Howthe Cold War Ended
Howthe Cold War Ended
Theterm “Cold War” underlines a period of sustained period ofmilitary and political tension between the two world powers that hademerged as the only stable economies after the Second World War. Themilitary and political tension pitted the Eastern Bloc composed ofthe Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact, against theWestern Bloc, which was composed of the United States, NATO andothers. The word “cold” underlined the fact that the conflict didnot involve any direct confrontation between the two blocs althoughthere were fundamental regional wars and proxy conflicts in partssuch as Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam. It is well noted that the endof the cold war was not automatic, rather varied factors both on thepart of the eastern bloc and the western bloc.
Oneof the key causes of the end of Cold War was the election of RonaldReagan as the president of the United States. Given that the Cold Warstarted after the Second World War, varied presidents had theopportunity to seek ways of either eliminating the conflict or atleast alleviating its effects. Scholars note that in the 70s,presidents such as Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter hadpersistently pursued détente, which involved reducing the tensionsof the Cold War and attainment of peaceful coexistent with the USSRor the Eastern Bloc1.However, Ronald Reagan’s strategy was a departure from thisstrategy as he opined that it was a one-way street that the SovietUnion used in pursuit of its own aims, which were the promotion of aone world socialist or communist state and the fostering of a worldrevolution2.Reagan noted that the soviets saw détente as an indication of thevulnerability and weakness of the United States, in which case hepursued peace through ensuring that no adversary came to theconclusion that they could defeat the United States3.Since the United States already occupied a secure position in termsof economic and military capabilities, Reagan did not merely intendto contain the communism that the Soviet Union espoused but alsosubdue it and reverse any gains that it had made. He knew that theSoviet Union was weaker than it seemed to be, in which case it couldcollapse if the United States competitively challenged it. Further,the government-controlled economy of the Soviet Union was incapableof competing against the free-market system of the United States, inwhich case Reagan launched a speedy and immense increase in thequality and quantity of the weaponry and military technology of theUnited States and dared the Soviet Union to match the same4.Reagan knew that the command economy of the United States would becrippled by any efforts to compete with the free enterprise system inthe arms race. Reagan complemented the military buildup with thepromotion of democracy and freedom all over the globe in the fullknowledge of the fact that people everywhere including the SovietUnion, would rise against totalitarian rule if given a choice5.These efforts weakened the global strength of the state-run economy,while the strategic defense initiative immensely intimidated theSoviets and caused them to get to the negotiating table so as toreduce nuclear weapons.
Inaddition, the end of the Cold War may have been predicated by theinvasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979 after the internalpolitical tensions pitting Mujahideen rebels against the AfghanCommunists, thereby threatening the regional stability. However, thisinvasion disrupted the relative peace and cooperation that existedbetween the United States and the Soviet Union. In essence, theformer supported the Mujahideen through providing them with portablesurface-to-air Stinger missiles that were devastatingly effective incompounding the air losses that the Soviet suffered in the war. Whilethe United States may have lost $1 billion in the Afghanistan war,the Soviets lost eight times as much, a factor that bankrupted theireconomy. These were compounded with the efforts of the United Statesto lower the price of oils in the 80s, which denied the Soviet Unionof immense hard currency inflows. The loses of the Soviets were interms of military personnel and resources such as helicopters, whichput enormous stresses on the centralized and faulty economic systemthat the nation had adopted. Further, it caused social discontent onthe part of the Soviet Union, with its populace underlining theunnecessary nature of the war. The government’s attempts atcovering up the invasion or even its consequences were futile, afactor that resulted in escalation of protests that no force had thecapacity of controlling. Scholars note that the Afghan War weakenedthe KGB, Military and the Communist Party, which were the threepillars on which the Soviet Union Stood6.
Further,Mikhail Gorbachev, in the face of the varied pressing economicproblems undertook the enormous task of restructuring the Sovietsystem which had stagnated both politically and economically. TheSoviet had experienced a decrease in agricultural productivity as allresources had been channeled to the military7.Further, its industry was aged and unable to compete against the newindustries of the West, not to mention the fact that it had sufferedimmense losses in the wars. Gorbachev, in essence, changed theeconomic and political systems of the country and enhanced opendialogue on national issues, religious freedoms, free market, anddemocracy in the country8.Similarly, anti-western attitudes were eliminated and relations andcontacts with the west enhanced. As much as the reforms wereenthusiastically accepted, they enabled dissent to come out freely.As a result of the immense bureaucracy and corruption that wasincorporated in the system, the reforms started by Gorbachevdestroyed the Soviet economy9.This resulted in the plummeting of the living standards, as well assatisfaction of the populace.
Thefree flow of the bitterness resulted in the revolution that startedin Poland in the late 80s. This was primarily driven by theSolidarity Movement, which had started in the early 80s. TheGorbachev reforms caused the movement to erupt with immense vigorcapturing 99% of the seats in the Polish Senate10.Unfortunately, the Soviets were unprepared to undertake a militaryintervention to contain the civic unrest, which caused a rapid spreadof the revolution. Indeed, all countries and people who had beenoppressed by the Soviets demanded independence, thereby causingconflict and ethnic disunity in the Soviet Union. By the timeGorbachev tried to reign in on the disintegration and unite thedifferent factions, the discontent was too much. Different countriesdisengaged themselves from the Soviet Union, with Gorbacheveventually becoming a private citizen.
TheCold War was a time when the only two countries to emerge from theSecond World War as strong conflicted indirectly without engaging inany direct military confrontation. In essence, they only foughtindirect wars with the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc fightingproxy wars against each other. However, the end of the Cold War waspredicated by varied factors that primarily weakened the Soviet Unionthereby bringing an end to the Cold War.
Theelection of President Reagan ushered in an era in which the UnitedStates actively challenged the Soviet Union, thereby causing economicdisintegration of the later as it tried to match up the militaryexploits of the former. In addition, the Soviet Union made themistake of invading Afghanistan, thereby disrupting the relativepeace that the Eastern Bloc had made with the Western one. This waralso devastated the Soviet economy especially in terms of militarypersonnel deaths and loss of military equipments. It is well notedthat the change in the governance in Soviet Union as propagated byMikhail Gorbachev, while increasing the freedom and democracy of theSoviets, also made a fertile ground for revolutions that eventuallycaused the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Numerous factions wereformed in the Soviet Union with some people feeling that MikhailGorbachev had taken the changes too far, while other felt that he hadnot gone far enough. Eventually, the Soviet Union disintegrated withMikhail becoming a private citizen.
Introduction:What was the cold war? Which countries were the main stakeholders andhow did they conflict?
PresidentRonal Reagan’s presidency and the strategies he used inemancipating the Soviets Economically. How were his strategiesdifferent from those of the previous presidents?
Invasionof the Soviets in Afghanistan and how it affected the Soviets. Whatrole did the United States play in this war and how did it affect theSoviets?
MikhailGorbachev’s policies in restructuring the Soviet Union. What wereits effects on the stability of the Soviet Union? How did itinfluence the Polish revolution? What were the overall effects on theSoviet Union and the cold war at large?
Brown,Chris and Kirsten Ainsley, UnderstandingInternational Relations.Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
Hanhimaki,Jussi, Joseph A. Maiolo, Kirsten Schulze, and Anthony Best. AnInternational History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond.London: Routledge, 2008.
Baylis,John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens. TheGlobalization of World Politics: An introduction to internationalrelations.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010
Mayall,James, WorldPolitics: Progress and its Limits(Cambridge: Polity, 2000)
1 Mayall, James, World Politics: Progress and its Limits (Cambridge: Polity, 2000)
2 Mayall, James, World Politics: Progress and its Limits (Cambridge: Polity, 2000)
3 Baylis, John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens. The Globalization of World Politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010
4 Hanhimaki, Jussi, Joseph A. Maiolo, Kirsten Schulze, and Anthony Best. An International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond. London: Routledge, 2008.
5 Hanhimaki, Jussi, Joseph A. Maiolo, Kirsten Schulze, and Anthony Best. An International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond. London: Routledge, 2008.
6 Mayall, James, World Politics: Progress and its Limits (Cambridge: Polity, 2000)
7 Hanhimaki, Jussi, Joseph A. Maiolo, Kirsten Schulze, and Anthony Best. An International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond. London: Routledge, 2008.
8 Baylis, John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens. The Globalization of World Politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010
9 Brown, Chris and Kirsten Ainsley, Understanding International Relations. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
10 Baylis, John, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens. The Globalization of World Politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010