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What caused the end of the Cold War?


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The ending of the Cold War was one of the defining moments of the 20th Century, but what would you guys say caused it?  Was it Reagan and his strict anti communism?  Was it Gorbachev with his Glasnost and Perestroika, or was it something totally different?

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Was it Reagan and his strict anti communism?

How would Reagan be able to do that? He was just as anti-communist as the previous presidents, no?

Was it Gorbachev with his Glasnost and Perestroika, or was it something totally different?

I would say that the Soviet Union got shaken from inside by it's own people, who were disappointed of the direction of the union. It was the longing for more openness and less police state, I think.

But I don't believe it was anything economical, I mean, Cuba and North Korea runs by the same economics as the Soviet Union did, although they are not as rich since they no longer have "a union" to trade with.

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He was much more anti-Communist than the previous couple of Presidents.  He actively pursued methods to 'rollback' nations with too much Soviet influence.  Even Margaret Thatcher claimed it was the Reagan Doctrine that ended the Cold War, as Reagan showed them that no matter where they went, the US would go too, and stop the spread of Soviet influence, so effectively the Soviets had no where left to run.

Soviet economics had a lot to do with it.  In the early 80s the Soviet Union was spending 25% of its GNP on Defense, and neglecting just about every other area, not to mention the vast amounts of corruption within the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union had to spend vast amounts on their Armed Forces to match the US, as they did not have the technological advantage, only the conventional advantage, ie ground forces.  Gorbachev's openness backfired too, as people could now criticize things, they chose to criticise him.

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Reagan's renewal of arms race was what started to crash down on soviet union and specifically Gorbachev. As Soviet Union was unable to keep up with the arms race since the economy was less productive than US's economy. This had to do with the economic system, corruption and different population and resources available. Also US maneuvering thanks to Nixon and Kissinger made China a separate from USSR's block and return of it as and ally was least likely now.

Gorbachev attempts to bring more liberty back fired as he did it too quickly and thought that it would work. The fact that he loosened people very quickly meant that people immediately went to the extremes. The greed of the leaders of the Soviet Republics also should be accessed, during the referendum of whether the soviet union should be broken up or not, most people voted against break up except Baltic republics, however the leaders of republics did not care and broke up anyway. The fact that Warsaw pact countries also broke away from Soviet Union meant the loss of trading partners for Soviet Union.

As for police state, US was as much a police state as was USSR. A lot of same activities were carried out by the both powers. CIA was in charge of approving the news releases of all the major news source in US. It funded the Hollywood movies where it made sure that certain characters were portrayed in certain ways. One example I think was movie in 1950s about golf where the directors were told by CIA to put blacks in the background in order to counter act the criticism of USSR that US was exploiting blacks and they were not allowed to enjoy the same lifestyle as whites. Back than all golf clubs banned blacks from playing or watching the games.

Different civil rights activist were often watched by FBI under suspicion that they were the under cover communists trying to sabotage US. For example read the book by Edgar Hoover on communism (former head of FBI, the FBI building is named after him).

As for USSR's defense spending, US was spending and still is spending a lot. Its defense spendings account for 38% of the world's defense spendings so it is quite big spendings.

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"Was it Gorbachev with his Glasnost and Perestroika, or was it something totally different?"

Hm, the end of the Cold War was a result of internal struggle, but it was Gorbachev's policies (coupled by the external conditions perpetuated by most of the West) that ultimately frustrated the revolutionary movement that brought down the Berlin Wall by funnelling the hopes of the many into the particular style of capitalism that now grips Russia, and by concentrating on defending the kernel of centralised power.

That is to say, if it wasn't for Gorbachev, the revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe generally could have flourished into an actual democratic socialist revolution. But because the core power structure was maintained so effectively, the bureaucrats became unassailable, transitioning smoothly to becoming the owners of the private cartels, and there was nowhere to go but capitalism.

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in Czechoslovakia, it all started already in 1968, when the censorship was partly lifted up and everybody could clearly see the West is doing economically better - what many have predicted already in '48, but now the masses were conscious of it

it was Breznev, who did stop the process, and after his death all the tensions between population and the party broke out...if he could appoint find some energic, pragmatic and selfconscious heir like Putin it may have developed in other way; but he left the power to his old fellows; there had begun the period of a really fast decline, both of economic growth and political integrity (although that's quite an euphemism for a police state); the center was cummulating power since the first war, depending thightly on the principle of unquestionable authority of Stalin/Chruscov/Breznev (or Tito/Gottwald/Ceausescu etc on a national level), which could not be regained by the old men around Andropov and it was even relativized by Gorbacov; he was soviet Party's suicide agent

then in summer of 1989 Hungarians had open the borders and there was a wave of migration from all communist countries to the West Germany, all later action was just a slow acceptance of the national Parties of the fact, that nobody wants them to rule further

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"So you wouldn't attribute any of it to Reagan's policies?"

Not really; I can't think of any actual policies that would really have had a significant effect. I mean, channelling investment into East Germany and helping the Taliban in Afghanistan probably contributed a little, but I don't think not doing either of those would mean that the USSR would not have liberalised.

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Well, he basically stopped the Soviets from having any kind of global influence, which futher crushed the Soviet morale.  Anyway, according to Thatcher he ended the Cold War.

General Secretary Gorbachev said of his former rival's Cold War role: "[He was] a man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War,"[190] but labeled him as "a hawk" in the 1980s.[190] Gorbachev does not acknowledge a win or loss in the war, but rather a peaceful end; he said he was not intimidated by Reagan's harsh rhetoric.[191] Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said of Reagan, "he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power... but he also sensed it was being eaten away by systemic failures impossible to reform."[192] She also stated, "Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired."[193] Said Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada: "He enters history as a strong and dramatic player [in the Cold War]."[194] Former President Lech Wałęsa of Poland said of him, "Reagan was one of the world leaders who made a major contribution to communism's collapse."

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When I said Soviet, I was referring to the Gov't not the population.  Essentially, Reagan left the Soviets with nowhere to go, and no more markets.  Petroleum accounted for 60% of Soviet exports, and with the down turn in oil prices in the 80s, the economy started to collapse.

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System of our economics was based on isolation and self-sustainability, not export. See Cuba, they left the border closed and the reign survived, although they lost political guarantee.

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"Anyway, according to Thatcher he ended the Cold War."

Well, in that case, it must be true!

The general downturn in oil prices may have meant that a lot of former Soviet leaders realised they'd make more money as owners of petroleum enterprises than as bureaucrats in a closed economy, but the risk of losing your position altogether was significant enough that you wouldn't take it unless there was already a revolution in the works.

I'm a little wary of economic and political explanations that assume a state is a single political units with a single set of national interests. And especially in this instance, where the US clearly hadn't won in the conventional sense by invading the USSR (the war in 1919 doesn't count) and deposing its leaders, our analysis really has to at least be grounded in looking at the moves of the various powers that existed within the USSR at the time.

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Reagan's renewal of the arms race and threats of construction of "Star Wars" system made Soviet leaders realise that they were not going to be able to keep up and if they continue without agreeing to treaties that were given to them, they will lose the Cold War. This forced to accept many disarmament treaties that were weakining their position in Europe thus giving the Satellite states of Warsaw Pact more freedom as the troops that were stationed there were leaving. On the home front Gorbachev believed that for Soviet Union to rebound back it had to go through the reforms that would fix the inefficiencies the old system had. However, he failed to carry them out properly.

The cold war did not need an invasion of one or the other country, it was the war over who will hold the mantle of keep of balance of power that Britain held before WWII. Britain back then clearly indicated that it wanted it to be passed to US, when after the war it told US that it will withdraw aiding to Turkey and Greece in 30 days due to inability to finance such an aid. US understood the message and very quickly moved in to take over the British position. Soviet Union tried to wrestle the mantle to itself by failed.

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"if they continue without agreeing to treaties that were given to them"

Can you name some the USSR had refused pre-Reagan? Can you name some it accepted post-Reagan?

Also, I'm not sure how effective a treaty based on the threat "Agree to this new treaty else we'll break the one we signed in 1968" would have actually have been in practice.

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SALT 1 (1972)

US agrees to limit its arsenal to 1054 ICBMs and 710 SLBMs (submarine based missiles) in 44 submarines

USSR can expand its arsenal from 1530 to 1618 ICBMs and 950 SLBMs in 62 submarines

The reason there is discrepancy between the numbers of USSR and US weaponry was based on the USSR's argument that Britain and France were allies of US and so their arsenals should be counted towards US so therefore US should have less missiles than USSR, who had no allies with nuclear armaments.

SALT II (1974)

Limitations on development of long range bombers and MIRVs (system that allows placement of numerous nuclear warheads on one ICBM)

Signed but never implemented (ratified) US legislature blocked the SALT II due to the renewed tensions.

development of cruise missiles and SDI program can go around these treaties. So US can easily arm itself and still not break former treaties. It can also still produce MIRVs while Soviet Union is limited there because it actually ratified the treaty.

1987 Gorbachev and Reagan sign agreement of elimination of all intermediate range nuclear forces from European theater. Concession by USSR, before it always considered this to be part of the larger disarnament talks not a separate issue. Before USSR demanded in exchange for elimination of INFs removal of SDI program (did not happen). Soviet Union destroys 851 launchers and 1836 missiles, US removes 283 launchers and 867 missiles. Plus not only USSR agrees to remove European based missiles but the ones in Asia as well.

1990 Conventional Forces in Europe

Forces Soviet Union to withdraw most of its armor, aircraft, helicopters and artilery, armored vehicles to the region west of Ural Mountains (that means its moving forces from not only Satellite states but from its own territory in Europe).

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I think Nema's basically asking for a ratified (by Soviet Union, at least) treaty that Reagan was responsible for.

''Before USSR demanded in exchange for elimination of INFs removal of SDI program (did not happen). Soviet Union destroys 851 launchers and 1836 missiles, US removes 283 launchers and 867 missiles. Plus not only USSR agrees to remove European based missiles but the ones in Asia as well.''

Are you saying that before they agreed only on the condition that the SDI program be removed, but after Reagan they agreed regardless?

One could say though that the Soviet union were more ready to make appeasing treaties by this stage because they could see they had no hope, rather than because of some great moves by Reagan. I don't really know much about the cold war, but it seems it would be difficult to say that Reagen was responsible for this hopelessness in the first place.

I think one of the major ''felling'' factors of the Soviet Union was what it was up against in the first place, considering the starting conditions. Soviet Union initially arised from a previously feudal and backwater state While America was rich and powerful with many allies. Considering these conditions, the result was no surprise. You're opponents success is not neccesarily you're failure. We can look upon such sillies as Mugabe in Zimbabwe. His dictatorship has lasted many years but I doubt this could be said to be through any quality this buffoon (generally accepted) may be said to possess. That is not to say however that Gorbachev was the best of leaders. Commenting on the Soviet Union though I saw that perhaps it was not ill run and doomed as people say it was. Left alone or with a weaker opponent than the USA it would probably not have collapsed by it self in any short order.

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Yes Reagan has grwon up during 1950s during Truman's era when the idea that we need to roll back communism, fight it and etc. was strong. Before Reagan what was called Detente was established udner which both superpowers decided to live peacefully and not try to destroy each other. So reversal of that policy and the fact that Soviet Union was unable to compete left them little choice but to agree to different treaties as long as it, Soviet Union, would not have to come back into the arms race again.

SDI system would have put US at the advantage that USSR would have found hard to counter.

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Re: SALT I, SALT II, 1987, 1990.

Mm. Your first point still needs a treaty that the USSR refused pre-Regan to make sense.

As to control over eastern Europe, 1987 didn't really have any effect on that, as there was never a question that an Eastern European nation would be nuked by the USSR; arguably, the removal of the threat to the USSR was more useful to them at that point, though because the USSR's military capability was overestimated (and for generic propaganda purposes), this was sold here as a Western victory. 1990 seems far more crucial, but by then Bush I and Gorbachev reckoned the Cold War to be over anyway, and it seems more descriptive than prescriptive.

"it was the war over who will hold the mantle of keep of balance of power that Britain held before WWII"

OK. So defined, I'd argue that the ending of the Cold War simply came when the USSR effectively admitted defeat. The USSR's loss was pretty much guaranteed from much further back; Reagan's policies simply decided the terms on which it was ended.

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USSR has not refused any pre-Reagan treaties because they were beneficial to them as they came out either on par with US or could be even argued as a net winner.

USSR never admitted defeat it just fell apart and its successors are nowhere near to even try to make a tug at the mantle of keeper of balance of power. Gorbachev when he was doing his reforms and signing treaties was not doing so as a defeat but rather as more of strategic retreat he though that he could later turn around against US.

Warsaw pact nations knew they are not going to be nuked by USSR but they knew that wrong actions would mean instantaneous appearance of the Soviet tanks on the streets next morning. The slow removal of USSR forces that cumulated in CFE treaty removed that scare for the Eastern European nations. Also Soviet disarnament increased possibility that the West will interfere on their behalf if they start going anti-Soviet.

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"Warsaw pact nations knew they are not going to be nuked by USSR but they knew that wrong actions would mean instantaneous appearance of the Soviet tanks on the streets next morning"

Nono - it demonstrably happened the other way round. The 'wrong actions' were already well underway in 1989; it was the German, Polish,  Hungarian people that kicked the USSR's puppets - the USSR had not sent tanks and the 1990 treaty was simply an attempt by the two rulers to make things look more like this was their intention all along, or at least that they had some measure of influence.

The 1990 treaty was no concession at all, because sending troops into Eastern Europe was simply not something Gorbachev could have sensibly done anyway.

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But lets not forget that it also included the troops stationed on Soviet Territory, so the treaty effectively was removing Soviet Union from able to exercise any political influence based on military might in Europe even in the future. It would take a month to move the troops from behind the Ural mountains to the borders of Soviet Union with its European neighbors.

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The Cold War was ended by a combination of factors:

1. The Soviet government was highly corrupt as a result of the lack of democracy in the USSR, and most Soviet leaders actually wanted a return to capitalism so that they could take over the means of production, exploit workers and grow rich (which is exactly what happened in the 90s).

2. There was a severe economic downturn across the Soviet sphere of influence in the 1980s, largely as a result of continued attempts to pursue the extensive growth of heavy industry at the expense of consumer goods and intensive growth. Soviet planners gave little thought to consumers, again largely as a result of a lack of democracy (you only pay attention to the people if the people have some power over you).

3. There were increasing demands for democracy and civil rights in the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe. Within the USSR itself, nationalism began to be a problem.

4. There was military pressure from the West.

5. The Soviet Union suffered from bad leadership. Gorbachev was full of good intentions, but his policies turned out to be utterly disastrous and made things much worse.

Any single one of those things could not have brought down the Soviet Union by itself, except perhaps factor #1. The widespread corruption within the Soviet ruling class, the fact that so many Soviet leaders secretly wanted to become capitalists and plunder the nation's riches was the single most important factor that led to the collapse of the USSR. The Soviet system was built to ensure the good of the people, but it was put in the hands of leaders who had no interest in the good of the people. That situation was clearly unsustainable. Sooner or later, something had to give way. Either the system became more democratic and held leaders accountable to the people, OR those leaders would eventually destroy the system from the inside out and replace it with something that allows easier and more intensive exploitation, such as capitalism. The only two long-term options for the Soviet Union were a democratic socialist planned economy or a return to capitalism. It is very, very unfortunate that the latter came to pass, but a return to capitalism was almost inevitable as soon as Stalin finished eliminating all dedicated communists from the Soviet government and replaced them with his corrupt cronies.

Thus the lack of democracy and accountability in the Soviet government was the primary reason for its collapse and the return to capitalism. The other factors also had an impact, of course, but they were problems that could have been overcome:

There was a serious economic downturn in the 1980s, but other countries have faced even worse economic problems in the past and their governments survived (see, for instance, the Great Depression, which was a far worse economic downturn than the crisis in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the 80s).

There were popular demands for democratic reforms and civil rights, but these were mostly in the Warsaw Pact countries and not within the Soviet Union itself. They could have been repressed in good old stalinist fashion, or the Soviet authorities could have initiated a slow and orderly transition to a more democratic system without the social chaos and crazy economic experiments of the Gorbachev years.

Nationalist demands could have been muted by fixing the economic problems. People are not likely to want to secede from your country if they perceive it as a source of prosperity.

Pressure from the West was a factor, but keep in mind that the arms race was entirely voluntary and optional. Both the United States and the Soviet Union already had the power to destroy the world several times over. The Soviets could have just said to Reagan "you know, we really don't care that you can destroy the world 15 times over and we can only do it 10 times over; go build as many shiny rockets as you want - we have enough already."

And, of course, someone other than that naive idiot Gorbachev could have been put in charge of the USSR.

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