In Aslund’s Russia’s Capitalist Revolution, the author wrote at length about the reasons why Russia underwent reform of its economic system but did not become a democracy in the traditional sense as understood by the Western world. The author took on this question in part because of the belief among many that there is some connection between democracy and capitalism. Aslund shows that Russia only took on one of these values, and he discusses his perceived reasons for this. For one, he argues, Mikhail Gorbachev made many mistakes, allowing Boris Yeltsin to rise to power in a country that was dissatisfied with the way the Soviet Union broke up. Gorbachev did not quite understand the nationalist Eastern European world. More than that, he had a fundamental misunderstanding of various elements of his own environment, including how to manage the expectations of his people. The author’s method is an analysis of primary sources from the period and the time in which the conflict took place. The author analyzes these sources to come to some understanding of what took place both in the world of politics and in the economic realm in Russia during that time of turmoil.
Leffler’s article “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall” argues that the American role in bringing down the Berlin Wall was far less than any American politician has been willing to admit in years. As the author notes, American presidents and other policy makers have used the fall of the Berlin Wall to show the strength of free trade, the strength of the American state department, and even the strength of the concepts of freedom. The author argues that this is flatly wrong. The author argues that there were many reasons why the Wall came down, including the hard work of non-governmental organizations. On top of that, he argues that there was a human rights revolution that went along with the hard work of the NGOs. The human rights revolution helped push people toward bringing down the wall, and even if the US had some impact on this, the American efforts were incidental to this process. The author’s own processes are important in this case. He decided to take on everything that was previously known about the situation. He took a contrarian view of the fall of the Berlin Wall, searching for other answers to a question that had previously been answered in a way the author did not agree with.
Lebow and Stein’s article “Reagan and the Russians” is different from those presented before because it was written more than 20 years ago. Written in 1994, the article is closer to the time in which it analyzes. The articles that have been covered previously were backward looking, providing insight after a long period of time had passed and the authors were able to digest more information that augmented their understanding. Lebow and Stein did not have this benefit of time. Rather, they had just insight coming directly from the time in which the Russian change of power happened. The author makes a bold claim—that Reagan did not really win the Cold War, but that the Cold War was won in spite of the efforts of Reagan. Importantly, the process of this author was somewhat different, which might be why the opinion and argument is so much different. The authors spoke to Gorbachev and got his opinion on the matter. Surely, he would be of the mind that he had a massive impact on the end of the Cold War, and he would not want to give Reagan credit. These authors’ different process provided the basis for the difference in opinion presented by this work.
- Aslund, Anders. Russia’s capitalist revolution: Why market reform succeeded and democracy failed. Peterson Institute, 2007.
- Lebow, Richard Ned, and Janice Gross Stein. “Reagan and the Russians.” Atlantic Monthly 273.2 (1994): 35-9.