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Since the sudden collapse of the communist system in Eastern Europe in 1989, scholars have tried to explain why the Soviet Union stood by and watched as its empire crumbled. The recent release of extensive archive documentation in Moscow and the appearance of an increasing number of Soviet political memoirs w offer a greater perspective on this historic process and permit a deeper look into its causes. This text offers a comprehensive study detailing the collapse of Soviet control in Eastern Europe between 1968 and 1989, focusing especially on the pivotal Solidarity uprisings in Poland. Based on firsthand testimonies and fresh archival findings, it constitutes a fundamental reassessment of Soviet foreign policy during this period. In includes an account of how Soviet foreign policy initiatives in the late Brezhnev era defined the parameters of Mikhail Gorbachev's later position of laissez-faire towards Eastern Europe - a position that ultimately led to the downfall of socialist governments all over Europe.
Matthew J. Ouimet is a foreign policy analyst at the U.S. Department of State.