TFR 36 – East-West Relations


East-West relations have entered a new phase. Changes in the Soviet Union's domestic and foreign policies have already affected the climate of East-West relations and, in some areas, its substance. Mikhail Gorbachev's new policies suggest new approaches to the future of the Soviet Union's domestic system, its foreign policies, and East-West relations. It would be a mistake, however, to analyze these developments or to devise Western policies in terms of a single personality, to be lasting they must take into account the fundamental necessities facing the Soviet Union and the opportunities before the democracies.

We have prepared this report in the belief that our countries face a challenge that will shape the future of international relations for several decades. So far, our countries have not reached a consensus on the significance of this challenge, on the degree to which it reflects a lasting change in Soviet policies, or even on our own attitudes in relation to it.

Some believe that, until much more has changed in the Soviet Union, the industrial democracies should wait prudently on the sidelines or continue the same general policies they have pursued since World War II. Others argue that the Soviet threat has changed so completely that the existing defense and political arrangements can be dramatically altered.

Based on our collective experience of dealing with the Communist World, discussions with present Soviet leaders including Mr. Gorbachev, and studies by experts in the West, we believe that our countries have a rare opportunity to change the nature of East-West relations in ways beneficial to the West, provided they develop a clear agenda and strategy. On the other hand, passivity or worse a posture of delayed and uncoordinated reaction to Soviet initiatives would enable the Kremlin to define the East-West agenda and serve primarily Soviet interests.

Few would contest that our countries have a profound stake in developments inside the Soviet Union. For more than four decades, protecting our national security and the freedom of other peoples from Soviet expansionism has placed a tremendous burden on our countries and occasionally on our relationships with each other. During this period we have had to live with the threat of devastating conflict. We take pride in the fact that defenses have been maintained and military conflict deterred.

We do not expect to reduce these burdens substantially overnight. Mr. Gorbachev cannot wish away the fundamental differences in systems, outlooks and interests that have separated the Soviet bloc from the non-Communist world. Nor should our leaders expect this. Change will come slowly and ambivalently. In the meantime, our countries will have to remain strong and vigilant. A successful transformation to a more peaceful East-West relationship is not guaranteed. New foundations for East-West relations, if they are to be solid, must be built arduously brick by brick.


Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Member of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; former President of the French Republic
Yasuhiro Nakasone, Member of the Diet; former Prime Minister of Japan
Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.; former U.S. Secretary of State; former U.S. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Table of Contents

Authors' Foreword
I. Soviet Trends
- General
- Domestic Reforms
- Foreign Policy
II. The Trilateral Agenda
- The Strategic Relationship
- Regional Conflicts
- The Future of Europe
- East-West Economic Relations
- The Role of the Soviet Union in Asia
- The Protection of Human Rights
- Summary
III. Concluding Remarks

  • Topics: Economics, Security, Multilateral Cooperation
  • Region:  North America, Europe, Pacific Asia
  • Publisher:  The Trilateral Commission
  • Publication Date:  © 1989
  • ISBN:  0-930503-06-6
  • Pages:  23
  • Complete Text: Click here to download