Book Review: The Final Act: The Helsinki Accords and the Transformation of the Cold War


by Michael Cotey Morgan

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018. Pp. xvi, 400. Notes., biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 069117606X

Setting the Soviets Up for the Fall

Prof. Morgan (North Carolina), a specialist in modern international politics, tackles the grueling negotiations and politicking that helped make the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) at Helsinki a success, ultimately helping pave the war for the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The “Helsinki Accords” were the most comprehensive agreement between the West and the Warsaw Pact to that time. They covered a range of issues, including territorial integrity, the peaceful settlement of disputes, international cooperation, and, most importantly in the long run, respect for human rights and freedoms, this last essentially committing the Soviets to permit independent human rights activity.

Morgan parses the many domestic political problems President Ford faced, given initial skepticism from both U.S. political parties, with many people fearful the agreement would cement Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

In fact, the accords became a beacon for dissident voices in the Soviet Bloc, leading to increased openness, and the agreement was a major victory for the West in the Cold War. They were ultimately a critical milestone in the collapse of the USSR, which ironically had initiated the negotiations.

Morgan has done a brilliant job, in the process reminding us of largely unrecognized Gerald Ford’s critical role in helping bring about an end to the Cold War, and The Final Act, a volume in the Princeton series “America in the World”, is an essential read for anyone interested in the Cold War


Note: The Final Act is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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