• The Human Factor

  • Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War
  • By: Archie Brown
  • Narrated by: James Langton
  • Length: 21 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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The Human Factor

By: Archie Brown
Narrated by: James Langton
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Publisher's Summary

In this penetrating analysis of the role of political leadership in the Cold War's ending, Archie Brown shows why the popular view that Western economic and military strength left the Soviet Union with no alternative but to admit defeat is wrong.

To understand the significance of the parts played by Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher in East-West relations in the second half of the 1980s, Brown addresses several specific questions: What were the values and assumptions of these leaders, and how did their perceptions evolve? What were the major influences on them? To what extent were they reflecting the views of their own political establishment or challenging them? How important for ending the East-West standoff were their interrelations? Would any of the realistically alternative leaders of their countries at that time have pursued approximately the same policies? 

The Cold War got colder in the early 1980s, and the relationship between the two military superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, each of whom had the capacity to annihilate the other, was tense. By the end of the decade, East-West relations had been utterly transformed, with most of the dividing lines - including the division of Europe - removed. Engagement between Gorbachev and Reagan was a crucial part of that process of change. More surprising was Thatcher's role. Regarded by Reagan as his ideological and political soul mate, she formed also a strong and supportive relationship with Gorbachev (beginning three months before he came to power). Promoting Gorbachev in Washington as "[A] man to do business with", she became, in the words of her foreign policy adviser Sir Percy Cradock, "[A]n agent of influence in both directions".

©2020 Archie Brown (P)2020 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Compelling story of important events

Worthwhile reading and listening but about 20% too long and repetitive. The author’s regard for the role of Gorbachev skirts a cult of personality (to use a phrase relevant to Russian history) by undervaluing the roles of Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan as well as John Paul II. Although this Polish pope protected pedophiles at all levels of the Church throughout his papacy, his visit to Poland set loose social forces that put implacable pressure on the Soviet Union. The role of Lech Walesa is undervalued for the same reason. Great men — and women — matter but mass movements and the power of ideas can swamp systems and regimes no matter who their leaders are. The book would have been stronger by taking account of these forces and their origins.