On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachov resigned as President of the Soviet Union.

The red flag was lowered at the Kremlin, and the next day, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

The BBC reported:

Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union for almost seven years and executive president for nearly two, has stepped down from office.

He announced his resignation in a 10 minute speech, broadcast live on television, as the Soviet Union passed into history.

It has been replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The 60-year-old appeared solemn but composed.

“Due to the situation which has evolved as a result of the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent states I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” he said.

He said he was resigning on a matter of principle, adding the decision to dismantle the state should have been made “on the basis of popular will”.

The NY Times reported:

Mr. Gorbachev’s moment of farewell was stark. Kremlin guards were preparing to lower the red union flag for the last time. In minutes, Mr. Gorbachev would sign over the nuclear missile launching codes for safeguarding to Mr. Yeltsin, his rival and successor as the dominant politician of this agonized land….

The flag was lowered from its floodlit perch at 7:32 tonight. A muted moment of awe was shared by the few pedestrians crossing Red Square.

‘Why are you laughing at Lenin?’ a man, obviously inebriated against the winter cold, suddenly shouted in the square. He reeled near Lenin’s tomb.

The mausoleum was dusky pink against the evergreen trees outside the Kremlin walls. Within, for all the sense of history wheeling in the night sky, the embalmed remains of the Communst patriarch still rested.

The drunk was instantly shushed by a passer-by who cautioned that ‘foreigners’ were watching and he should not embarrass the reborn Russia.

‘Foreigners?’ laughed another Muscovite. ‘Who cares? They’re the ones who are feeding us these days.’

President George H.W. Bush gave a televised speech that evening:

Good evening, and Merry Christmas to all Americans across our great country.

During these last few months, you and I have witnessed one of the greatest dramas of the twentieth century — the historic and revolutionary transformation of a totalitarian dictatorship, the Soviet Union, and the liberation of its peoples. As we celebrate Christmas — this day of peace and hope — I thought we should take just a few minutes to reflect on what these events mean for us, as Americans.

For over 40 years, the United States led the West in the struggle against Communism and the threat it posed to our most precious values. This struggle shaped the lives of all Americans. It forced all nations to live under the specter of nuclear destruction. From Union, a Commonwealth

That confrontation is now over. The nuclear threat — while far from gone — is receding. Eastern Europe is free. The Soviet Union itself is no more. This is a victory for democracy and freedom. It’s a victory for the moral force of our values. Every American can take pride in this victory, from the millions of men and women who have served our country in uniform, to millions of Americans who supported their country and a strong defense under nine presidents….

(I’ve been unable to find a video of President Bush’s televised address, if anyone finds it, please post a link in the comments and I’ll add it.)

http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1225.html

That victory, of course, was several decades in the making, at the cost of tens of thousands of American lives fighting global communist expansionism. It also was a victory born of strength, not submission.

It was a victory opposed by Western leftists who sought to undermine the will to fight at every turn and in every place they could.

Leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were denigrated and mocked as warmongers and fools. Thankfully, they and other stood strong when weakness was the politically easier position.

There’s a lesson there, as we move forward to confront and defend against new and old foes.

(H/t to Prof. Donald Douglas for reminding me of this anniversary)