From Washington to Moscow: US-Soviet Relations and the Collapse of the USSR
Louis Sell is a retired Foreign Service officer who served twentyseven years with the US Department of State, specializing in Soviet and Balkan affairs. He is the author of Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, also published by Duke University Press.
The August Coup
The failed August 1991 coup marked the practical finish of Gorbachev’s rule, the triumph of Boris Yeltsin, and the end of the USSR. This chapter discusses the origins, events, and consequences of the coup. It describes Gorbachev’s ambiguous relations with the coup, Yeltsin’s courageous and decisive resistance, the incompetent behavior of the coup organizers, and divisions within the Soviet military that resulted in cancellation of a planned attack on coup opponents gathered at the Russian White House. The chapter discusses reaction to the coup by President Bush, the role of the US embassy, and the cautious response by most Soviet republican leaders. Based on interviews with US embassy officials the chapter casts doubts on assertions made by some that the US embassy offered asylum and intelligence support to Yeltsin It concludes with Gorbachev’s missteps and humiliation by Yeltsin after the coup and describes the euphoria that gripped Moscow, based on the author’s personal experience.