Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1988 UN Speech Review

The keynote speech by Mikhail Gorbachev in the December 1988 UN General Assembly represented a departure from Soviet policy and the way the Soviet Union viewed the west. According to (Kanet, 1989), the previous years had witnessed foreign policies based on a tit-for-tat basis and the world was in a brink of cold war between the then superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.  Therefore, it was imperative that one of the two world’s superpowers made a significant move to prevent the escalation of the temperatures.

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Gorbachev’s choice of United Nations as the venue for the speech by Gorbachev was important, as it would send a signal to the whole world that the Soviet Union was ready and openness to being a leader for global peace leadership. Initially initiating the reforms in his Soviet Communist Party through the “glasnost” and the “perestroika”, Gorbachev felt that it was equally important that he presented the same domestic political experiences that tolerated similar and different interests, to the international community.

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In his speech, Gorbachev anticipated the development of what he called “the new world order”. The development of the cold war had forced the Soviet Union to allocate more resources into military actions (Kanet, 1989). He realized that to accommodate the different social and political ideologies among the Soviet Union satellite states, his nation needed the cooperation of the United States.

During the period of communism, most of the countries in the Eastern Europe had began to agitate for their political and social rights. In respond and readiness for the change in the ideologies among the states of Eastern Europe, Gorbachev needed the cooperation of the United States in order to allow for the smooth transition of the Eastern European countries into their internal ideological perspectives. Therefore, in his speech, by saying “de-ideologizing relations among states” (CNN Cold War, 1988), he meant the Soviet Union and the United States had to be prepared for the social and political change that was to occur in Eastern Europe.

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The implications that this had on the super power nations was that they had to be ready to accept and tolerate the “new world order”. Since Gorbachev foresaw a world led by rule of law and respect of social and political difference, the “de-idelogizing relation among states” meant that the superpower relations would be improved. The Soviet Union had huge military officers and most of its Eastern European states had heavy military deployment. Moreover, the United States possessed great military equipment.

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Since the speech by Gorbachev came during the cold war and after the Pearl Harbor attack, his move to allow for toleration of the political and social difference among its states, meant a reduction in military use (Njølstad & Njlstad, 2004). Consequently, the United States would be forced to cut on its nuclear developments in response to the Soviet Union’s move to cut down on use of military and allow for new ideologies in Eastern Europe. This had an implication of improving the relationship between the two superpowers.

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Gorbachev further noted that radical and revolutionary changes take place and will continue in the near future. While recognizing this, he pointed in his address “force no longer can…be an instrument of foreign policy” (CNN Cold War, 1988). In saying saw, Gorbachev was pointing the need for acceptance of the rule of law and the need to allow for changes to take place in the peaceful manner without use of force to alter such social changes to conform certain ideologies held by specific countries. This had an implication of allowing for the toleration of the social and political changes in the soviet bloc, which ultimately led to the separation of member countries of the Soviet Union. Moreover, Gorbachev foresaw the future role of the superpowers as the advocates of peace and the ones to preserve humanity. The relationship between world superpowers was the key to world peace and economic growth.

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