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He stressed economics instead: a crackdown on vodka consumption, laziness, and “hooliganism” said to be responsible for “stagnation”; and, when that failed, a far-reaching perestroika, or restructuring, of the economy.

It was in connection with this economic campaign that surprising developments in foreign policy began to occur. R., no less than in earlier times, desperately needed Western technology and credits in order to make up for its own backwardness.

After 1969 Presidents Reagan, the United States completed the cycle with a final, self-confident assertion of will—and this time, the Soviets appeared to break.

As early as 1985 the “new thinking” of the younger Communist apparatchiks began to surface. In 1986 Gorbachev said that economic power had supplanted military power as the most important aspect of security in the present age—an amazing admission for a state whose superpower status rested exclusively on its military might.

Critics still feared that stripping Europe of nuclear missiles might only enhance the value of the Soviets’ conventional superiority and called for parallel agreements through the mutual and balanced force reduction talks on NATO and Warsaw Pact armies.

In Moscow in mid-1988, Reagan and Gorbachev discussed an even bolder proposal: reduction of both strategic nuclear arsenals by 50 percent. would adopt a “defensive posture,” and he invited the NATO countries to do the same.

Others, including the Reagan administration, were more cautious.

Soviet leaders had launched “peace offensives” many times before, always with the motive of seducing the West into opening up trade and technology.

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By 1987 most Western observers still called for deeds to match the words pouring forth in the Soviet Union, but they were persuaded that an end to the Cold War was a real possibility.