Chapter 9: The End of the Cold War and Chapter 10: Aftermath. Pages 229-292
In the ninth section of the book, Fink illustrates the events and causes of the end of the Cold War as well as the fall of the Soviet Union. Her description of this era is mostly centered around the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev because of his radical reformation of the policies within his country and his determined strives for peace. Fink shows that Gorbachev’s actions intended to create friendly relations between his nation and the West and rebuild his country while keeping a communist system actually caused the collapse of the Soviet Union and eastern communism.
In chapter 9, Fink says “Thus within three years the former Andropov protégé had totally transformed Soviet policy, replacing its messianic Marxist creed with a radical internationalism,” (page 236) and “German reunification, forged by Bush and Kohl, represented a third significant marker in the end of the Cold War and another setback for the Soviet Union,” (page 247).
In my last post, I discussed the major effect Reagan’s strong stance against the East had on the development of peace, however, Reagan’s actions would not have made such an enormous impact without the new Soviet leader on the receiving end. At the time of “the former Andropov protégé[‘s]” rise to power, the economy of the Soviet Union was deteriorating at an even more rapid rate than it had been in the past and the quality of life of the citizens was a problem that was getting difficult to ignore so Gorbachev knew that some serious changes had to be made. His policies of perestroika and glasnost opened up Russia’s economy and allowed for some small private businesses and somewhat capitalist systems to be implemented. His goal was not to become more like the Western free-enterprises, but improve the lives of the people and repair the Soviet’s communist system. Gorbachev was also interested in restoring good relations with the West because he knew that his policies wouldn’t work without the aid of the United States and the West. He approached the Reagan and the other leaders with appeals of peace to eliminate a lot of the arms stocks. Over time, he proposed plans to get rid of nearly half of the nuclear weapons stockpiles. His approaches for peace to the West, however, were met by a resistant President Reagan (and later President Bush). Gorbachev recognized the hesitance and aggression from the West and had to prove his motivations with more concessions and compromises. Although maybe not apparent at the time, these concessions were sacrifices of more pieces of communism and acceptances of more parts of capitalism. One of these, specifically, is stated in the second quote. In October 1990, the GDR (East Germany) ceased to exist and Germany was once again united under one government. As the Eastern portion of Germany had been communist and controlled by Russia, the loss of it under unification was a significant loss for the Soviet Union. Around this time, resistance groups were beginning to gain more power and make it difficult for many of the Soviet territories to remain under communist control so Germany was just one loss in the Soviet Bloc.
In the tenth section of the book, Fink describes the conditions of the world after the “end” of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the imminent threat of communism crumbled with the destruction of the Soviet Union, the United States had no reason to fight with Russia for control in outside countries so many of the proxy wars ended. However, the sudden abandonment of the communist cause in these outside nations caused chaos and soon there was a need for intervention.
In chapter 10, Fink states “as the crisis in Yugoslavia demonstrated, post-Cold War Europe still lacked a unified voice to implement a common foreign and security policy on its own,” (page 280).
This quote shows how the conflicts did not stop after the end of the Cold War, but simply had a different issue behind them because they were no longer an ideological battle but inside struggles for power with the lack of a Superpower to regulate them. This particular quote references the dissolution of Yugoslavia, but similar clashes existed in Africa and Asia as well. The focus of U.S. military operations shifted from the threat of communism to the threat of terrorism from the Middle East (Al Qaeda).
Several factors at the end of the 1980’s combined at just the right time for the struggle between the two largest nations to come to a close. The new leaders of the time, bringing fresh perspectives and approaches to the situation in combination with the exhaustion of the Soviet people, the failing communist control in its territories, and push for reunification in Germany by chancellor Helmut Kohl forced the communist era to its limit. People generally consider the end of the Cold War to be the collapse of the Berlin wall, but in reality the fall of the wall took Gorbachev slightly by surprise. The end actually had begun with Gorbachev and his appeals for peace and was official with the end of communism and the Soviet Union. Although some of the actions taken by Vladimir Putin resemble that of the former Russian dictators like Brezhnev and Khrushchev than Gorbachev, I believe that there will never be a clash with the same turbulent and fearful atmosphere again because of what Batyuk said “the Cold War was fundamentally about ideology not geopolitics.” It was the contrast ideology that scared Americans and pushed us into forceful actions to stop Soviet expansion. However, the tension between nations do not simply vanish and Russian transgressions cannot be ignored so if a conflict (although not caused by political ideology) were to begin, it would be vital that the American leader take a firm stance as President Reagan and Bush did. Many recounts show that soldiers of the Vietnam didn’t understand why they were fighting and many people consider this to be one of the major reasons the Vietnam war was one of the United States’ biggest failures. In any conflict it is important to recognize your stance on an issue so you are able to hold your ground and that is what Reagan and Bush did and it is one of the reasons the dark period of the Cold War is in the past.
-Haley McGeorge (Sorry it’s so long)