Misha Japaridze / AP

The collapse of the Soviet Union freed both U.S. and U.S.S.R. policymakers to reveal how they really felt. In a series of extraordinary conferences in the 1990s, Soviet generals, intelligence officials, and diplomats came to the United States and Europe—a “limited" Soviet invasion, one joked—to narrate the history of arms control as they had experienced it. Those conferences, which have been documented in transcripts hosted by the nonprofit National Security Archives, shed light on a critical period of U.S.-Soviet strife, one that has important parallels to today’s conflict with Iran. I’ve read through those transcripts and spoken to living participants to get perspective on what the men involved—they were virtually all men—understood at the time.

To access this story, become a member

Sign up for our brand-new membership program, The Masthead, and you’ll not only receive exclusive content you can’t find anywhere else—you’ll also help fund a sustainable future for journalism.

Find Out More

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.