into an all-out war. The U.S./USSR détente was presented as an applied extension of that thinking. The SALT II pact of the late 1970s continued the work of the SALT I talks, ensuring further reduction in arms by the Soviets and by the U.S. The Helsinki Accords, in which the Soviets promised to grant free elections in Europe, has been called a major concession to ensure peace by the Soviets.

The pro-Soviet American business magnate Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum often mediated trade relations. Author Daniel Yergin, in his book The Prize, writes that Hammer "ended up as a go-between for five Soviet General Secretaries and seven U.S. Presidents."[57] Hammer had extensive business relationship in the Soviet Union stretching back to the 1920s with Lenin's approval.[58][59] According to Christian Science Monitor in 1980, "although his business dealings with the Soviet Union were cut short when Stalin came to power, he had more or less single-handedly laid the groundwork for the [1980] state of Western trade with the Soviet Union."[58] In 1974, Brezhnev "publicly recognized Hammer's role in facilitating East-West trade." By 1981, according to the New York Times in that year, Hammer was on a "first-name basis with Leonid Brezhnev."[59]

Resumption of the Cold War[edit]

End of Détente[edit]

The period of détente ended after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, which led to the United States boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980 was further based in large part on an anti-détente campaign.[60] In his first press conference, President Reagan said "Détente's been a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its aims."[61] Following this, relations turned increasingly sour with the unrest in Poland,[62][63] end of the SALT II negotiations, and the NATO exercise in 1983 that brought the superpowers almost on the brink of nuclear war.[64] The United States, Pakistan, and their allies supported the rebels. To punish Moscow, President Jimmy Carter imposed a grain embargo. This hurt American farmers more than it did the Soviet economy, and President Ronald Reagan resumed sales in 1981. Other nations sold their own grain to the USSR, and the Soviets had ample reserve stocks and a good harvest of their own.[65]

Reagan attacks "Evil Empire"[edit]

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev with wives attending a dinner at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, 9 December 1987

Reagan escalated the Cold War, accelerating a reversal from the policy of détente which had begun in 1979 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[66] Reagan feared that the Soviet Union had gained a military advantage over the United States, and the Reagan administration hoped to that heightened military spending would grant the U.S. military superiority and weaken the Soviet economy.[67] Reagan ordered a massive buildup of the United States Armed Forces, directing funding to the B-1 Lancer bomber, the B-2 Spirit bomber, cruise missiles, the MX missile, and the 600-ship Navy.[68] In response to Soviet deployment of the SS-20, Reagan oversaw NATO's deployment of the Pershing missile in West Germany.[69] The president also strongly denounced the Soviet Union and Communism in moral terms, describing the Soviet Union an "evil empire."[70]

American victory in the Cold War[edit]

At the Malta Summit of December 1989, both the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union declared the Cold War over. In 1991, the two countries were partners in the Gulf War against Iraq, a longtime Soviet ally. On 31 July 1991, the START I treaty cutting the number of deployed nuclear warheads of both countries was signed by Gorbachev and Bush. START negotiated the largest and most complex arms control treaty in history, and its final implementation in late 2001 resulted in the removal of about 80% of all strategic nuclear weapons then in existence.[71]

Reagan and Gorbachev had eased Cold War tensions during Reagan's second term, but Bush was initially skeptical of Soviet intentions.[72] During the first year of his tenure, Bush pursued what Soviets referred to as the pauza, a break in Reagan's détente policies.[73] While Bush implemented his pauza policy in 1989, Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe challenged Soviet domination.[74] Bush helped convince Polish Communist leaders to allow democratic elections in June, won by the anti-Communists. In 1989, Communist governments fell in all the satellites, with significant violence only in Romania. In November 1989, massive popular demand forced the government of East Germany to open the Berlin Wall, and it was soon demolished by gleeful Berliners. Gorbachev refused to send in the Soviet military, effectively abandoning the Brezhnev Doctrine.[75] Within a few weeks Communist regimes across Eastern Europe collapsed, and Soviet supported parties across the globe became demoralized. The U.S. was not directly involved in these upheavals, but the Bush administration avoided the appearance of gloating over the NATO victory to avoid undermining further democratic reforms especially in the USSR.[76][77]

Bush and Gorbachev met in December 1989 in summit on the island of Malta. Bush sought cooperative relations with Gorbachev throughout the remainder of his term, putting his trust in Gorbachev to suppress the remaining Soviet hard-liners.[78] The key issue at the Malta Summit was the potential reunification of Germany.[79] While Britain and France were wary of a re-unified Germany, Bush pushed for German reunification alongside West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.[80] Gorbachev resisted the idea of a reunified Germany, especially if it became part of NATO, but the upheavals of the previous year had sapped his power at home and abroad.[81] Gorbachev agreed to hold "Two-Plus-Four" talks among the U.S., the Soviet Union, France, Britain, West Germany, and East Germany, which commenced in 1990. After extensive negotiations, Gorbachev eventually agreed to allow a reunified Germany to be a part of NATO. With the signing of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, Germany officially reunified in October 1990.[82]

Dissolution of the Soviet Union[edit]

The Soviet Union dissolved into fifteen independent republics in 1991; Russia is in pink.

While Gorbachev acquiesced to the democratization of Soviet satellite states, he suppressed nationalist movements within the Soviet Union itself.[83] Stalin had occupied and annexed the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in the 1940s. The old leadership was executed or deported or fled; hundreds of thousands of Russians moved in, but nowhere were they a majority. Hatreds simmered. Lithuania's March 1990 proclamation of independence was strongly opposed by Gorbachev, who feared that the Soviet Union could fall apart if he allowed Lithuania's independence. The United States had never recognized the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic states, and the crisis in Lithuania left Bush in a difficult position. Bush needed Gorbachev's cooperation in the reunification of Germany, and he feared that the collapse of the Soviet Union could leave nuclear arms in dangerous hands. The Bush administration mildly protested Gorbachev's suppression of Lithuania's independence movement, but took no action to directly intervene.[84] Bush warned independence movements of the disorder that could come with secession from the Soviet Union; in a 1991 address that critics labeled the "Chicken Kiev speech", he cautioned against "suicidal nationalism".[85]

Bush and Gorbachev at the Helsinki Summit in 1990

In July 1991, Bush and Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) treaty, the first major arms agreement since the 1987 Intermediate Ranged Nuclear Forces Treaty.[86] Both countries agreed to cut their strategic nuclear weapons by 30 percent, and the Soviet Union promised to reduce its intercontinental ballistic missile force by 50 percent.[87] In August 1991, hard-line Communists launched a coup against Gorbachev; while the coup quickly fell apart, it broke the remaining power of Gorbachev and the central Soviet government.[88] Later that month, Gorbachev resigned as general secretary of the Communist party, and Russian president Boris Yeltsin ordered the seizure of Soviet property. Gorbachev clung to power as the President of the Soviet Union, until 25 December 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved.[89] Fifteen states emerged from the Soviet Union, and of those states, Russia was the largest and most populous. Bush and Yeltsin met in February 1992, declaring a new era of "friendship and partnership".[90] In January 1993, Bush and Yeltsin agreed to START II, which provided for further nuclear arms reductions on top of the original START treaty.[91]

See also[edit]


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American Relief Administration (ARA) American relief mission to Russia headed by Herbert Hoover 1921

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, Edward M. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Search for Security: American-Soviet Relations, 1933-1939 (1985)
    • Bennett, Edward M. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Search for Victory: American-Soviet Relations, 1939-1945 (1990).
  • Browder, Robert P. "The First Encounter: Roosevelt and the Russians, 1933" United States Naval Institute proceedings (May 1957) 83#5 pp 523–32.
  • Browder, Robert P. The origins of Soviet-American diplomacy (1953) pp 99–127 Online free to borrow
  • Cohen, Warren I. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: Vol. IV: America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945-1991 (1993).
  • Crockatt, Richard. The Fifty Years War: The United States and the Soviet Union in world politics, 1941-1991 (1995).
  • Diesing, Duane J. Russia and the United States: Future Implications of Historical Relationships (No. Au/Acsc/Diesing/Ay09. Air Command And Staff Coll Maxwell Afb Al, 2009). online
  • Dunbabin, J.P.D. International Relations since 1945: Vol. 1: The Cold War: The Great Powers and their Allies (1994).
  • Fike, Claude E. "The Influence of the Creel Committee and the American Red Cross on Russian-American Relations, 1917-1919." Journal of Modern History 31#2 (1959): 93-109. online.
  • Foglesong, David S. The American mission and the 'Evil Empire': the crusade for a 'Free Russia' since 1881 (2007).
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States (2nd ed. 1990) online free to borrow covers 1781-1988
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 (2000).
  • Garthoff, Raymond L. Détente and confrontation: American-Soviet relations from Nixon to Reagan (2nd ed. 1994) In-depth scholarly history covers 1969 to 1980. online free to borrow
  • Garthoff, Raymond L. The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (1994), In-depth scholarly history, 1981 to 1991, online
  • Glantz, Mary E. FDR and the Soviet Union: the President's battles over foreign policy (2005).
  • LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War 1945-2006 (2008). online 1984 edition
  • Leffler, Melvyn P. The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953 (1994).
  • Lovenstein, Meno. American Opinion Of Soviet Russia (1941) online
  • Nye, Joseph S. ed. The making of America's Soviet policy (1984)
  • Saul, Norman E. Distant Friends: The United States and Russia, 1763-1867 (1991)
  • Saul, Norman E. Concord and Conflict: The United States and Russia, 1867-1914 (1996)
  • Saul, Norman E. War and Revolution: The United States and Russia, 1914-1921 (2001)
  • Saul, Norman E. Friends or foes? : the United States and Soviet Russia, 1921-1941 (2006) online free to borrow
  • Saul, Norman E. The A to Z of United States-Russian/Soviet Relations (2010)
  • Saul, Norman E. Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy (2014).
  • Sibley, Katherine A. S. "Soviet industrial espionage against American military technology and the US response, 1930–1945." Intelligence and National Security 14.2 (1999): 94-123.
  • Sokolov, Boris V. "The role of lend‐lease in Soviet military efforts, 1941–1945." Journal of Slavic Military Studies 7.3 (1994): 567–586.
  • Stoler, Mark A. Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and US Strategy in World War II. (UNC Press, 2003).
  • Taubman, William. Gorbachev (2017) excerpt
  • Taubman, William. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (2012), Pulitzer Prize
  • Taubman, William. Stalin’s American Policy: From Entente to Détente to Cold War (1982).
  • Thomas, Benjamin P.. Russo-American Relations: 1815-1867 (1930).
  • Trani, Eugene P. "Woodrow Wilson and the decision to intervene in Russia: a reconsideration." Journal of Modern History 48.3 (1976): 440–461. online
  • Unterberger, Betty Miller. "Woodrow Wilson and the Bolsheviks: The 'Acid Test' of Soviet–American Relations." Diplomatic History 11.2 (1987): 71–90. online
  • White, Christine A. British and American Commercial Relations with Soviet Russia, 1918-1924 (UNC Press, 2017).
  • Zubok, Vladislav M. A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (1209)