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Today we are going to talk about the end of the Cold War: the global superpower stand-off

that brought the world to the brink of destruction. This period in time has been at the center
of many debates, as there is no definite date, for its end. The end has been very disputed:
Some say the cold war ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, others say it ended with
the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and many other theories. What we do know is that it ended
due to the decline of Soviet Unions power.
We are going to answer the following question:
When did the Cold War end?
So we are, first, going to discuss the major events that led to the end of the Cold War, with the
Soviet Afghan War, which lasted from 1979 to 1989, the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the Berlin
Wall, which was destroyed in 1989, and the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Then, we will
discuss the external and internal factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Finally, we will conclude with our own opinion on the question before asking you two key

Not one concrete question: subjective answers

Different endings
Analyze authors and why people think why it finished because of this that
Fall of the wall (Suzanna)
Russian empire fall (Martina)
Russian revolution
Union treaty to eastern europe states
Tschernobil (Gisella)

Conclusion :
Not an easy question to answer. Seems more logical ( was more of a process and an
accumulation of events that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. )
More than the iconic figure of the wall, the iconic figure of Gorbatchov.
COuld the Cold War have ended without the impulsion of the Soviet Union?
Chernobyl (Gisella)
There are parties arguing that an additional cause of this conflict was the nuclear disaster in
Chernobyl. Through this catastrophe, both powers understood how dangerous a nuclear conflict
would be, which would have caused the whole planet. The atomic fear seemed to materialize.
After a month, Gorbachev in a speech to Russian television said, "For
the first time we have experienced the left power of uncontrolled nuclear energy." But Chernobyl
showed above all the serious flaw in Russian atomic development, devoid of the necessary

Chernobyl is the name of a city situated in northern Ukraine near the border with Belarus.
Chernobyl was largely abandoned following the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
located 14.5 kilometres away. Ukraine was part of Russia on the 26th April 1986 when the
disaster occurred.
The City is now within the 30Km Exclusion Zone that surrounds the Nuclear Power Plant. Prior
to its evacuation Chernobyl was inhabited by 16,000 people but is now populated only by Zone
administrative personnel, some of those involved in decommissioning the power plants and a
number of residents who refused to leave their homes or subsequently returned. The Chernobyl
nuclear disaster began early in the early hours of Saturday 26 April 1986 within the Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive
contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe.
The disaster began during a systems test at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant. There
was a sudden surge of power output, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted a more
extreme spike in power output occurred. he resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive
smoke into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. The plume went on to drift
over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. Only after the level of radiation set off
alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over one thousand kilometers from the
Chernobyl Plant, did the Soviet Union publicly admit that an accident had occurred. The true
scale of the disaster was concealed. Thirty one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all
among the reactor staff and emergency workers.
Estimates of the number of deaths potentially resulting from the accident vary enormously. The
Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 premature cancer deaths occurred
worldwide between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination from Chernobyl.
Berlin Wall (Suzanna)
The Berlin wall was some sort of symbol of the lack of freedom there was under a communist
rule. Built in 1961, it was also a symbol of a divide between the communist soviet bloc and the
western democratic and capitalist bloc. It was recognized as a cold war symbol around the
world. The Berlin wall was actually two 12 feet tall walls that had shards of glass on its top, and
in between were guard towers, barbed wire, guards dogs, among other security barriers.
Basically, it was made to be uncrossable.

The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the head of the East German Communist
Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased. That
night, more than a million people crossed the wall and eventually started breaking it down. A
year later, in 1990, east and west Germany was reunified.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 caused a lot of changes in Eastern Europe :
American political scientist Robert Legvold stated that the fall of the wall accelerated the crash
of communist party rule throughout Eastern Europe. Robert and many others believe that the
fall marked the end of the Cold War because Soviet military power in Europe and on the border
with West Germany was going to be quickly pulled back. The Warsaw pact was also dissolved
in 1991, shortly after the fall of the wall.
(After the dissolution of the USSR, old nations and new ones, such as Estonia, Ukraine
or Armenia emerged and declared their independence from the Soviet rule. This meant
that one of the alliances, which was the main strong opposition of the US during the Cold
war, was somehow dissolved, which is a symbol of the end of the Cold War. Old
members of the communist block eventually became members of NATO, therefore allied
with the US.)
Martina will now continue and give us more details about the dissolution of the USSR.

Dissolution of the USSR (Martina)

The dissolution of the USSR, can be argued as the End of the Cold War. As Gisella and Suzanna
have already said it is linked to the fall of the Berlin Wall and Chernobyl.
The dissolution of the USSR started in the late 1980s when the Soviet Bloc economies were in
In March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev ascends to power. This is claimed to be the peaceful
beginning of the end for the Communist Partys repressive controle because of the new policies
introduced and Gorbachevs articulation of new thinking in the Soviet foreign policy aimed at
relaxing East-West tensions and creating political space for domestic reforms (as it is argued in
the Lonely Superpower). He attempted to restruct the USSR, which was called perestroika. But
many citizens have lost faith in him and his ability to renew the system within. He wanted to
create a decentralized market-orientated economy and open elections were introduced in an
attempt to democratize the communist party organization.
The drive towards economic neo-liberalism in the USA associated with Thatcher and Reagan
and the massive American trade and budget deficits made people ask questions about the
stability of the Cold War international system.
But in December 1989, the communist governments fell in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaia and
Romania and the rapid demise of the Cold War system began.
In March 1990, the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became independent.
In April 1991, the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and later this year Gorbachev fell from power and
in December 1991, the Soviet Union formally dissolved.
There is a major difference between the factors which brought down the Soviet Union and its
Empire. On the one hand, there is the external factors. Those are, the massive military
expansion of the USA during the Reagan years and the presidents vocal anti-communism
prompted the Soviet leadership to respond in kind.
However, given the dire state of the Soviet economy, its military build-up forced it to attempt
to introduce internal reforms but these only revealed the bancrupcy of the Soviet state, which
then collapsed.
Another argument, stresses the importance of the attempt by the US and the West generally to
engage with the Soviet Bloc during the dtente period.
Moreover, it is argued that with the advent of the information age, the Soviet Bloc was
economically and technologically lagging further and further behind the West and this forced it
to change ist isolation policies in order to tap into the capitalist markets and know-how.
Concerning the internal decline of the Soviet Union. By the 1980s the USSR and ist satellites in
Eastern Europe lacked internal political legitimacy and had been forced to accept the existence
of a permanent growing black market. In addition to that, there have been decades of
mismanagement which could not be solved by Gorbachevs well-intentioned reforms. They
would have required a complete overhaul of the system.
Related to the USA (?)
Another ending of the CW is related to the USA.
Kissinger argued in Diplomacy that the CW ended when America was grinding itself for a new
era of protected conflict.
When the Soviet Empire collapsed, America reversed its attitude towards USSr and their
relationship went from hostility to friendship.
Reagan was the new president of the USA and he understood the mainsprings of society.
Gorbachev, however lost the mainsprings of society. Both of the leaders believed in the
ultimate victory of their own side.


In 1983, in a famous speech, Reagan announced the end of communism, calling it "another
sad, bizarre chapter in history," "communism is another sad bizarre chapter in human history
whose last pages were written") . His words are prophetic. The day after the death of Soviet
leader Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko in March 1985, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the
man who first turned to the USSR, was nominated to lead the Soviet Communist Party.

Relatively young, Gorbachev became head of the Soviet Union at the age of 54 and, a
difference of Leonid Brezhnev, in dialysis for all the years in which he had been in power and
with continued medical care needs, not only enjoyed the best health, but belongs to a new
generation. The new leader, in fact, began his career after Stalin's death, and thus represents
the rise to the power of a new political class, eager to change Russian society and end the
years of totalitarianism and lack of freedom.

As Gorbachev himself said in an interview with CNN in 1997, "I was the person who did not
decide to hold on to power, but to reform it. The company needed reforms, but we lost at least
15-20." ("I was the person who decided not to try to drag the power, but to reform it. Society
needed reform, but we lost about 15-20 years.").
At the rise of the new leader, the Soviet economy was on the verge of collapse. The situation
inherited by Gorbachev was grave: near-zero growth and drastic depreciation of the currency
(primarily the price of oil, which constitutes 60% of Soviet exports). Cold, the USSR has spent
more than 25% of the Gross Domestic Product in armaments, a waste of goods destined for the

Contrary to its predecessors, Gorbachev's policy revolved around two fundamental points:
glasnost (transparency), ie greater transparency in public life for years marked by Stalinist
totalitarianism and perestroika (literally reconstruction) with which the complex economic
reforms carried out since 1985.

For Reagan's administration, the new Soviet leader was an absolute novelty and at the same
time the great opportunity to speak to the enemy of all time.

The first summit between Reagan and Gorbachev took place in Geneva in Switzerland in
November 1985. The meeting marks the beginning of bilateral disarmament. A year later, the
two leaders met again in Iceland, in Reykjavik. Reykjavik's meeting marked the 50% reduction
in ballistic missiles and the so-called Zero Option for Europe (ie the unconditional withdrawal of
nuclear warheads in the Old Continent). Despite the agreements, however, the tension between
the two blocks would remain high. The persistence of the war in Afghanistan and the situation in
Central America still threatened the process of exhortation.

The Soviet announcement of July 20, 1987 to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and the
admission of responsibility to the Iran-Contra scandal, announced by Reagan on March 4, 1987,
marked a definite step forward towards the end of the Cold War. The meetings between Reagan
and Gorbachev in Washington in 1987 and Moscow a year later represented the complete
dislocation between the two superpowers and the end of an era.

1989 - The Year of Change - Since the end of the 1980s, one after the other, the countries of
the Warsaw Pact have gone from being definitively eliminated from the Soviet influence and
abandoned the old communist structures. The process of transformation carried on by
Gorbachev has yielded its fruits, albeit not always without painful tears. The first country to
capitulate, including the strong Catholic support as the homeland of then Pope Karol Wojtyla,
was Poland, where in 1988 the leader of Solidarnosc (the first independent political organization
of the USSR) Lech Walesa, the future Polish president, proclaimed end of communist

But 1989 was the year of great change. On November 6, during one of the many events in
Berlin, the Wall, symbol of the separation between East and West, was demolished by the
crowd of demonstrators under the police's eyes, which, unlike what had happened in the years
of the called curtain of iron, did not intervene. The last country to capitulate was Romania,
where protests against the heavy dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu (who, despite the reforms
brought by Gorbachev, had continued to impose their power by force) entered the bloodstream.
Only on December 25, 1989, with the killing of the fierce dictator, the end of the communist
regime was proclaimed.

1989 was also the year of Tienanmen Square, where thousands of Chinese students gathered
to protest the harsh repression of the regime. Since early May, when Gorbachev visited China,
breaking 30 years of frost between the two communist countries, groups of protesters poured
into the streets. Students demanded greater freedom of expression and the possibility of being
politically represented, but the regime's response was tough. The June principles introduced the
Martial Law and the Red Army tanks "invaded" the streets of the capital. Nobody knows who the
victims are in Tiananmen Square, or what happened to the "famous" unknown rebel (the man
who dared to stop the advancement of tanks standing in front of them), because it seems that
the epochal changes of 1989 did not affect the regime of Beijing.

The Soviet-Afghan war

We can consider the soviet-afghan war as a reason of the end of the Cold War. This conflict
lasted for 9 years, so from December 1979 until February 1989 (same year as the fall of the
Berlin Wall). It opposed the Soviet Army alied to the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
government and insurgent groups known as the Mujahideen. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000
civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees.

In January 1980, foreign ministers from 34 nations of the Islamic Conference adopted a
resolution demanding "the immediate, urgent and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops"
from Afghanistan, while the UN General Assembly passed a resolution protesting the Soviet
intervention by a vote of 10418. Afghan insurgents began to receive massive amounts of aid
and military training in neighboring Pakistan and China.

By the mid-1980s, the Soviet contingent was increased to 108,800 and fighting increased
throughout the country, but the military and diplomatic cost of the war to the USSR was high.
During this war the Soviet Union invested a lot in weapons and moving his military troops to
Afghanistan. This weakened the Soviet Union, which made her more vunerable against the
United States, which was supposed to be the principal conflict of the Soviet Union. Moreover,
during the conflict the United States decided to help the Mujahideen, because he always
supported all the enemies of the Soviet Union. This is why, the Mujahideen handled to
neutralize the Soviet air power. Finally, the Soviet Union suffered from many many deaths which
conclude with the sign of an accord with the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan and
agreed to withdraw its troops in 1988.

So it is not an easy question to answer. We can see that the Cold Wars ending isnt very clear
because of the number of indirect events leading to its end, instead of a sole event. But for us,
there is only one evident end of the Cold War and it is the Collapse of the USSR.
This is because in the Cold War, the two parties in war were the USA and the USSR. During the
totality of the Cold War, these two nations were huge superpowers having an arm race, with no
third competition. Since one of the parties dissolved in 1991, it was completely over and it was
the definitive end of the Cold War.
Until then, there were certain huge issues between the USA and the USSR.
We have agreed that the fall of the Berlin Wall could not be the end, because it was just an
effect of the end of the fight, but not of the actual war. In addition to that, the Cold War started
16 years before the construction of the wall, which shows that they are two completely different
events who shouldnt be linked.
Moreover, we have to say that the End of the Cold War was not an instant moment, but more
like a period of time. As it is said in our course book, the overtake of leadership of Gorbachev,
marked the beginning of the end and therefore the end began in 1985 and ended with the
dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
Here are two questions which we found to be quite interesting following our topic, as we
ourselves meditated over them.

Could the Cold War have ended without the implosion of the Soviet Union?
Yes, Gorbachev hoped for that actually. A reconciliation between the United States and
the Soviet Union that would keep Communist rule in the Soviet Union and superpower
relations interact. (The Lonely Superpower)

Did the Cold War ever end ?

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