The end of the Cold War is characteristically associated with the fall of the Soviet empire in the late 1989 in East Europe. Other scholars associate it with the fall of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and of Communism in 1991. On the contrary, by reviewing literature from various scholars and by looking at important actions of observers and key international actors at the time, the Cold War basically ended during the spring of 1989, even before the above momentous events occurred.
This indicates that the Cold War was majorly about conflict of ideologies, and not about the nuclear weapons, military, or even economic equilibrium between the West and the East, Communism as a method of governance, desire for democracy, capitalism, or even domination of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. Arguably, the end of the Cold War had nothing to do with these issues since it ended before any of them was really resolved.
Introduction and Overview
The menace of the Soviet Union seemed to end with the policies Gorbachev-such similar processes had earlier taken place in Yugoslavia and China.
At this point, Western leaders and analysts began to signal that the conflict had ended. This indicates that the Cold War was had nothing to do with the military, nuclear weapons, or economic balance between the West and the East, nor other factors but it was about ideological conflict. The Cold War ideally ended in early 1989, but it is imperative to note that, the Cold War was not necessarily shut down or there was no possibility of resurgence after that date. It certainly was possible for Gorbachev to change his course if he had wanted to do so. Alternatively, he could have been ousted and his foreign policy reversed by hardliners. As a matter of fact, in 1991 there was an attempted coup against Gorbachev by a group of communists, if they had succeeded in their fifteen or so minutes of fame, they seemed to show that, in as much as they wanted to undo some of Gorbachev’s domestic policies and to impose tougher regulations about the imminent crumble of the Soviet Union, they did had no intention of amending, the basic changes that had been made by Gorbachev to the Cold War situation. However, it is possible that they would have done so eventually (Grachev, 2008).Hence, one could say that the fall of the Cold War proved to be an occurrence that is less of a terminal experience. This apprehension holds for all the hypothetical ending points of the Cold War. Indeed, the situation is not out of the woods yet, the Communist Party is still strong in Russia, and has hard line supporters (Mueller 2002).
This research paper premises on the thesis statement that, ‘the end of the cold war actually happened in 1989 and was an ideological conflict which was made possible by the appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev’.
Communism in the Soviet Union
The rise of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet leader led marked the Cold War period of 1985-1991. Gorbachev was revolutionary by nature; he was the first to support liberalization of the USSR political landscape referred to as Glasnost and capitalist characteristics into the Soviet Union (Perestroika). Before this, the USSR laws strictly prohibiting liberalism and maintained an inefficient command economy. The USSR was facing immense economic hardships, thus was greatly interested in cutting on the costly arms race with the USA. President Reagan’s foreign policies (which were aggressive and confrontational) aimed at arms buildups prevented the USSR from reducing its military spending to levels it might have desired. Irrespective of this, the USSR began to disintegrate since it could not handle liberal reforms and capitalistic ideas to the command economy, these factors were poorly transitioned thus resulting to major problems. After a number of revolutions in Soviet Bloc member states, the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 (Mueller, 2002).
Even as Reagan outlined in his speech to the British parliament citing a great revolutionary predicament within the Soviet economic system, he failed to foresee its potential collapse. In March 1985, Gorbachev was selected as the new General Secretary of the Communist party (Grachev, 2008). This event initiated the demise of the Soviet’s communism and the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev intuitively realized that his country’s backward economic position could not withstand the burden of a weapons race with the affluent, more technologically advanced US. Gorbachev and President Reagan made gradual steps towards detente  with meetings in 1985 in Gene, Switzerland and Reykjavik, Iceland. After these summit meetings, the pace towards accommodation increased significantly. The two sides finalized on an Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INFT) in 1987, this eliminated an entire class of ballistic missiles positioned in Europe. Reagan and Gorbachev received heroic welcomes on visits to their respective capitals. Americans, Europeans and Soviets leant that the Cold War had ended way before the Soviet Union ceased existence. Eastern Europe continued to witness revolutions in 1989, and the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989. At this time George Bush was the new American president. Having matured politically during the Cold War, he slowly adjusted to its end. He formed a close tie with Gorbachev by 1990 and backed even him in 1991. Bush even further went to the point of refraining from giving verbal support to democrats in the Soviet Union. The U.S. did, however, assist the Russian president, Boris Yeltsi to resist a communist coup in August 1991. On 25th on December 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union finally died (Grachev, 2008).
Since the Cold War had ended, the historical postmortems begun. The sea of original documents from the U.S. government archives has now been enhanced by streams flowing from previously locked Soviet and Eastern European safes. This volume of information offers scholars with a premise from which to give answers to the questions raised at the initial stage of this research paper, about the costs and benefits of the Cold War to the societies involved in it. The proponents of the conduct of the American foreign policy purport that the death of the Soviet Union substantiates the decisions of U.S. foreign policy officials and validates the costs of the Cold War. It is clear that Gorbachev had never indicated that he was going to abandon Communism or his Communist Party dominance in the Soviet Union; this cannot be traced neither in his December 7, 1988 speech nor even in later comments made by him. Indeed, even after the failure of the coup attempt against Gorbachev in 1991 by some members of the Communist party, he continued to maintain his stand that, in as much as some unwanted elements needed to be chucked from the party, his policy of Glasnost was to be further propagated. Gorbachev still believed in Communism as a governance system and he felt that it required several reforms, not dumped: he promised to work for the rejuvenation of the Communist party (Hogan,1992).
As a result, if the Cold War basically ended in 1989 (or even as many scholars agree in late 1991), its end could not have been attributed to the fact that the Soviet Union had decided to adopt Communism as its economic and governance system. As the classical Cold Warrior, John Foster Dulles puts it; the basic change that was needed to forge forward was not necessarily a shift from Communism to another system of governance. The real question was whether Communism was suited for one nation or whether it was for the world. He further purports that if the Soviets had Communism nationally other countries could do business with such governments. In 1962, President John Kennedy reiterated this point; He stated that, the real problem was the Soviet’s urge to expand their power and influence globally. Ideally, Mr. Khrushchev would have concerned himself with the real issues facing the Soviet Union’s citizens-such as higher standards of living, the protection of his own security. In actual sense, there existed no real issue why the US and the Soviet Union were not able to live in harmony with each other. But it is the Soviet’s constant determination to settle for a Communist world rather than a peaceful world that bred problems. In his public statements, including the speech made on December 7, 1988, Gorbachev clearly indicated that he was only interested in having Communism in his country rather than forcibly exporting it. In his speech he indicated that, the course of such an exchange enabled everyone to demonstrate the merits of their social system, culture or values-and not by mere words or propaganda, but by actions. This would be a fairly competitive rivalry of ideologies. However, it should not touch on relations among nations (Graham, 2010).
When it was clear to Bush and western leaders Gorbachev meant what he said, they hastened their move to accommodate. These leaders certainly kept their fingers crossed hoping to see more political and economic liberalization in the Soviet Union. However, in as much as the liberalization was desirable, it did not seem to be a sufficient condition to end the Cold War. Another scholar, Zubok (2007) purports that:
“Without Gorbachevâ€¦the end of the Cold War would not have come so quickly. Also without him, the rapid disintegration of the Soviet Union itself would not have occurred. At each stage of the Soviet endgame, Gorbachev made choices that destabilized the USSR and sapped its strength to act coherently as a superpowerâ€¦.A different person could have taken a very different course of action, and perhaps as a result the Soviet Union would not have collapsed as disastrously as it did, creating so many problems for the future.” (p. 335)
The demise of the Soviet Union completely transformed the world’s political and economic environment. In fact no other major conflict of interestingly dominated the post World War II the way the cold war did. Mikhail Gorbachev is the man credited with ending the cold war. However, this was not the greatest event was responsible for. The demise of the cold war was merely a by-product of the other major events Gorbachev was involved with-the death of communism in the USSR and the crumple of the USSR itself. Gorbachev as a communist reformer was selected General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the year 1985. His appointment was as a result of the death of his three predecessors in three years i.e. Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. Mikhial Gorbachev was appointed as General Secretary to replace the old guards. Externally, it seemed as a great superpower self destructed in just three months. The USSR’s collapse is of actually more complicated than this paper explains. The breakup of Soviet Union can be dated back to Gorbachev’s appointment and his foreign and domestic policies that were revolutionary. Gorbachev introduced a number of programs of reform. Gorbachev major reforms were perestroika, glasnost, and democratization (Goldman, 1992). His reforms literally exposed the problems of the Soviet Union.