Sinatra Doctrine

From Academic Kids

The Sinatra Doctrine was the name that the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev used jokingly to describe their policy of allowing neighboring Warsaw Pact nations to determine their own internal affairs. This doctrine, named after the Frank Sinatra song "My Way" because it allowed these nations to go their own way, contrasted with the earlier Brezhnev Doctrine, which had been used to justify the invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 as well as the non-Warsaw pact nation of Afghanistan in 1979.

Structural flaws and growing economic problems were the reason why the Soviet Union couldn't afford to "protect" (as it was implied by Brezhnev) these countries anymore.

The phrase was coined on 25 October 1989 by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov, who has a reputation as a wit. He appeared on the popular U.S. television program Good Morning America to discuss a speech made two days earlier by Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, in which the latter had said that the Soviets recognised the freedom of choice of all countries (specifically including the Warsaw Pact states). Gerasimov told the interviewer that "We now have the Frank Sinatra doctrine. He has a song, "I Did It My Way." So every country decides on its own which road to take." He was asked whether this would include Moscow accepting the rejection of communist parties in the Soviet bloc. He replied: "That's for sure . . . political structures must be decided by the people who live there."

The "Sinatra Doctrine" has been seen as Moscow giving permission to its allies to decide their own futures. In fact, this had already been Soviet policy for some time; the first non-communist government in Poland since the 1940s had taken power the previous month. The government of Hungary had opened its border with Austria in August 1989, dismantling the Iron Curtain on its border, and was doing nothing to prevent thousands of East Germans from fleeing to the West. The hardline East German Communist government of Erich Honecker bitterly resented this breach in the traditional "socialist unity" of the Soviet bloc and appealed to Moscow to rein in the Hungarians. Shevardnadze's speech and Gerasimov's memorable description of the new policy amounted to a rebuff of Honecker's appeals: in effect, saying "don't bother us with your problems, work them out yourselves and with your neighbours."

The proclamation of the "Sinatra Doctrine" had dramatic effects across the Soviet bloc. Erich Honecker had been forced to resign a week earlier, and his replacement Egon Krenz was attempting to hold the line against massive anti-government demonstrations. The "Sinatra Doctrine" signalled that the Soviet Union would not aid the East German communists, and a few weeks later the hardline Communist governments of East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria were ousted, bringing to an end the Cold War and the division of Europe.

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