Former US ambassador gives talk on American-Russian relations

Josh Willis

Jack Matlock, former United States ambassador to the Soviet Union, visited the LBJ Library on Tuesday and said current American-Russian relations are intensifying.

Matlock said he fears the aggression between the U.S. and Russia is relatively high.

“The rhetoric now in Russia and Washington reminds us of the height of the Cold War,” Matlock said. “I don’t think we are entering a new cold war, even though the rhetoric sounds like it.”

In the modern political climate, Matlock believes the U.S. is taking the wrong steps in addressing Russia.

“I think we have gotten ourselves in a very dangerous situation, in terms of our relationship, in part, because we have failed to understand some of the lessons we should have learned when we ended the Cold War,” Matlock said.

After studying at Duke University, Matlock attended Columbia University, where he specialized in Russian studies. Matlock went on to teach at Dartmouth College, but decided he wanted more from his occupation later on.

“He decided he could do better things than teaching nasty undergrads,” government professor Zoltan Barany said. “He had an explicit goal in mind to become the American ambassador to the Soviet Union.”

Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, said Matlock’s involvement in the Cold War makes him an ideal source for information on the contemporary relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

“There are few who know more and were more instrumental in the ending of the Cold War than Jack Matlock,” Updegrove said.

Matlock, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia, said the notion that the U.S. single-handedly brought an end to communism is incorrect. He said Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union and general secretary of the communist party, brought communism to an end in the Soviet Union.

“It wasn’t military pressure, but Gorbachev, who, step by step, removed the party from control,” Matlock said. “He was able to do that because the Cold War was over and the lack of military pressure from the outside freed him up to try internal reforms.”

Matlock said the Cold War ended before the Soviet Union collapsed, and communism still existed in the Soviet Union years after the Cold War had come to an end.

“What actually ended the Cold War was negotiations, backed by strength, but it wasn’t strength alone,” Matlock said. “As much as we negotiated an end to the Cold War, we proved the power of diplomacy, rather than the power of military strength.”