Case 236 - Renewing the Soviet Empire? Gorbachev and the Fate of East Europe
This case study describes Mikhail Gorbachev’s struggle to restructure the Soviet Union’s relationship with its allies in East Europe along “reformist” lines. It traces the evolution of this attempt by describing how the East European countries became a net drain on the Soviet Union; how Gorbachev shifted from an inflexible to a reformist attitude toward the Soviet satellites; and, finally, how the premier endured growing criticism from his conservative political opponents. It concludes with his fateful decision to reject Soviet intervention as the satellite countries shed their communist governments and ultimately bolted from the Soviet fold in late 1989. This case study can be used to explore the policy paradigms of leaders, the fate of multinational empires, and the history of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late Cold War era.