Authors: Richard Nixon
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To the democrats
THE REAL WORLD
N TOASTING THE BEGINNING
of a new relationship between China and the United States in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing twenty years ago, I quoted from a poem in which Mao Zedong exhorted his followers to work for the
victory of communism: “So many deeds cry out to be done always urgently. The world rolls on. Time passes. Seize the day. Seize the hour.” Today, as we celebrate the defeat of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and the defeat of aggression in the Persian Gulf, many deeds remain to be done abroad and at home. We must seize the moment to win victory for peace and freedom in the world.
For the past half century, we have lived in a world dominated by the clash of two superpowers inspired by two conflicting ideologies. The East-West struggle was the defining characteristic of the era. The Soviet Union and the United States confronted each other across the front lines in Europe and Asia, backed rival clients in regional conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia, and sparred with each other in civil wars throughout the underdeveloped world. But today one ideologyâcommunismâhas been discredited beyond resurrection. And one superpowerâthe Soviet Unionâhas disintegrated, with the new noncommunist governments of its former republics so preoccupied with their massive problems at home that they can no longer play a major role abroad.
We now live in a world in which the United States is the only superpower. We must recast our foreign policy to cope with this radically new situation. For many on the American left and right, the knee-jerk response to the collapse of the Soviet Union as a credible superpower is to withdraw into a new isolationism. But in fact American world leadership will be indispensable in the coming decades.
During the last three years, the world took a roller-coaster ride from soaring hopes to shattered illusions to unbounded euphoria. In 1989, our expectations climbed as one great historic event was quickly overtaken by another. Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed. The Berlin Wall fell. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev adopted significant political
reforms. Superpower cooperation increased. Regional conflict in the underdeveloped world decreased. The conventional wisdom in the prestige media, in the universities, and in the think tanks was that we were witnessing the beginning of a new world order of peace and freedom.
In 1990, the changes of the previous year began to reverse themselves. The new democracies of Eastern Europe confronted the pains of reform. The Communist reactionaries in the Soviet Union caught their second wind. Gorbachev slammed the brakes on reform. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein invaded and pillaged Kuwait. America and its coalition partners were forced into a major ground war in the Persian Gulf. Regional conflicts in the underdeveloped world continued to defy easy resolution. The vision of a more peaceful world turned out to be a mirage. While the cold war had kept the peace between the two superpowers, its demise did not end the threat of hot war involving smaller powers.
In 1991, these developments were overtaken by two events. The decisive victory of the United States and its allies over Iraq and the expulsion of Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait in February restored America's confidence in its role as a world leader. This was eclipsed by one of the watershed events of the twentieth century: on August 24, the forces of freedom in the Soviet Union won victory without war over the forces of communism. Just as the Russian Revolution of 1917 raised the curtain on this century's totalitarian horrors, the new Soviet revolution dropped the closing curtain on the final act of a failed ideology and totally discredited system of government. While Gorbachev was still a Communist, the ministers in the new government were noncommunists.
These starkly contrasting events should remind us that the real world revolves not around wishful thinking about “peace breaking out all over” but around the enduring realities
of geopolitics. While we should celebrate the current turn of events, we should not give in to euphoria. In a world of competing states, clashing interests and national conflicts are inevitable. The skillful use of American power represents the best hope for advancing freedom and preserving peace. Only if we learn the right lessons from the dramatic developments of the last three years will we succeed in securing our interests and promoting our values.
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For half a century, the principal cause of world conflict has been Communist aggression. The cold war started before World War II ended. Acting under cover of the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939, Moscow annexed Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and large parts of prewar Poland and Romania. As the war ended, Stalin installed Communist puppet governments in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Romania. Soviet armies “liberated” Eastern Europe from Nazi Germany, but Communist liberation meant a new tyranny for these nations. To his subservient clients, Stalin exported the brutal tactics he had used in the Soviet Union before World War IIâshow trials, political purges, forced-labor camps, and mass terror. As the iron curtain descended, Eastern Europe was enveloped in totalitarian darkness.
Eastern Europe was only the first theater of the cold war. Over the ensuing years, the Soviet Union annexed four Japanese islands in 1945, attempted to dismember Iran in 1946, sponsored Communist guerrillas in Greece and Turkey in the late 1940s, helped to establish a Communist regime in North Korea in 1948, tried to subjugate Josip Tito's independent Communist regime in Yugoslavia in 1948, blockaded West Berlin in 1948, helped Mao Zedong's Communist revolution prevail in China in 1949, backed Communist North Korea's
attack against South Korea in 1950, suppressed a workers' uprising in East Germany in 1953, supported Beijing in two crises with the U.S.-supported Republic of China in Taiwan over Quemoy and Matsu in 1955 and 1958, triggered the Middle East arms race with sales to Egypt in 1955, slaughtered hundreds of Hungarian freedom fighters in the streets of Budapest in 1956, backed Gamal Abdel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal in 1956, helped to establish Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba in 1959, assisted Communist revolutionaries in the Congo in 1960, built the Berlin Wall in 1961, attempted to place offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962, supplied arms to India in wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, supported Nasser's adventurism throughout the Arab world in the late 1950s and 1960s, backed the Arab powers in their war against Israel in 1967, crushed the Czechoslovakian reform movement in the “Prague Spring” in 1968, supported Syria and radical Palestinians in their effort to topple the government of Jordan in 1970, provided indispensable assistance for North Vietnam in its war against South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s, supplied and supported Syria and Egypt's war against Israel in 1973, backed a Communist coup in Ethiopia in 1974, installed Communist regimes in Angola and Mozambique in 1975, helped the Communist Sandinistas take power in Nicaragua in 1979, supplied Communist guerrillas in El Salvador with arms since the late 1970s, invaded Afghanistan in 1979, backed the Communist government's repression of Solidarity and imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981, trained and supported scores of international terrorist groups, engaged in state-sponsored terrorism through its clients in East Germany, Bulgaria, and Afghanistan, and conspired in dozens of other attempted coups and revolutions in every corner of the world.
While other sources of conflict existed during the cold war,
none rivaled Moscow's expansionism in scope and intensity. Without ever issuing a formal declaration of war, the Soviets engaged in an unprecedented campaign of direct and indirect aggression. Despite Moscow's occasional calls for “peaceful coexistence” or “dÃ©tente” in its diplomacy and propaganda, the leaders in the Kremlin continued to march to the ominous drumbeat of Communist expansion.
All this appeared to change in 1989. Everywhere we looked, dramatic events seemed to overturn settled realities. In the Soviet Union, Gorbachev initiated major reforms. He eased controls on the press and triggered a flood of criticism of the Soviet system. He permitted partially free elections that led to humiliating defeats for the Communist party. He opened up some limited opportunities for private economic activity that created hopes for a more prosperous future. He adopted changes in long-held foreign policy positions, accepting deep cuts in Moscow's massive superiority in conventional arms in Europe and unprecedented on-site inspection provisions in the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START) talks. More important, these changes soon acquired a momentum of their own as independent political movements demanded that Gorbachev press forward more aggressively with reforms.
In Eastern Europe, the upheaval was even more dramatic. In the 1980s, the tectonic plates of East European nationalism and Soviet-imposed communism had built up tremendous pressure, making a political earthquake inevitable. Once Gorbachev's reforms at home had discredited communism abroad, the first fissures appeared in the Soviet bloc. Polish Communist leaders, trapped between foreign sanctions and domestic political gridlock, concluded that they had to legalize Solidarity, the anticommunist labor movement. After partially free elections produced a total defeat
for the Communists, they ceded power reluctantly to democratic forces. In Hungary, after the party split between hardliners and moderates, even reformist Communists were swept from office through the ballot box. Hungary soon became a path to freedom for thousands of East Germans fleeing into West Germany. As the exodus bled the red Germany white, the Communist leadership accepted the necessity for democratic change, thereby signing its own death warrant. When Moscow failed to intervene to save the citadel of its imperial powerâEast Berlinâmass demonstrations swept the Kremlin's clients from power in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Within one year, the East European political temblor left only Albania's Communist regime intact, and the following year the aftershocks of this political earthquake hit Albania, toppling its hard-line Communist leaders from power.