From 1989 to 2014: Young Vladimir Putin and the Irony of Helsinki

Mikhail Gorbachev & George H.W Bush signing an agreement on chemical weapons in Washington , D.C, 1990. Image: Executive Office of the President of the United States/Wikimedia

A quarter of a century has passed since the end of the Cold War. In the West, a new generation of leaders is in power, most of whom had little personal involvement in the East-West standoff that defined international politics for most of the post-1945 era.  By contrast, Russia has been under the stewardship of a leader who came of age politically with the fall of the Iron Curtain. Mikhail Gorbachev recently warned that a new Cold War is emerging. But what, if any, are the links between the events of 1989 and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014? Can we make sense of Europe’s renewed confrontation with its eastern neighbour by peering into the past? Reflection on the events of 1989 sheds light on those of 2014 in two ways: by illustrating how Vladimir Putin’s personal experiences of the end of the Cold War have shaped his foreign policy priorities, and by highlighting the importance of Mikhail Gorbachev’s acceptance of the Helsinki principle in shaping the post-Cold War European order.

A World Without Walls

One of 1000 styrofoam blocks that will be knocked down on 9 November on Potsdamer Platz / Photo: Silvia Azzouzi
One of 1000 styrofoam blocks that will be knocked down on 9 November on Potsdamer Platz / Photo: Silvia Azzouzi
The festivities organized in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Wall these days are plenty in number and can hardly be overlooked. Besides the official ceremony today there are many exhibitions, concerts, discussion circles taking place; there was even a U2 concert at the Brandenburger gate Thursday night.

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy took the occasion to organize a conference with the adequate title “A World Without Walls – An International Congress on “Soft Power,” Cultural Diplomacy and Interdependence.

Renowned figures from international politics and academia reflected on the development of international relations since 1989, the challenges faced by the leaders of the future, and the growing influence of cultural diplomacy and “soft power” in the contemporary political international environment.


ISN Weekly Theme: Twenty Years Since the Fall of the Wall

The Berlin Wall in 1987, photo: fjords/flickr
The Berlin Wall in 1987, photo: fjords/flickr

Two decades after the fall of the Wall the world and Germany itself is afforded a moment for self-reflection and an opportunity for analysis of the consequences of that momentous event. As well as providing us with a unique reference point in terms of the end of the Cold War and Cold War history more generally, the end of Germany’s division provides us with a benchmark for the analysis of the progress that Germany has made since its re-unification nearly two decades ago.

  • In our Links section we feature 20 Years After the Wall, a web page provided by Spiegel Online that offers articles, background and opinions on the anniversary of the fall of the Wall.