Sergey Radchenko: Gorbachev, Not O'Neill, Deserves BRIC Credit





Sergey Radchenko is lecturer in the history of Asian-American relations at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. He is the author of Two Suns in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-67.

Thirty years ago, on March 24, 1982, Leonid Brezhnev made a speech in Tashkent that would set in motion the process of rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing. The general secretary, who had only a few months to live, had by then succumbed to senility and did not fully understand the implications of his Tashkent gesture. He would sign his name on any paper placed before him by his advisers, who in turn vied for influence over policy with ranking party, government and military officials, some of whom wanted to reach out to China.

In this case, the China-optimists won the day. We know why now: The breakdown of detente, U.S. sanctions and U.S. President Ronald Reagan's militant rhetoric shook the Kremlin leadership into trying to break out of international isolation by mending fences with China after a bitter 20-year feud.

In the 1960s, former Communist allies the Soviet Union and China quarreled over ideology, and in the 1970s they built up forces at their border. Chinese leader Mao Zedong sought safety from the Soviet "social imperialists" in closer alignment with the United States. Brezhnev denounced the "perfidious" Chinese to U.S. President Richard Nixon, warning that China was as ungrateful as it was unreliable. The Soviets, he intimated, had learned the hard way.

But the fears of old gave way to hopes of a better relationship...




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