Inside The Soviet Alternate Universe: The Cold War's End and the Soviet Union's Fall Reappraised by Dick Combs

Inside The Soviet Alternate Universe: The Cold War's End and the Soviet Union's Fall Reappraised

byDick CombsNotes byJack F. Matlock Jr.

Paperback | August 24, 2012

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Much ink has been spilled by scholars, journalists, and former government officials from both the United States and the Soviet Union in efforts to explain how the Cold War came to an end and the Soviet system collapsed. Yet little consensus has emerged regarding these historic events. In this unique contribution to the debate, Dick Combs brings his many years of experience as an academic researcher, policy analyst, and government insider to bear on these questions and finds the answer primarily in the destabilizing impact of Mikhail Gorbachev’s effort to modernize the Kremlin’s Stalinist mind-set.

Part I of the book sets the stage by affording the reader an “existential feel for the reality, including the psychological atmosphere, of Soviet communism” in everyday life as the author himself experienced it while serving as a young diplomat in the U.S. legation in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the late 1960s and later during eight years of diplomatic service at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Part II then builds on this direct exposure to the Soviet mind-set to develop an analytical perspective on the causes for the Cold War’s end and the USSR’s disintegration as arising “essentially from Gorbachev’s attempt to reform the regime’s official conception of governance” once the Stalinist fixation on international class struggle had proven no longer viable as a basic rationale for policy-making. Part III, finally, deploys this perspective to explain the unfolding of events that led to the ending of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet system, to reveal the relationship between the two, to point out the relevance of this explanation to current U.S. foreign policy, and to show how it can help us better understand what is happening in today’s Russia.

About The Author

Dick Combs spent many years as a Foreign Service officer, from 1966 to 1989, with three tours of duty at the U.S. embassy in Moscow during the height of the Cold War. He later served as a Congressional foreign policy adviser to Senator Sam Nunn and as research professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Dick Combs spe...

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Title:Inside The Soviet Alternate Universe: The Cold War's End and the Soviet Union's Fall ReappraisedFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.85 inPublished:August 24, 2012Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271033568

ISBN - 13:9780271033563

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Extra Content

Table of Contents


Foreword: Myths That Mislead

Jack F. Matlock Jr.

Author’s Preface

Part One. Reminiscence: Ten Years Inside the Empire

Introduction to Part One

1. Initial Encounters with the Other Side

2. Working Levels of the Soviet Regime

3. Stagnation and Disaffection

4. The Beginning of the End

Part Two. Reflection: A Neglected Psychological Perspective

Introduction to Part Two

5. Comprehending Another Political World

6. Formation of the Soviet Conception of Governance

7. The Conception’s Evolution Under Khrushchev and Brezhnev

8. Gorbachev and the Conception’s Terminal Phase

Part Three. Relevance: Psychological Milieu and Current Foreign Policy Issues

Introduction to Part Three

9. Reappraising the Cold War’s End and the Empire’s Fall I: Key Pieces of the Puzzle

10. Reappraising the Cold War’s End and the Empire’s Fall II: Fitting the Pieces Together

11. Empire and Democracy in Post-Soviet Russia

12. An Analytical Blind Spot and Its Consequences




Editorial Reviews

“Overall, Inside the Soviet Alternate Universe is a sophisticated, well-reasoned argument about the demise of the USSR and the problems of dealing with different mindsets and cultures. As such, Combs’s book deserves study by historians, analysts, and politicians alike.”

—Jonathan M. House, History: Reviews of New Books