(…the Reagan-Gorbachev era of…glasnost)

Browsing through some of our old Centurion archives we came across one of our cartoons from those times back in 1987, which brought us some reflections comparing the end of the Cold War…and our relations with Russia today.

President Reagan and President Gorbachev had conducted a series of mini summits, which began with their low key rendezvous in Rekjavic, Iceland, followed up with others, which led to efforts to reduce our mutual arsenals of atomic weapons aimed at each other, to bring the long running Cold War between us and Soviet Russia to an end, and, ultimately, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and the demise of the Soviets. Those were all historic moments. Even so, both of these world leaders were criticized by their respective peoples for having had the gall to do so. For Reagan, he found himself ridiculed as being too naive and trusting of his counterpart. For Gorbachev, who had in the process declared for an era of “glasnost”, or détente between our two countries, he found himself almost being considered a traitor by his fellow Commisars. Such were the mutual rigidities of those times.

But big historic moments of that kind often have little noticed sidebar impacts, particularly at the lower levels of government worker-bees. So, up until that moment, even the most casual contact with anyone from the other side was severely restricted. Whenever that happened it was required that such contact be reported, or one faced disciplinary actions. For us Americans, failure to do so could range from a formal reprimand to loss of any security clearances and removal from one’s post or assignment…a career-buster for anyone in government service. For the Russians, the penalties could be much stiffer, including Siberia.

So, while the official line was that détente or “glasnost” was to be applauded, the residues of Cold War hostility and mistrust were difficult to overcome…and caused a few glitches here and there…one of them involving our Marine detachment at our embassy in Moscow, which caused a minor scandalous outcry here in the States. Marines being Marines, and typical hot-to-trot young American males to boot, their interpretation of “glasnost” went somewhat overboard, and the cartoon annex attached here explains how. Which just goes to show that switching gears from full-drive forward into…reverse…is never an easy matter.

Well, the Soviets are long gone, but both America and Russia are still having difficulties moving forward beyond just “glasnost”. We don’t expect President Obama and President Putin to go bowling together any time soon, while they thrash out any differences, but maybe a quiet family style picnic somewhere…might be worth a try. After all, both of our countries face a much more worrisome common enemy than each other…which we all call…terrorism.


two steps forward