Gorbachev was caught up in history

Editor’s note: This letter was written to Frank Shatz regarding his column on Mikhail Gorbachev that was published Wednesday, Dec. 5.

It is extremely important for journalists and historians to capture not just the big events, but, to the extent humanly possible, the motivations, reasons and thinking that individuals took at each stage of these transformative moments.

Your article does that, but also suggests that much more needs to be revealed as to Gorbachev’s thinking. My own view is that he miscalculated terribly — he had hoped to transform the Soviet Union and preserve the Communist Party’s hold on power. Alas, the tensions between the two were too great. To his everlasting credit, he did not resort to force (with one exception in the Baltics) to try to restore the status quo ante once things started to unravel.

A complicated man, to be sure, caught up in historical forces he could not fully control or even influence.

Mitchell Reiss


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