British historian Robert Service speaks. At the Hoover Institution, and tells tales of how an evil empire was vanquished. It was not the way John Kerry and Barack Obama are trying currently, unfortunately.
What Service discovered by studying the archives at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, as well as the rich resources of Oxford libraries, and in conversations with former Reagan Administration Sec'y of State George Schultz, General Sec'y of the Communist Party of Russia Mikhail Gorbachev and his Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, was that the Soviet Union dismantled itself under relentless, firm, pressure by the United States. Even Maggie Thatcher didn't contribute much to the process. It was cowboy diplomacy at its Western best that did it.
Service points out that the Cold War could have easily broken out into a shooting one--even a nuclear war. That plenty of cold wars did over the centuries, such as the frequent ones between England and France. That it ended peacefully was thanks to a bi-lateral process. On the American side, Reagan (and later, belatedly, George H.W. Bush) and Shultz wanted to defeat Communism, and on the Soviet side that Gorby, Shevardnadze and the Politburo finally realized they had no choice, since they were slowly losing ground to a revitalized West (some credit here to Thatcher, Francois Mitterand and Helmut Schmidt).
The Soviets, who'd been resisting pressure to reform for decades, finally began to cave in the 1980s. The capitalists were pulling ahead, thanks to the information technology revolution. We had computers and they didn't, thanks to American's embargo against shipping technology to Russia. One thing they did have was a quagmire in Afghanistan. That didn't help them either. Enter Gorbachev (after a few geriatric bolsheviks died off). All concerned Soviets thought they were going to reform Communism, and thereby save its rule over an empire.
They apparently didn't understand the forces they were unleashing by taking their iron fists off the throats of their people. Possibly because Soviet leaders weren't themselves free to travel to the West and observe first hand how dynamic societies work. They did know they had an economic--and thus a military--crisis to deal with. George Shultz rubbed their noses in that; 'You're a backward power now.'
If they wanted to modernize, the USA would help, but only if the Commies would disengage militarily from Africa, end their alliance with Cuba--hey, Obama said our policy didn't work!--and reform, internally. Service's reading of the documents showed that Reagan and Shultz knew what they were doing; 'Bait was put on the hook for the fish [Gorbachev].' To free up resources, away from defense, toward civilian uses, they had to cave to Reagan's demands. No concessions without reforms.
Eventually Gorbachev began to get uneasy about what was happening. At Reykjavik, Iceland he belatedly tried to get tough. Reagan walked away from the treaty that had been agreed on when Gorby started waffling. Then he sent his Sec'y of State around the USA informing the American people that it was too bad the Russians wouldn't fulfill their side of the deal, but President Reagan wouldn't give up the security of America just to get a piece of paper signed.
Besides, Shultz argued, we've gotten so many concessions from the Communists already, we can keep busy verifying that they're abiding by those earlier deals. Reagan won the battle for American public opinion. And, according to what Service said at Hoover, he also won the battle in Russia. Andrei Gromyko and other bolsheviks pressured Gorbachev to give in. Which he did, in 1987.
Service thinks that that was what philosophically demoralized Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. There was a noticeable reluctance after that to resist, and when Eastern Europe began to crumble, Gorby let his captive nations go their own ways. Service says that, The Americans were very very subtle in the way they accomplished it.
Also, at first, President George H.W. Bush wasn't on board with Reaganesque foreign policy. But when he saw that it had gotten results--the fall of the Berlin Wall, for instance--even he became a Reaganite. Actual arms reductions were achieved and shortly thereafter world Communism was in the dustbin of history.
Too bad Barack Obama and John Kerry aren't philosophically in tune with tried and true diplomatic strategy. Service's talk (soon to be a book; The End of the Cold War) ought to be a template for dealing with not only Putin's Russia, but Revolutionary Iran and the dystopia that is Cuba and its ally Venezuela.