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Essay/Term paper: The end of the cold war

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities Essays

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The End of The Cold War

by Rutvij Bhatt
United States History II
Mrs. Jacqualyn J. Newman
Stroudsburg High School
March 17, 1997

TOPIC:The End of the Cold War

Thesis Statement: What role did the United States play in the ending of the Cold

The cold war was a post-World War II struggle between the United States
and its allies and the group of nations led by the Soviet Union. Direct military
conflict did not occur between the two superpowers, but intense economic and
diplomatic struggles erupted. Different interests led to mutual suspicion and
hostility in a rising philosophy. The United States played a major role in the
ending of the cold war. It has been said that President Ronald Reagan ended the
cold war with his strategic defense policies.
In the year1949, Germany was divided by the victors of World War II and
they occupied different zones. The western regions united to form a Federal
republic and the Soviet eastern region became communist East Germany. The cold
war had begun. Berlin, the former capital of Germany was divided into East
Berlin and West Berlin but was located deep inside the soviet controlled zone.1
Then, in 1961, the Soviet government built a wall which separated the
two halves of the city. It was not until the 1980s that cold war tensions eased
through the glasnost (openness to public debate) polices of soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev. Finally, in November 1989, the wall crumbled under the hands
of the Germans and the cold war ended.2
The downfall of the cold war started when Ronald Reagan came into office
in 1981. Reagan had two main priorities. He wanted to cut taxes and increase
defense spending. He felt that the United States of America should take a
confrontational approach towards Russia.3
Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of Russia in 1985. He wanted to improve
the Russian economy. He also wanted to improve relations with the United States.
He used his glasnost (openness to public debate) policy and perestroika
(restructuring) to help the Russian economy.4
Both leaders wanted a "margin of safety". Reagan took a tough stand
against Russia and it's allies. The soviets could clearly see that when Reagan
said he wanted a "margin of safety", he meant that the United States should be
superior to Russia. Moscow would not let this happen. They wanted equality.5
Reagan also believed that military power and respect for America abroad
were inseparable from economic strength. However, Reagan's defense policy
resulted in the doubling of the debt of the United States. He used the money for
new strategic programs and for expensive conventional programs such as expanding
the navy from four hundred to six hundred ships. Reagan also received increases
for the CIA and other intelligence agencies so they could aid anti-Russian
forces in Afghanistan and other Third-World countries.6
Reagan's administration did not have strong or consistent policies
towards Russia. It was divided between people who favored careful negotiations
and people who strongly opposed efforts to deal with "the enemy." The
negotiators were centered in the State department. It included George Schultz,
Richard Burt, and Secretary of State Alexander Haig. The other side included
Caspar Weinberger, Richard Perle and Senator Henry Jackson.7
Soviets became frightened by the United States' policies. They were
going to negotiate with Reagan at first but because of military buildup, lack of
interest in arms control, Soviets were afraid Reagan would attack the nation.
Soviets kept the KGB (Russia's version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation)
on alerted from 1981 to 1983 just in case.8
A Russian military plane had shot down a South Korean civilian airliner
that was flying over Soviet territory. The plane was traveling from Anchorage,
Alaska to Seoul Korea. Sixty-one Americans were killed on the flight. When the
United States heard about this; Reagan was furious. He denounced that the
"Korean airline massacre" was a "crime against humanity" for which "there was
absolutely no justification legal or moral..." 9
Soviets said that they thought it was a spy plane and when they inquired
who it was, they received no answer. That is why they shot it down. This crisis
gave more tension to the cold war situation. 10
On September 23, 1985, Andropov, the Soviet leader at the time, issued
"one of the most strong anti-American statements since the Stalin Era".12 He
accused the United States of pursuing a militarist course that is designed to
achieve "dominant positions in the world without reckoning with the interests of
the other states and peoples".11
Soviet leaders thought that the United States' response to the airliner
incident combined with the continuing lack of progress on arms control, was
proof that they should not improve relations with the United States. That
December, they withdrew from the arms control negotiations in Geneva. For this
reason negotiations that would end the cold war were halted.12
Reagan proposed a program called "Strategic Defense Initiative (Also
known as "Star Wars")." The program was where an experimental rocket was
launched off a remote island and intercepted an incoming ICBM (intercontinental
ballistic missile) warhead that was about one hundred miles above earth. This
was a demonstration of the Pentagon's ability to solve the problems of
ballistic-missile defense.13

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that
their security did not rest upon the threat of instant United
States retaliation to deter Soviet attack; that we could
intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they
reached our own soil and that of our allies? 14
(President Reagan commenting on "Star Wars")

It was Reagan's support for "Star Wars" that enabled Gorbachev to take
the initiative soon after coming to power in spring of 1985. Most Western
Europeans derided "Star Wars" as "a pointless escalation in the arms race" and
Gorbachev thought this way also. Gorbachev denounced "Star Wars" and tried to
show that Russia was a peaceful nation. He reduced the number of 22-20 missiles
aimed at Western Europe and also announced a moratorium on underground nuclear
testing. Russia also offered to make deep cuts in it's missiles if the United
States would stop researching "Star Wars." Gorbachev arranged a summit meeting
in Geneva with Ronald Reagan which is where they had talks about "Star Wars."
Little progress was made on arms control and Reagan was held responsible.15
Gorbachev and Reagan also met in Reykjavik. Gorbachev challenged Reagan
to try to negotiate a comprehensive arms control agreement that weekend.
Gorbachev offered a few significant ideas. He agreed in principle to the 1981
United States proposal to eliminate medium range missiles from Europe and
suggested that there be a fifty-percent cut in strategic weapons for the next
five years.16
Then, Reagan proposed that they destroy all ballistic missiles for the
next ten years and Gorbachev responded by suggesting they abolish all nuclear
missiles. Reagan agreed but then Gorbachev made it clear the any further
research of SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) should only be done in the
laboratory. Reagan then said that this restriction would "kill" SDI. When
Gorbachev refused to move his position, Reagan left. Reagan was forced to choose
between "Star Wars" and a deal that would end Soviet nuclear threat through
disarmament, Reagan's basic partialism and distrust of Russia won.17
In February, Gorbachev offered to separate the European intermediate
range missile issue from strategic and space weapons issues and said that he
supported the long standing United States proposal to remove all Soviet and
United States intermediate range missiles from Europe. Reagan responded
positively to Gorbachev's speech and he resumed talks with Gorbachev .18

The modern world has become much too small and fragile for
wars and policy of force. It cannot be saved and preserved if
the thinking and actions built up over the centuries on the
acceptability and permissibility of wars and armed conflicts
are not shed after all...[If the arms race continues] The
situation in the world may assume such a character that
it will no longer depend on the intelligence or will of
political leaders. It may become captive to technology,
to technocratic logic. 19
Mikhail Gorbachev

Reagan agreed with Gorbachev and the United States signed a nuclear arms
treaty eliminating all the intermediate-range missiles stationed in Europe. This
was the first ever agreement that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.
American officials were sent to Russia to make sure that any violations were
In his speech to the United Nations on December 8, 1988, Gorbachev
announced the withdrawal of fifty-thousand Soviet troops in Eastern Europe. The
withdrawn forces were tanks and units with bridging equipment. The West conceded
that the Eastern section had stronger non-nuclear forces and that to move toward
equilibrium in Europe required deeper reductions on the Eastern side than the
Western side.21
The Soviet Communist Party agreed to let Poland have a democratic
election on June 5 1989. In the elections, Solidarity (a labor union) won a
landslide victory. Despite Solidarity's win Communists still regained control
of the Parliament. The reason was that election rules guaranteed it a majority
of seats. However Solidarity won almost all the seats it was allowed to compete
for. This Polish election that allowed the opposition to share power with the
Communist Party was a major part of the historic movement for political reform
in the Soviet Union.22
On November 11, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. This marked the end of
the cold war. East Germany has announced that all border restrictions were
lifted. President Bush wanted to "seize every chance" to promote democracy in
Eastern Europe Secretary of State James Baker called the lifting of the German
travel restrictions "the most dramatic event in East-West relations" since World
War II.23
George Bush had comments on the Berlin Wall also. He went to Mainz,
Germany where he said a few words.

For 40 years, the seeds of democracy in Eastern Europe lay dormant,
buried under the frozen tundra of the Cold War. And for 40 years the
world has waited for the Cold War to end. And decade after decade,
time after time, the flowering human spirit withered from the chill of
and oppression. And again the world waited. But the passion for freedom
cannot be denied forever. The world has waited long enough. The time is
right. Let Europe be whole and free. 24
George Bush

The United States of America played a huge role in the ending of the
cold war. Though we made relations worse, we also helped end it. Reagan's "Star
Wars" policies made Russians very nervous.


1 Walter Lippman, The Cold War: A Study in U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Harper
& Brothers Publishers, 1947) 48-52.

2 Charles S. Maier, ed., The Cold War in Europe: Era of a divided Continent (New
York: Markus Wiener Publishing, Inc., 1991) 27.

3 Ralph B. Levering, The Cold War (Illinois: Harlan Davidson, INC.,1988) 169.

4 Levering, 169

5 Levering, 169

6 John Young, Cold War Europe 1945-1989 (New York: Edward Allen, 1991) 26.

7 Levering, 171-2

8 Levering 173

9 "The End of the Cold War" http://usa.coldwar.server.gov/index/coldwar/ 2 Feb.

10 http://usa.coldwar.server.gov/index/coldwar/

11 Young, 28

12 Young, 28

13 Tom Morganthou, "Reagan's cold war 'sting'?", Newsweek 32 August 1993: 32

14 Levering, 180

15"Ending the Cold War", Foreign Affairs Spring 1988: 24-25

16 Young, 28

17 Young, 29

18 Young, 29

19 Levering, 187-188

20"Ending the Cold War", 27

21 "Ending the Cold War", 28

22Brinkley, Alan An Uneasy Peace 1988-, Vol. 10 of 20th Century America, 10
vols. (New York: Grolier 1995):22

23Brinkley, 30

24"George Bush addresses Europe" http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/burke/ 13 March


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