The Specter of Anarchy, The Hope of Transformation: The Role of Non-State Actors in the U.S. Response to Soviet Reform and Disunion, 1981-1996

Geoghegan, Kate, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Leffler, Melvyn, Department of History, University of Virginia

The Specter of Anarchy illuminates the critical, complex, and heretofore overlooked role of non-state actors in U.S. efforts to shape the trajectory of reform in the USSR during the volatile years surrounding its collapse. Beginning in late 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalizing initiatives rendered the USSR more accessible, “pluralistic,” and unstable. Changes in the USSR intersected with and fueled trends toward privatization and idealism in U.S. foreign policy to catalyze the expansion and transformation of U.S. non-governmental influence in the USSR.

George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy pioneered efforts to distribute democracy assistance to a nascent Soviet civil society. By 1989, fear of Soviet instability and hope generated by the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe impelled U.S. foundations and NGOs previously devoted to the bilateral relationship shift their attention to the internal course of perestroika.

Focused through 1990 on collaborating with Moscow to end the Cold War, U.S. policymakers relied upon unofficial organizations to forge contacts and interpret rapidly shifting events “on the ground” in the USSR. Thereafter, geostrategic, fiscal, and domestic political constraints pushed George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to delegate the task of promoting the (former) Soviet Union’s internal transformation to non-state actors. A public-private aid regime committed to the dual, and often contradictory, tracks of cooperating with Moscow and advancing democracy in Russia and its former empire emerged.

The gulf between Cold War and post-Soviet scholarship has obscured the origins, evolution, and impact of this regime. Highlighting the rise of democracy assistance and the Carnegie Corporation cooperative security network, this dissertation shows how changes in U.S. influence prior to 1991 laid the foundation for the U.S. response to the USSR’s collapse and post-Soviet “transition.” The Carnegie network linked U.S. security to Soviet stability and played a key role in securing U.S. aid for Soviet denuclearization. By contrast, beginning in 1989, democracy aid to democratic opposition and republican independence movements contradicted and undermined official U.S. support for Gorbachev, creating a tension in U.S. policy between democratization and cooperation with Moscow that would become entrenched.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
U.S. Foreign Policy, Soviet history, Cold War, Democratization, NGOs, Human Rights
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