Primary Sources

From the Conversation of Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterand


In the mid- to late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on a new path for the Soviet Union by introducing significant changes to his country’s domestic and foreign policies, which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev’s glasnost resulted in a crucial shift toward more open dialogue not only within the Soviet Union but also with Western countries, as shown through his private dinner conversation held on July 5, 1989, with Francois Mitterand, the president of France. In their friendly discussion, the two leaders exhibited mutual respect for their personal views regarding foreign relations and the situation within Eastern Europe. This openness helped solidify a new and more cooperative relationship between the Soviet Union and Western countries.


Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterand, 5 July 1989, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, Notes of A.S. Chernyaev, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

... Mitterand. Every power is seeking a way to find its place in history. Besides, and I have already quoted these words by Tacitus yesterday, "every man always reaches the limit of his own power." That is why democracy must have a mechanism of political balances. Contrary to [Nicolae] Ceausescu [leader of Romania], who is cracking down, Todor Zhivkov is acting in a smarter, I would even say, more cunning, way.

... Gorbachev. We discussed with him [Zhivkov], in particular, the difficulties of the political process in the United States, the situation, in which the President always has to keep Congress in mind, and therefore sometimes he has to act timidly, or not to respond to Soviet initiatives.

Mitterand. In the past, U.S. Presidents used to be the masters of the game. Roosevelt, and Truman made their own independent foreign policies. By impeaching Nixon, the Congress took its revenge. However, George Bush would make very moderate policy even without the congressional constraint because he is a conservative. Not all conservatives are alike. Bush, as a President, has a very big drawback -- he lacks original thinking altogether.

Gorbachev. The question about the American internal political process interests me also in terms of building relations between the Parliament and the President. In Italy, for example, the complicated relations between various democratic institutions lead sometimes to the incompleteness, to the disruption of political process. In our country we have to concentrate on the implementation of radical reforms. Therefore it is undesirable that the center's initiative was compromised by disorderly relations with regions, with other democratic institutions. We need to find some gold median here.

... Gorbachev.... I think that there is such a situation in the world now that when people want to change their regime, their government, it is not by the way of revolution any more....

How to Cite this Source

Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterand, "From the Conversation of Mikhail Gorbachev and Francois Mitterand." Making the History of 1989, # 380.