The End of the Cold War: Ambassador Jack Matlock’s Inside Story

More than three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, many people today fear a return to a Cold War with Russia. So it’s important to understand how the first one ended.

Today we’re going back 20 years , to a conversation with the longtime foreign service officer, and one-time U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock.

His 2004 book was called Reagan and Gorbachev: How The Cold War Ended.

Get your copy of Jack Matlock’s book

As a top ranking career diplomat, Matlock was at the very center of the U.S.-Soviet relationship. He was there for everything from the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 to the Breakup of the Soviet Union almost 30 years later.

His book was packed with the kind of details and insight that only a key insider would have.

So here now, from 2004, Ambassador Jack Matlock.

Jack Matlock is 94 now, and lives in New Jersey.

Sergei Khrushchev


At the very height of the Cold War, in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, one of the most vilified man in the world – at least in the U.S. – was Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev,

For 11 years the USSR was led by this brash, arrogant, often angry man.

You may have heard that he wants. Famously said the Soviet Union would “bury” the United States. That, however, was a mistranslation, and it was not something Khrushchev ever actually said.

Khrushchev’s second son, Sergei, was in his 20s, watching closely as his father guided the USSR. Sergei eventually became a highly educated, and well-respected, engineer in the Soviet Union.

But finally, in 1991 — the same year the Soviet Union crumbled apart — Sergei Khrushchev emigrated to the United States, and became a naturalized US citizen in 1999.

I met him two years later, when he wrote a book about his father.

So here now, from 2001, Sergei Khrushchev”

Sergei Khrushchev died just days before his 85th birthday in 2020 at his home in Rhode Island. He died of a gunshot wound to the head, but an investigation found no signs of foul play, and no criminal charges were ever filed.

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Laura Walker

How would it make you feel if you woke up one day and realized your father was a traitor to his country?

Unfortunately that was more than just a rhetorical question for Laura Walker, whose father, John Walker Jr., is considered one of the most notorious and dangerous spies in American history.

By the time he was caught in the mid-1980s John Walker Jr. had been spying for the Soviet Union for over 20 years, even bringing his son Michael into the “Walker family spy ring,” as it became known.

And he tried to recruit his daughter Laura into his spy ring as well, after she joined the military, but it was only after she tipped off authorities that her father and brother were caught.

In 1988 Laura Walker wrote a book about called Daughter of Deceit. That’s when I have a chance to meet her. So here now from 1988, Laura Walker.

John Walker was sentenced 36 years ago this week to life in prison. He died in prison in 2014 at age 77.

Anatoli Gribkov & William Smith

For a few days in mid-October 1962, the world teetered on tghe brink of all-out nuclear war between the United States, led by President John F. Kennedy, and the Soviet Union, commanded by Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Photo: CIA Map, 1962 Cuba

It began when U.S. spy planes detected Soviet missiles being shipped to, and installed in, Cuba.

President Kennedy weas determined not to allow what was seen as an act of Soviet aggression in our hemisphere, whil Khrushchev was acting in what he believed was defensed of Cuba against possihble U.S. aggression.

The situation quickly escalated into a showdown that brought us to the edge, but ultimately, cooler heads prevailed.

Vladimir Pozner

Phgto: Augustas Didžgalvis

For decades the USSR — the Soviet UInion — was a major world power, but it was held together largely through force and intimidation.

Things began to unravel in the late 1980s — the momentum built after President Ronald Reagan delivered these words at the Berlin Wall:

The wall did come down two years later, and two years after that, the Soviet Union came to an end.

Watching it all, from a front-row seat, was high-profilpe Soviet journalist and broadcaster Vladimir Pozner, who was also a freqeuent guest on American television, largely because in his youth, he spent a lot of time in tghe U.S. abd vecame fluent in English.

I interviewed Vladimir Pozner several times, including in 1992, less than a year after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He had written a book called, appropriately, Eyewitness.

So here now, from 1992, former Soviet journalist Vladimir Pozner.

Vladimir Pozner is 86 now. He’s a naturalized U.S. citizen.