September 23, 2014, 12:15 PM - 01:30 AM

12:15 PM

LBJ Library Brown Room, 10th Floor

U.S.-Russia Relations: A Conversation with Ambassador Jack Matlock, Jr.
September 23, 2014, 12:15 PM - 01:30 AM
U.S.-Russia Relations: A Conversation with Ambassador Jack Matlock, Jr.

On September 23, 2014, the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, the William P. Clements Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft, and the LBJ Presidential Library welcomed Ambassador Jack Matlock, Jr., who shared his perspectives on the relationship between Russia and the West 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Library Director Mark Updegrove provided welcoming remarks, and Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Dr. Zoltan Barany introduced the Ambassador.

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In his remarks, Ambassador Matlock stated that in his view today's international arena is not heading towards a "Second Cold War," as many analysts seem to suggest. He argued that we have collectively failed to understand what really happened at the end of the Cold War, and in so doing have propogated myths and distortions that continue to affect the relationship between Russia and the West even today. He went on to ouline five such myths and their implications for recent events. 

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That the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union is one of the most prominent myths, said the Ambassador. In fact, the Cold War had been over for two or three years before the Soviet Union broke apart. This misconception has unfortunately led leaders in the West to believe that military and economic pressures from the outside can bring down authoritarian systems, thus effectively and bloodlessly leading to regime change. On the contrary, says Matlock, outside pressure can actually strengthen dictators.

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Furthermore, it is commonly believed in the U.S. that these outside pressures and sanctions defeated communism, while in reality it was Gorbachev himself who maneuvered the Communist Party out of power. In sum, communism collapsed from within, with only partial assistance from Western pushes for changes in behavoir.

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His remarks in full can be found below:

Ambassador Matlock's talk concluded with his views on the recent conflict in Ukraine, which he believes is not comparable to the Cold War for a number of reasons: the conflict is not international in scope, disagreements are not over ideological differences, and it is not geographically important to U.S. interests. Nevertheless, it is dangerous, for it represents a confrontation between Russia and the West and is leading to irrational policies by both sides. According to Matlock, "sanctions are not useful when a country's citizens think [their] security is at stake," as is the case in Russia today. In his opinion, on world issues -- terrorism, cybersecurity, climate change, etc. -- Russia can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. The U.S. needs to encourage Russia to be part of the solution, even if our country's domestic politics tend to lean in a different direction, in order to protect our national interests.

Jack Matlock, a retired diplomat, has held academic posts since 1991: Sol Linowitz Professor of International Relations, Hamilton College, 2006; visiting professor and lecturer in public and international affairs at Princeton University, 2001-2004; George F. Kennan Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, 1996 - 2001; Senior Research Fellow and then Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor in the Practice of International Diplomacy at Columbia University, 1991 to 1996. During his 35 years in the American Foreign Service (1956-1991) he served as Ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs on the National Security Council Staff from 1983 until 1986, and Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1981 to 1983.

Before his appointment to Moscow as Ambassador, Mr. Matlock served three tours at the American Embassy in the Soviet Union, as Vice Consul and Third Secretary (1961-63), Minister Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission (1974-1978), and Chargé d'Affaires ad interim in 1981. His other Foreign Service assignments were in Vienna, Munich, Accra, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, in addition to tours in Washington as Director of Soviet Affairs in the State Department (1971-74) and as Deputy Director of the Foreign Service Institute (1979-80). Before entering the Foreign Service Mr. Matlock was Instructor in Russian Language and Literature at Dartmouth College (1953-56). During the 1978-79 academic year he was Visiting Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University.

He is the author of Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended (Random House, 2004, paperback edition 2005); Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Random House, 1995); and a handbook to the thirteen-volume Russian edition of Stalin's Collected Works (Washington, D.C. 1955, 2nd edition, New York, 1971).

Mr. Matlock was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, on October 1, 1929, and was educated at Duke University (AB, summa cum laude, 1950) and at Columbia University (MA and Certificate of the Russian Institute, 1952). He has been awarded honorary doctorates by four institutions. In addition to the books noted, he is the author of numerous articles on foreign policy, international relations, and Russian literature and history. He and his wife, the former Rebecca Burrum, divide their time between Booneville, Tennessee, and Princeton, New Jersey.