In this interview, Professor Cohen reflects on US-Russian relations, his interest in Russian history, his friendships with Robert C. Tucker, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Anna Larina, his meeting with Svetlana Alliluyeva, and his (and his wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel‘s) long-time association with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Since I began my podcast in April 2015 at the University of Michigan, I have interviewed a diverse array of experts from Sergey Markedonov to Ellendea Proffer Teasley to Jack Matlock. Unfortunately, due to an increased workload over the next few years, I will no longer be updating this podcast on a regular basis. However, I thank both my guests and my listeners for many incredible experiences.
The fifteenth installment of the Reconsidering Russia podcast series features celebrated American Ambassador Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
In this wide-ranging interview, Ambassador Matlock discusses his life and career. It encompasses discussions of his interest in Russia, his first meeting with his wife Rebecca, his first assignment in Moscow in 1961, his diplomatic work in Africa, his time as Director of Soviet Affairs in the State Department in the 1970s, his work for Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr. as the American ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991, and his first impressions of, and meetings with, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Ambassador Matlock also reflects on the folly of NATO expansion and an interventionist American foreign policy.
In light of the recent Ukraine crisis, there has been a renewed interest in the events surrounding the final years of the Soviet Union. This 1994 documentary, Conversations with Gorbachev, by Rosemarie Reed helps shed light on those events, from the first-hand perspective of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, interviewed by Professor of Russian and Soviet Studies at NYU and Princeton Dr. Stephen F. Cohen.
It also includes Gorbachev’s insights on reintegration in the post-Soviet space and his support for the basic concept for a Eurasian Customs Union of former Soviet republics. When Dr. Cohen asks him “what do you think will be the reaction in the United States if any kind of new ‘larger Russia’ union, confederation, association begins to emerge?”, Gorbachev responds “But why? But why? But why is it that Washington ought to decide what relations there should be between the former republics of the Soviet Union?”
Watch the entire film in four parts below, presented with permission of the filmmaker: