ABSTRACT

At the opening of the new Vienna talks on conventional armed forces in Europe in March 1989, Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze described the process that the assembled states had embarked on as not simply reducing troops and conventional arms but “overcoming the division of Europe.” 1 This evocative language starkly contrasted with the sterile experience of a decade and a half of fruitless negotiations within the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) framework and the European military stockpiles that continued to increase during this period. That Gorbachev realistically anticipates or desires the abolition of the European military bloc structures in the foreseeable future is improbable, despite Soviet declaratory commitment to this goal. However, in Gorbachev’s renowned speech at the United Nations in New York in December 1988, he proved his readiness to force through large-scale reductions in Soviet force levels in Europe regardless of traditional Soviet military thinking. For the new Soviet elite, such reductions, whether devised unilaterally or multilaterally, are justified principally on political and economic grounds, although they are also expected to contribute to military stability.