One of the main events of the war-filled twentieth century was the Cold War a state of tension between the United States of America and the Soviet Union from nineteen forty five, at the beginning of the Soviet expansion of communism in newly formed countries after Word War II, opposed by the United States to nineteen eighty nine with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The main focus of this research will be to state the reasons as to why this hugely acknowledged war comes to an end. It was the most unexpected event that happened and the credit must be given to the leaders on both sides.
The Cold War eventually came to an end in 1989 as a result of Gorbachevs Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (reconstruction) policies; the Soviets declining communist economy, the costly arms race, and the freedom issues among Baltic Republics, Poland, and East Germany within the Soviet bloc itself. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Soviet Union in 1985, he was determined to end corruption in the Soviet economy and get the U. S. S. R. back on its feet. To achieve this goal he announced two new policies Glasnost and Perestroika.
Glasnost or openness was the policy that ended the strict censorship, allowed Soviet citizens to speak openly about their societys problems and issues, and abandoned the ban of books and foreign radio broadcasts. The significance of this new policy was that it helped Soviet Union become a more open society and the media freedom brought many issues in front of the government. The second policy, Perestroika or reconstruction was introduced to help reform the Soviet economy by ending inefficiency and corruption in the system. The policy also promoted private enterprise, according to which the production prices and costs became more efficient.
Planning was decentralized so local factories had more power of making decisions. According to this policy multi-candidate elections would be held, although each participant had to be member of a communist party. These were major steps to reform the Soviet Union and eventually this movement toward openness helped end the Cold War. The all new Sinatra Doctrine was also introduced by Gorbachev in 1989 renouncing the Brezhnev Doctrine. Introduced by Alexander Dubcek in 1968, the Brezhnev Doctrine declared that every socialist country in Soviet bloc belonged to the Soviet Empire.
It was only the Soviet Union that could make decisions for the socialist republics and no self determination would be allowed in any of these republics. Sinatra Doctrine was named after Frank Sinatras song My Way because the purpose of this doctrine was to let the people in the Soviet republics go their own way. It declared that Soviet republics had no right to get involved in each others internal affairs. Soviet Union also withdrew and stopped supporting countries, including Cuba, to spread communism.
The Sinatra Doctrine signifies the end of the Soviet Empire in 1989, just the opposite of what Gorbachev wanted to achieve from this policy by introducing it. The declining economy of the Soviet Union from 1960s to 1980s was also one of the main reasons that the Cold War ended peacefully in 1989. Due to the less money spent on technology the Soviet Union became weaker. As it was now illegal to censor information and communication networks and hard to control what came from fax machines and to jam radio and TV signals, more and more people got to know about the free West.
By this, the personal expectations rose especially concerning the freedom rights and economic systems. So, the economic declines also resulted in political unrest in the Soviet bloc. This declining economy hurt the Soviet businesses and now less people were interested in investing money in Soviet projects. The lives of normal people were also affected as the prices of various household items increased enormously and the lives of workers were also harmed because there was now less income available. Apart from technology issues there were other major economic flaws in the Soviet Union.
In April 1986 a nuclear power plant exploded in Chernobyl, killing hundreds of civilians and causing damage which was worth around a billion dollars. Russian oil sales to abroad were also reduced so the government reduced the import of consumer goods. This left Soviet citizens with less to buy and government revenues were also going down. The government soon realized that more money was being spent than the revenues generated. To make up for this, the government started printing more money, which was a sign of increasing inflation.
Then people started putting money into banks as they couldnt spend it all and the money in the banks was wasted by the Soviet government as it wasnt invested in worthy projects. The government also tried to increase private farming by offering land to new farmers. However, few people were interested in agriculture as they were not sure if private farming was permanent and so this project also failed. Sometimes the production capabilities were unable to meet the demand of the planner. Growth targets were predicted badly by the Soviets and the economy showed no signs of progress.
However, when Gorbachev came to power, his ideas provided little hope of improvements. According to a recent explanation, the Soviet economy didnt start declining in the 1980s, but it had been going down for the last two decades. It was just the change of perspective of the Soviet leaders in the 1980s they realized that the Soviet economy was declining fast and that it wouldnt be possible for the economy to make profits unless some steady changes were made. After the Soviet leaders realized that they would never catch up with the Americans, they were convinced to make a deal with the United States.
However, the New Thinking of Gorbachev can be credited for the change in perspectives of Soviet leaders in the 1980s. One of the other main reasons that helped to bring an end to the war was the arms race. The U. S. A kept pressure on the Soviet Union to spend more and more money than its economy could maintain. The policies of arms buildup and Reagan Doctrine pressured the Soviet Union. The Reagan Doctrine was created to summarize the goal of Reagan administration which was to support any anti-communist uprising wherever they may be.
Although the Soviet authorities tried to spend consistent money on arms and defense, it was no where near enough to compete with the American defense powers. As the arms race was hurting the Soviet economy, Gorbachev started to prepare himself to negotiate with the United States. At the 1986 summit in Iceland, Reagan and Gorbachev agreed destroy all intermediate missiles in Europe. They also considered eliminating all nuclear missiles on both sides, but Gorbachev demanded Reagan to end his Strategic Defense Initiative plan which Reagan refused to do and the deal was left unconcluded.
However, in 1987 they did agree to the Range Nuclear Forces treaty, in which all intermediate missiles in Europe were removed. START I and START II treaties were also signed between the two sides. In these treaties MIRVs were removed from certain areas. The treaty of Conventional Forces in Europe was also signed which reduced the number of troops, tanks, and military aircraft in Europe. Both Reagan and Gorbachev were coming ever closer to ending the arms race. Gorbachevs New Thinking and Reagans positive reception brought an end to one of the most deadly arms build-up the world had ever seen.
In the ending of the Cold War the major helping hand was provided by the republics within the Soviet bloc. Nationalism in many Eastern European countries was increasing and they all started their campaigns for freedom from the Soviet Union. The Baltic Republics started their demonstration way earlier than any other Soviet republic as they were the most eager for independence. In Poland Solidarity labor unions began to rise in the early 1980s. These unions organized strikes, demanding more pay and a change to the unfair labor rights.
As they forced Soviet economy to its decline, they won freedom of expression, politics, religion, and recognition of their labor unions. Finally Polish leaders were forced to allow free elections. The Solidarity participants, however, were only allowed one third of seats and still a communist government was established. The nation faced another era of economic sufferings as electricity, gas, and water prices rose 500 percent. Then eventually the Communist Party gave up and on January 29th 1990 Poland renamed itself as the Republic of Poland.
Democratic elections were held and communism failed to prevail. In Hungary and Czechoslovakia, meanwhile, communist parties were falling. In the beginning of the year 1989 Gorbachev announced in the United Nations that he would pull out Soviet troops from Hungary. With this Hungary created independent political parties other than Hungarys Communist Party. Many changes occurred in Hungary as there were younger people taking control of the political parties who were more open-minded and didnt like to use power and violence.
Soon the Hungarian Communist Party changed its name to European Social Democrats. Hungary declared itself a republic and now Hungarians were free to travel without a special permission that they had to have previously. These movements in Hungary and Poland were encouraging to Czechoslovakia, which was a neighbor state. There were protests in Czechoslovakia led by Vaclac Havel. The communist government there arrested him and many other illegal protestors. People in Prague protested against the government and in return the police attacked the demonstrators.
Hundreds were admitted to hospitals and many were arrested. The following day around 10,000 people demonstrated against the government. The next day, there were 200,000 demonstrators and around 500,000 people demonstrated on the day when the Communist Party agreed to give up. In early December the Communist Party declared that the invasion of Czechoslovakia had been a mistake and by the end of December, Havel was the head of the newly created parliament. East Germany in the meantime also started looking forward to their freedom.
On August 23, 1989 Hungary opened its border to Austria, which was a neutral nation, many East Germans traveled to Hungary and then to Austria finding their way to West Germany. An estimated 500,000 had escaped when the Soviet authorities found out about the issue. To prevent further getaways, the Soviet Union closed East Germanys border with Czechoslovakia, but the pressure from civilians didnt cease to mount. Protests and demonstrations also increased after the border was closed and many East Germans were becoming impatient to gain their independence.
Gorbachev finally decided to visit East Germany. It was the fortieth anniversary of East Germany when people gathered and asked Gorbachev for help with freedom issues. Reagan once said to Gorbachev General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberation: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! Gorbachev gave it along thought and set up Eric Honecker as the communist leader of East Germany to solve this issue.
As the demonstrations grew Honecker decided to resign and replacing him was Egon Krenz, who met with the protestors and listened to their demands. It was not long after that he fired the whole cabinet and ordered to break down the Berlin Wall. On November 9, 1989 the wall was opened and millions of East Germans fled to the West Germany seeking for a better life. On March 1990 the communists were voted out and East Germany left the Warsaw Pact. As Germany was the heart of the conflict, the breaking down of the Berlin Wall signifies the end of the Cold War.
It is also believed that there was a huge contribution of Pope John Paul II in the ending of the Cold War. If the matter is closely studied we could infer that Pope did help to bring an awakening in Poland. Just eight months after becoming the pope, he visited his home nation Poland for nine days. The popes spokesman said that the pope believed the evil and corrupt Empire of Soviet Union couldnt stay for a long time, its destruction was definite. There were around 250,000 Poles who attended the popes speech. The pope mentioned that people have a right to have freedom, independence and protection of human rights.
People clapped and kept clapping for the next eight minutes, police and politics were no longer of any importance, the pope was believed to be the real power. A year later Solidarity unions came into being and as mentioned earlier, they were one of the main reasons that the Soviet republics gained their independence. This movement had ten million people registered as members and priests had also joined the union. Pope is sometimes also credited for Gorbachev not using Soviet army in Poland and other eastern European countries. What the pope actually did was to motivate the people morally.
The Soviets knew very well how to deal with political pressure, but they had no idea how strong and effective moral pressure could prove. In my opinion pope did have some contribution in the independence of the Soviet republics. By 1990 Communism fell in Eastern Europe and lost its influence around the world. The Soviet Union was also demolished and its republics became independent. Many experts predicted that the world would become a safer place now. Mikhail Gorbachev also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Cold War.
His policies of Glasnost and Perestroika helped bring an end to one of the most feared wars in the 20th century. However, the credit could also be given to the American containment policy which pushed Soviet Union to stretch the arms race and finally made its economy weaker. The Soviet republics and their efforts with protests and demonstrations also helped to end the war. The end of the Cold War also signifies the end of the Soviet Empire. Soviet Union was no longer a superpower which left the United States to become the only major superpower in the world.