Primary Sources

Mikhail Gorbachev Reports on the Trilateral Commission


During the significant changes that were brewing in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev (leader of the Soviet Union) met with members of the Trilateral Commission, a nongovernmental organization founded in 1973 by private citizens of Japan, North America, and Europe to foster mutual understanding and cooperation. In these notes from a Politburo meeting in January 1989, Gorbachev points to some of the questions and concerns that arose in his meeting with the former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the former president of France Valery Giscard d'Estaing, and the former Japanese prime minister, Yasuhiro Nakasone, all of who continued their involvement in foreign affairs and policies through this international commission. These notes show recognition on the part of these leaders that the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were on the verge of a new relationship with each other and with the rest of the world. Gorbachev acknowledges that Eastern European countries might break away from the Soviet Union, and points to the importance of working with these countries on economic and political reforms to avoid this break.


Anatoly Chernyaev, Notes from the Politburo Meeting, 21 January 1989, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, The Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

...It [the Trilateral Commission] is interested in everything that is going on, especially in our country.... I would emphasize two issues. First is how you—meaning we, the Soviet Union—are going to integrate into the world economy?... Second issue. They are coming to the conclusion that the biggest fights of perestroika are still ahead of us....

Kisa [Kissinger] ... asked me a direct question: How are you going to react if Eastern Europe wants to join the EC [European Community]?... They know that our friends are already knocking on the door. And we should also look at what processes are going on there now--the economic and the political--and where are they drifting.... The roads of our development will be very diverse, while we will preserve our commonality. We need a mechanism that would ensure our mutual understanding and interaction. There will be a lot of political, economic, and military-political questions.

... Comrades, we are on the eve of very serious things. Because we cannot give them [Eastern European countries] more than we are giving them now.... If we do not deal with that, there will be a split, and they will run away.

... Before it [a Trilateral Commission meeting], we should work this out--what can we give to our friends, and compare it with what the West can give them.... The peoples of those countries will ask: what about the CPSU, what kind of leash will it use to keep our countries in? They simply do not know that if they pulled this leash stronger, it would break....

...My impression from the meeting with the Trilateral Commission is the following: they understood in the West that the world needs a peaceful breathing spell--from the arms race, from the nuclear psychosis--as much as we need it. However, we need to know it all in detail in order not to make mistakes. They want to channel the processes in such a way as to limit as much as possible our influence on the world situation, they are trying to seize the initiative from us, present criteria of trust as tests: if the Soviet Union would not want to agree to something, we would act in a way to gain more points.

How to Cite this Source

Anatoly Chernyav, "Mikhail Gorbachev reports on the Trilateral Commission." Making the History of 1989, #138.

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