The Cold War might have ended violently; empires rarely disintegrate peacefully, and Mikhail Gorbachev's political and economic reforms faced strong objections from within the USSR. Recognizing the risks, President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker, III managed the US relationship with the Soviet Union in the final years of the Cold War with considerable skill. Together, they persuaded sometime reluctant allies to accept a united Germany in NATO, eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, and bring Israeli and West Bank Palestinians to the negotiating table. They failed, however, to halt the disintegration of Yugoslavia and support Russian economic reforms. Join us for a discussion of Diana Negroponte’s new study of Baker as Secretary of State.
Diana Villiers Negroponte is a Global Fellow, focused on the UK’s global role following its departure from the EU. Her focus derives from her time at the European Commission and her leadership of the Conservative Party’s international office in the 1970s. With Belgium and British parents, she was involved in British politics and relations with Europe until her marriage to a US diplomat. At the Wilson Center, she researched a diplomatic history of the last years of the Cold War, focused on the role of Secretary of State James A. Baker, III titled Master Negotiator: the Role of James A.Baker, III at the End of the Cold War. Published in December 2020, it focuses on the unification of Germany and the strength of US alliances to repel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and bring both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to negotiate directly.
For more than four decades, William Drozdiak has been regarded as one of the most knowledgeable American observers of European affairs. During his tenure as foreign editor of the Washington Post, the newspaper won Pulitzer Prizes for its international reporting on the Israeli—Palestinian conflict and the collapse of the Soviet communist empire. He also served as the Post’s chief European correspondent, based at various times in Bonn, Berlin, Paris and Brussels, and covered the Middle East for Time magazine. He later became the founding executive director of the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Center in Brussels and served for ten years as president of the American Council on Germany. Before becoming a journalist, he played professional basketball in the United States and Europe for seven years. His highly acclaimed book, “Fractured Continent: Europe’s Crises and the Fate of the West,” was selected by the Financial Times as one of the best political books of 2017. His latest book, “The Last President of Europe: Emmanuel Macron’s Race to Revive France and Save the World,” which focuses on France’s youthful president and his efforts to shape the future of Europe and a new world order, was published by Hachette and PublicAffairs in April 2020.
Diana Villiers Negroponte
“There was a balancing act which had to occur. Support self-determination, support values which we shared, but not so enthusiastically that Gorbachev would be under threat.”
“There was an opportunity which Secretary Baker took up. He recognized the opportunity to engage Moscow, to engage Gorbachev, and maybe to move forward out of the sterility and hostility of the Cold War.”
“So Baker sets out to persuade both those leaders as well as the other Europeans that a united Germany anchored in NATO would enable the rest of Europe to live peacefully knowing that Germany would not have any ability to build its own nuclear capacity. Yes, the economy would be strong, but that economy would also be a bulwark against the Soviet Union.”
“With very skillful diplomacy and the help of Dennis Ross, Baker succeeded in getting Soviet joint leadership in mobilizing this coalition to eject Saddam from Kuwait.”
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