Russia and Germany Reborn: Unification, the Soviet Collapse, and the New Europe; Imperial Overstretch: Germany in Soviet Policy From Stalin to Gorbachev

In This Review

Russia and Germany Reborn: Unification, the Soviet Collapse, and the New Europe

By Angela E. Stent
Princeton University Press, 1999
288 pp. $29.95
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Imperial Overstretch: Germany in Soviet Policy From Stalin to Gorbachev

By Hannes Adomeit
Nomos, 1998
609 pp. $69.00
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Stent combines a detailed account of Soviet politics and decision-making up to German unification with thoughtful reflection on why this thoroughly unimagined outcome came about. The prose and tale are highly readable, not least because the gap between the scale of the stakes involved and the drift and lameness of Soviet foreign policy is so stunning. But Stent does not stop here. She traces the Russian-German relationship since unification and then ponders the place of both countries in a very different Europe. The book effectively places in broad-gauged perspective one of the core relationships in international politics.

Adomeit examines the same events but devotes a good deal more attention to the postwar decades, when a divided Germany was at the heart of East-West relations and a central concern of Soviet policy. His interpretation of the factors influencing Soviet policy in the 1980s, the role of Gorbachev's "new thinking," and the character of Soviet decision-making during the drama itself is not fundamentally different from Stent's, but it does include more detail on the East German side of the story and make more thorough use of the new German and Soviet archival material. One of the first scholars to unravel the complex, often disjointed, interplay among the various players on the Soviet side and within the crucial East German-Soviet relationship, Adomeit uses this book to expand on his original contributions to this field.

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