Humanitarian Aid, Soft Power, and the End of the Cold War in Poland

Authored by: Gregory F. Domber

The Routledge Handbook of the Cold War

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415677011
eBook ISBN: 9781315882284
Adobe ISBN: 9781134700653


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Since the late 1990s, literature on the role of non-governmental organizations in East-West interactions has provided complex pictures of how the West influenced the revolutionary movements that transformed the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War. Robert English has explored the transnational flow of ideas from West to East that shaped Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his advisors’ worldviews, to lay the foundation for Soviet “New Thinking” – the revolutionary doctrine that paved the way for perestroika, glastnost, and a new strategic doctrine that allowed greater independence for East European Communists. 1 Matthew Evangelista’s work has shed light on how transnational activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) impacted Soviet thinking on nuclear and conventional war, ultimately shaping Soviet decisions to disarm unilaterally as well as through negotiations with the United States. 2 Most recently, Sarah B. Snyder has illustrated how a transnational network of NGOs and activists, inspired by the Helsinki Final Act, successfully persuaded the Soviet Union to embrace human rights norms, ending an essential point of competition and confrontation between the superpowers. 3 Each of these books tells a story, not of one superpower triumphing over another, but of the nuanced ways that independent organizations influenced the dynamics between East and West, shaping the United States relationship with the Communist world over the long term.

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