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Essays for the Presidency

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Terry Bochatey / Reuters President George H.W. Bush is surrounded by a sea of U.S. military personnel as he greets troops following an arrival ceremony in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Dhahran November 22, 1990.
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: Essays for the Presidency
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American Foreign Policy: The Bush Agenda

In 1945, a year before his speech in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill sent a message to the new president, Harry Truman, about the ominous developments in Soviet policy: "An Iron Curtain is being drawn down over their front. We do not know what lies behind it. It is vital, therefore, that we reach an understanding with Russia now before we have mortally reduced our armies and before we have withdrawn into our zones of occupation." Churchill's advice went unheeded, and the West lost a historic opportunity to negotiate a favorable deal with the Kremlin when the bargaining leverage of the United States vis-à-vis the Soviet Union stood at its peak.

After almost half a century, the communist world's leader, President Mikhail Gorbachev, has undertaken dramatic changes within the Soviet bloc that give the free world's new leader, President George Bush, another historic opportunity to enhance the West's security and to effect a sea change in the U.S.-Soviet relationship. Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika have been hailed, even by some hard-line Western leaders, as heralding the end of the cold war. While his reforms give reason for a reappraisal of the West's policy toward the Soviet Union, we must bear in mind that the causes of the cold war-Moscow's domination of Eastern Europe and aggressive foreign policies around the world-still endure. Those who urge the West to "help Gorbachev" with low-interest loans and subsidized credits fail to realize that such actions are not in our interest until he makes an irrevocable break with the Kremlin's past policies.

An opportunity now exists to make genuine progress toward a more stable peace. President Bush can exploit this opportunity if he takes a hard-headed look at the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and devises a policy that presents the Kremlin leaders with intractable strategic choices. We must make Gorbachev choose between a less confrontational relationship with the West and the retention of his imperial control over Eastern Europe, between a continuing race in

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