Two men initially set the tone. The language used by Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush on board a ship anchored in a Maltese harbour in December 1989 was ambitious. The former declared that the world was leaving one epoch and entering another. The latter spoke of transforming the East–West relationship into one of ‘enduring co-operation’. George W.H. Bush (b.1924) knew much more about the world on the ground than most US presidents. His initial caution had been welcomed by his fellow-Republicans but others, including some in his own party, felt that the time had come for eloquence. The USA could not give the appearance of being in second place behind a Soviet Union now apparently eager to make the world safe for democracy. Ironically, therefore, ‘enduring co-operation’ initially manifested itself in verbal competition to own this ‘new world’.
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