Primary Sources

Excerpts from Chernyaev's Theses Prepared for Gorbachev's Report to the Defense Council


In this excerpt from the Mikhail Gorbachev's remarks to the Soviet Union's Defense Council, his chief foreign policy advisor Anatoly Chernyaev lays out the argument by Gorbachev that the Soviet Union can no longer sustain the arms race with the west that had raged as a part of the Cold War since the 1940s. Despite this rational observation that the Soviet Union can no longer compete with the west and simultaneously restructure its economy at home, Gorbachev is reluctant to give up the fight entirely - the West has not toned down its rhetoric or its attempts to role back communism. Thus, Gorbachev concludes that the process of restructuring international relations (and ultimately ending the Cold War) was going to be a long process and one that the Soviet Union needed address immediately if it was going to be a part of that process and not simply accept change thrust upon it.


Anatoly Chernyaev, Excerpts from Chernyaev's Theses Prepared for Gorbachev's Report to the Defense Council, 17 November 1989, trans. Vladislav Zubok, Notes of Anatoly Chernyaev, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

October 17, 1989


It has been necessary to take a fresh look at the practice of military build-up as it established itself during the decades of the Cold War. As we only touched on this subject, we saw a "big overkill." The tempo and scale of growth of the military-industrial complex added little to security of the country from the purely military viewpoint. And they badly affected the state of the economy, weighed heavily on all our social structures.


Without the utilization of [the resources of the military-industrial complex], without their application to the solution of public social tasks, we cannot carry out perestroika. Such a gap between non-military and military potentials was absolutely unacceptable, all the more so since in NATO countries, especially in the United States, these [military and civilian] industries are concentrated in the same corporations and spill-over from one into another ensuring powerful economic growth up to the modem level.

Still, the governments of NATO countries have not ceased to be our potential adversaries, have not renounced their intention "to roll back communism," to undermine the role of the Soviet Union as a world power. Emerging positive trends have not yet become irreversible. The restructuring of international relations is a long-term business and will require colossal endeavors.

How to Cite this Source

Anatoly Chernyaev, "Excerpts from Chernyaev's Theses Prepared for Gorbachev's Report to the Defense Council," Making the History of 1989, Item #426, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:24 pm).