The Cold War Ends: Squandered Opportunities

The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES” by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick from Chapter 12 “THE COLD WAR ENDS: Squandered Opportunities” on page 469 and I quote: “Though willing to allow for the radical transformation of Eastern Europe, Gorbachev hoped the end of the Cold War would lead to the dissolution of NATO as well as the Warsaw Pact. Recognizing that that might not happen, he insisted that NATO at least not expand farther to the east. He was even willing to allow for reunification of the two Germanys as long as NATO troops and weapons were not permitted on former East German soil. But he and other Russian leaders who believed they had received ironclad U.S. and German promises that eastward expansion by NATO would never be permitted were in for a rude awakening when the Clinton and second Bush administrations continued expanding right up to Russia’s doorstep. Russian leaders expressed outrage and a sense of betrayal. Although U.S. officials, over the years, have insisted that no such promises were ever given, recently released documents appear to substantiate the Russian claims.
In February 1990, Bush, Baker, and German chancellor Helmut Kohl sought ways to convince Gorbachev to remove the 380,000 Soviet troops in East Germany and renounce legal claims of occupation dating back to Germany’s surrender in 1945. They wanted to avoid the growing demand from many of the newly liberated countries to demilitarize Central and Eastern Europe, a move that would have diminished the U.S. domination of Europe. Baker met with Gorbachev on February 9 and asked him, “Would you prefer to see a unified Germany outside of NATO, independent and with no U.S. forces or would you prefer a unified German to be tied to NATO, with assurances that NATO’s jurisdiction would not shift one inch eastward from its present position?” Baker recorded Gorbachev’s reply that “any extension of the zone of NATO would be unacceptable.”
Helmut Kohl met with Gorbachev the following day and stated that “naturally NATO could not expand its territory” into East Germany. On February 10, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher conveyed the same message to Eduard Shervardnadze, stating, we are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.” To make sure that his Soviet counterpart understood that this applied to all of Eastern Europe and not just Germany, Genscher added, “As far as the nonexpansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.”
Upon receiving Kohl’s assurance, Gorbachev approved German reunification. But no legally binding papers were signed. The deal was not in writing. And Gorbachev later compounded the problem by agreeing in September to allow NATO expansion into East Germany in exchange for desperately needed financial assistance from Germany.
Clearly, Gorbachev thought there had been an agreement and felt that he had been blindsided. The United States and West Germany had promised not to expand NATO “as much as a thumb’s width further to the East,” he insisted. President Dmitri Medvedev was equally perturbed, contending in 2009 that the Soviet Union had gotten “none of the things that we were assured, namely that NATO would not expand endlessly eastwards and our interests would be continuously taken into consideration.” U.S. ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock has agreed that the Soviet Union was given a “clear commitment.” The German newsmagazine “Der Spiegel” conducted its own investigation in late 2009, finding that “after speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, “SPIEGEL” has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary, or Czechoslavakia.’” Historian Mary Elise Sarotte, author of an award-winning book on this period, explained, “In summary, Gorbachev had listened to Baker and Kohl suggest to him for two days in a row that NATO’s jurisdiction would not move eastward, and at the end he agreed to let Germany unify.”
The United States, for its part, appreciated Gorbachev’s restraint in Eastern Europe but didn’t hesitate to use force in its own backyard. Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega has long been the United States’ boy in Central America. He had twice attended the U.S. Army School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone and had been on the CIA payroll since the 1960s. Corrupt and unscrupulous, he profited from assisting Columbia’s Medellin drug cartel, but he also fingered Medellin rivals to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. His assistance to the contras in Nicaragua won him protection from top Reagan administration officials, including William Casey, Elliot Abrams, and Oliver North.
But his 1988 indictment on U.S. federal drug charges and his overturning of Panama’s 1989 presidential election finally convinced Bush that he was more of a liability than an asset. With U.S. encouragement, Panamanian military officers attempted a coup. The United States, however, offered no assistance. The chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, David McCurdy, bemoaned the “resurgence of the wimp factor.”
In December 1989, Bush decided to act unilaterally, and bypass Congress in violation of the War Powers Act of 1973. He sent 15,000 troops to assist the 12,000 already in the country to overthrow Noriega and take down his Panamanian Defense Forces and paramilitary units in what the United States called “Operation Just Cause.” Bush attempted to defend the invasion, claiming that he had acted “only after reaching the conclusion that every other avenue was closed and the lives of American citizens were in grave danger.” One reporter pushed Cheney for an explanation” “Mr. Secretary, following the failed coup in Panama, you came into this room and you made a number of arguments justifying our decision not to get more heavily involved. You. . . said it wasn’t up to the United States. . . to go willy-nilly around the world knocking off governments. . . . Why is your earlier assessment, which you made in this room two months ago, not valid anymore?” Cheney responded, apparently with a straight face, “I think we as a Government bent over backward to avoid having to take military action,” only invading when it became clear that “American lives were at risk.”
Latin Americans angrily condemned the return to gunboat diplomacy. Mexico proclaimed that “fighting international crimes is no excuse for intervention in a sovereign nation.” Cuba denounced the “new imperialist aggression” and said it showed “the disdain of the United States for international law.” The Organization of American States voted 20-1 to “deeply deplore” the invasion. Only a U.S. veto blocked similar UN Security Council action.
Latin Americas’ bitterness about the invasion, which violated the charter of the OAS, would persist for years. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks by Al-Quaeda, the editors of the Nicaragua-based magazine “Envio” wrote that in December 1989, “the government of George Bush Sr. ordered the invasion of Panama, a military operation that bombed civilian neighborhoods and killed thousands of Panamanians just to flush out a single man, Manuel Noriega. . . “ “Was that not state terrorism?” they asked.
Soviet U.S. expert Georgi Arbatov warned that the invasion would strengthen Soviet hard-liners, who would see through the hypocrisy of the United States’ praising Soviet nonintevention while it was itself overthrowing governments. They had good reason to feel that way. The invasion was indeed a signal that Soviet inaction would not curb U.S bellicosity; it might, in fact, embolden the United States to act more recklessly. The “Washington Post’s” Bob Woodward pointed to Colin Powell’s support for the invasion as critical to Bush’s decision making. Powell declared, “We have to put a shingle outside our door saying ‘Superpower Lives Here,’ no matter what the Soviets do, even if they evacuate form Eastern Europe.” Neocon Elliot Abrams concluded that the United States should have invaded and speculated that “the reduced danger of escalation makes limited military action more rather than less likely.”
Noreiga eluded U.S. forces for almost a week before seeking asylum at the Vatican embassy. The United States surrounded the embassy with enormous speakers and, despite Vatican protests, blasted rock music—songs like “I Fought the Law ( And the Law Won),” “Nowhere to Run,” and “You’re No Good”–around the clock. Noreiga was sentenced to jail in the United States for drug trafficking. In the aftermath of the seemingly successful and popular military action, the supine Congress failed to challenge the president for flouting the War Powers Act, which requires the White House to seek congressional approval for the use of force in other countries.
But Bush wasn’t finished. The Reagan administration had cozied up to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, removing Iraq from the State Department list of terrorist states and backing it in its war with Iran. Even Saddam’s use of chemical weapons to crush Kurdish resistance had elicited little protest. Following a clumsy attempt by the United States to pin that crime on Iran, Bush extended an additional $1.2 billion in credits and loans to Saddam Hussein while Kuwait demanded that Iraq repay the money it had borrowed to wage war against Iran. Kuwait also refused to abide by the OPEC oil quotas, driving down the price of oil at a time when Iraq desperately needed the revenue to repay over $40 billion in accrued debts. Further angering Saddam, Kuwait, which had been part of Iraq until 1961, rejected Iraq’s claims on their disputed border.
U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie met with Saddam in Baghdad on July 25, 1990, assuring him that Bush “wanted better and deeper relations” and had “No opinion” on its border dispute with Kuwait, which had been no friend of the United States. Senator and former UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan described Kuwait to fellow senators as “a particularly poisonous enemy of the United States” whose “anti-Semitism was at the level of the personally loathsome.” Saddam took Glaspie’s remarks as a signal that the United States would acquiesce in his Kuwaiti takeover. The following week, three Iraqi divisions entered Kuwait, giving Iraq control of one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. In September Glaspie effectively confirmed that she had led Saddam on, telling the “New York Times,” “I didn’t think—and nobody else did—that the Iraquis were going to take all of Kuwait.”
Cheney, Powell, and General Norman Schwarzkopf rushed to meet with Saudi Arabia’s king Fahd. They showed him doctored photos of 150,000 Iraqi troops and 1.500 tanks poised just across his border in Kuwait and convinced him to allow a large U.S. military force onto Saudi soil, giving the United States its long-sought toehold in the region. The deception was soon exposed. A Japanese newspaper obtained satellite photos showing no Iraqi troop buildup in the area. American media took interest in the story. ABC News purchased additional satellite photos the following month, reconfirming the original assessment. “Newsweek” called it ‘”he case of the ‘missing’ military presence.” “In fact, “ “Newsweek” reported, “all they could see, in crystal-clear detail, was the U.S. buildup in Saudi Arabia.’ U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles Freeman warned, “This will never work. All it’s going to take is one photo of some GI pissing on the wall of a mosque, and the Saudi government will be overthrown.” Despite Pentagon pressure to bury the story, Jean Heller, a highly respected reporter with the “St. Petersburg Times,” decided to pursue it. Obtaining more photos that she showed to physicist and defense analyst Peter Zimmerman, who exposed the fraudulence of the U.S. claims. “Newsday” reported the comments of one senior U.S. commander who acknowledged, “There was a great disinformation campaign surrounding this war.”
There is no evidence that Saddam ever intended to invade Saudi Arabia. Powell acknowledged that for the first three weeks, Iraq could have marched unimpeded into Saudi Arabia if it had so desired. He agreed with Turkish and Arab leaders that sanctions would force Saddam to reverse course. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara urged the Senate to use sanctions, not war. In fact, UN-imposed sanctions were taking a tremendous toll on Iraq. In October, CIA Director William Webster reported that sanctions had curtailed 98 percent of Iraq’s oil exports and perhaps 95 percent of its imports. Zbigniew Brzezinski testified that an invasion could be “highly counterproductive,” turning the Arab world and European allies against the United States and causing chaos in the region.
Pressure mounted quickly for a strong response by Bush. The Israeli press led the charge. An editorial in “Hadashot” was typical. “The pro-Iraqi puppet government in Kuwait,” it lashed out, “is an expression of U.S. impotence and the weakness of President George Bush. Bush, until now at least, resembles Chamberlain in his knowing capitulation to Hitler.”
Bush turned the tired Munich analogy on its head. In an August 8 televised address to the nation, he described Saddam as “an aggressive dictator threatening his neighbors” and compared him to Hitler. He kept the rhetoric at a fever pitch. “Washington Post” editor Charles Paul Freund dissected the Bush strategy: “Bush’s major rhetorical device in constructing his argument against aggression was Hitler. . . . Saddam Hussein’s sudden media Hitlerization was . . . another chapter in a process we have seen several times in recent years involving such figures as ‘strongman’ Noriega of Panama, the ‘fanatical’ Khomeini of Iran and Libya’s ‘madman’ Gadhafi.”
Comparing Saddam Hussein the most justly reviled figure of the twentieth century struck many observers as unreasonable, even absurd. At a campaign event in the Boston suburbs, Bush suggested that Saddam was worse than Hitler in using hostages as “human shields” at potential military targets. When asked how this could make him worse than the man responsible for the Holocaust, Bush equivocated, “I didn’t say the Holocaust, I mean, that is outrageous. But I think brutalizing young kids in a square in Kuwait is outrageous, too. I was told that Hitler did not stake people out against potential military targets, and that he did, indeed, respect—not much else, but he did, indeed respect the legitimacy of the embassies. So we’ve got some differences there.”
Bush also announced that U.S. troops were headed toward the Persian Gulf to take up positions in Saudi Arabia. He decided to act before the Saudis came up with their own solution to the crisis, fearing that a Saudi initiative might undermine U.S. domination of the region and its oil resources. Given the Saudis’ disdain for the Kuwaiti oligarchy, he feared that an “Arab solution” would leave Iraq in a powerful position.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti officials hired the world’s largest public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, to sell the war. The firm’s Washington director Craig Fuller, has been Bush’s chief of staff when he was vice president. Fuller helped orchestrate the largest foreign-funded effort ever undertaken to manipulate U.S. public opinion. On October 10, at hearings sponsored by Congress’s Human Rights Caucus, a fifteen-year-old girl testified that she had been a volunteer in a Kuwaiti hospital when Iraqi troops burst in. She described what she had witnessed: “They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.” Bush cited the story repeatedly in making the case for war: “It turns your stomach to listen to the tales of those that have escaped the brutality of Saddam the invader. Mass hangings. Babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor.” It was later discovered that not only was the young witness lying about having been at the hospital, she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States and a member of the ruling family. By the time the fraud was exposed, U.S. bombing of Baghdad had already begun.
On November 29, the final UN Security Council resolution authorized use of “all necessary means” to force Iraqi evacuation from Kuwait. Votes for the resolution didn’t come cheap. Egypt had almost $14 billion of debt written off by the United States and the Gulf states another $6 billion. Syria received over $2 billion from Europe, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states. Saudi Arabia gave the Soviets $1 billion, and the United States offered credit guarantees. For not vetoing the resolution, China’s foreign minister, who had been persona non grata after Tiananmen Square, was given a White House reception.
For joining Cuba in voting against the resolution, Yemen was punished severely. A senior U.S. diplomat informed the Yemen ambassador, “That was the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” Three days later, the United States cut $70 million in desperately needed aid to Yemen. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) started squeezing Yemen, and Saudi Arabia expelled 800,000 Yemeni workers.
While understanding the importance of marshaling international support to provide a “cloak of acceptability” to their invasion, U.S. leaders made it clear that they weren’t about to relinquish control to the United Nations or anyone else. As Bush and Scowcroft explained in their memoirs, “It was important to reach out to the rest of the world, but even more important to keep the strings of control tightly in our hands.”
The U.S. public was also sharply divided. Approval of Bush’s handling of the crisis had dropped by 30 percent in three months. Despite Bush’s rhetoric about the nobility of the United States’ motives, it was difficult to sell the despotic leaders of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait as paragons of democracy. Nor was it easy to make the case that crucial U.S. interests were at stake. The United States, unlike Western Europe and Japan, depended very little on Kuwati oil. In fact, Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil combined accounted for only 9 percent of U.S. imports. And neither the Europeans nor the Japanese were eager to go to war over Kuwait.
Confronted with growing opposition, administration officials seized upon another strategy to frighten the American public and vacillating UN officials. In late November, Cheney and Scowcroft appeared on Sunday talk shows brandishing the nuclear threat. Cheney spoke about Iraq’s nuclear weapons progress and its chances of achieving “some kind of crude device” in less than a year. Scowcroft told David Brinkley that Saddam might achieve that goal within “months.” “One has to assume,” he added, “that he might be more willing to use nuclear weapons than has any other power.” Scowcroft had apparently forgotten which country it was that had previously dropped nuclear bombs on an adversary and had threatened to do so again dozens more times over the years. And as if the nuclear threat weren’t frightening enough, Scowcroft added the terrorist threat for good measure. When asked, ”What we have heard is that [Saddam] has gathered a whole raft of terrorists into his country and they are standing around awaiting instructions. Is that right?” ‘That’s right,” Scowcroft replied.”


LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public citizen and AARP Members


About tim074

I'm a retired dairy farmer that was a member of the National Farmer's Organization (NFO). Before going farming, I spent 4 years in the United States Air Force where I saved up enough money to get my down payment to go farming. I also enjoy writing and reading biographies and I write about myself as well as articles and excerpts I find interesting. I'm specifically interested in finances, particularly in the banking industry because if it wasn't for help from my local Community Bank, I never could have started farming which I was successful at. So, I'm real interested in the Small Business Administration and I know they are the ones creating jobs. I have been a member of Common Cause and am now a member of Public Citizen as well as AARP. I have, in the past, written over 150 articles on the Obama Blog ( and I'd like to tie these two sites together. I'm also on Twitter, MySpace and Facebook and find these outlets terrifically interesting particularly what many of these people did concerning the uprising in the Arab world. I believe this is a smaller world than we think it is and my goal is to try to bring people together to live in peace because management needs labor like labor needs management. Up to now, that hasn't been so easy to find.
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