Browse Topics



The Real Day the Cold War Ended
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

audio Listen to Schorr's essay.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Oct. 7, 2001 -- Maybe history will note Oct. 3rd, 2001, as the day the Cold War truly ended. That was the day Russian President Vladimir Putin journeyed to NATO headquarters in Brussels and said his country was ready for a new security relationship that would link Russia to the West.

Or maybe the date was Sept. 11th, when Putin reached President Bush on Air Force One, the first foreign leader to call him after the terrorist attacks. He offered his support. He also decreed a moment of silence all over his vast domain.

In the decade after the fall of the Soviet empire, relations with the American superpower had been ambivalent. There had been much talk of a new partnership with a newly democratic state. Last June Mr. Bush looked into President Putin's eyes, saw his soul and invited the Russian president to his ranch in Texas.

"The Russian hawks haven't given up. But the day that Russia joined the anti-terrorist alliance may mark the day that Russia joined the West."

Daniel Schorr

But under the summit froth of friendship, Putin's military command and his hawkish advisers bridled at American plans for missile defense and expansion of NATO to include neighboring Baltic states. The arrest of Robert Hanssen, FBI agent-turned-Russian spy, exacerbated relations between the two governments. So did American criticism of Russia's war in Chechnya.

Putin's advisers remain split between those who saw Russia's destiny as being a part of the West and the hawks who envisaged a Russia restored to superpowerhood. But after September 11th, the argument seemed to be over. Russia offered intelligence assistance on Afghanistan and withdrew its reservations about American bases in the once-Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The influence of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov dimmed as the other Ivanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, worked with American officials on concrete measures of cooperation.

Putin called in his 12 top advisers and told them he wanted everybody to be creative about assisting the anti-terrorist coalition. He announced that Russia would support the campaign against Osama bin Laden's network and would supply the Northern Alliance with arms for the war against the Taliban.

Long-range predictions from short-range circumstances are always risky. The Russian hawks haven't given up. But the day that Russia joined the anti-terrorist alliance may mark the day that Russia joined the West.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.