The Foreign Service Journal, November 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2022 15 ignored or resisted the provision when necessary to preserve their domination over their European neighbors. The miracle that George Kennan rec- ognized came to an end in August 1991 when a group of senior hardline Commu- nist conspirators, including Gorbachev’s vice president, staged a coup to oust Gorbachev. At the time, Gorbachev was proposing a new union treaty among the republics of the Soviet Union. It would have devolved certain powers of gover- nance from the central government to the republics. Whether that or anything else could have saved the USSR from the dissolution that soon followed can never be known. It is typical of many politicians to look for blame elsewhere than in themselves, and so it has been in Russia. Critics and rivals of Gorbachev found it easy to cast blame on him for the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Those who now accuse Gorbachev of presiding over the downfall of the Soviet Union—an inevitable result of his actions, they say—should instead look for blame to the hardline Communists within Gor- bachev’s government. Gorbachev mistakenly thought he could count on their support in reform- ing Soviet governance. Their clumsy effort to overthrow him failed, but the chaos they created was the proximate cause of the events that led to the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union. In that chaos, an ambitious and democratically inclined Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin declared the independence of the Russian Federation and, with Ukraine and Belarus, formed the Com- monwealth of Independent States on Dec. 8, 1991. Other republics of the USSR soon followed, and the Soviet Union was declared to exist no longer on Dec. 26, 1991. n Mikhail Gorbachev (at left) and Ronald Reagan talk during a walk in Washington, D.C., where they signed the INF Treaty on Dec. 8, 1987. SPUTNIK/ALAMY