Abstract

This article evaluates the U.S. role in the revolutions of 1989, specifically the claim that the U.S. government was a catalyst, accelerating the pace of change in Eastern Europe. Drawing from memoirs, declassified U.S. cables, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports, and underground literature from the Polish opposition, the article shows that the policy of George H. W. Bush's administration was not a “catalyst” and did not even “grease the skids” to remove Communist governments from power during the first ten months of 1989. Rather, the United States pursued a much more cautious policy that actively sought to impede the pace of change. The evidence indicates that U.S. policy was much more fixated on promoting stability in Eastern Europe, preferring evolutionary change to revolutionary transformation. The article concludes by placing these findings in the context of the emerging scholarship on the revolutions of 1989 and the Bush administration's foreign policy

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