American strength, Soviet capitulation. Is this a fair assessment of the end of the Cold War?

I have this essay to do, its 2000 words and I cant do it! I think im going to fail my degree and it only the first term, can anyone help!



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One Response to “American strength, Soviet capitulation. Is this a fair assessment of the end of the Cold War?”

  1. clackdish says:

    Taking last things first, yes, I think the end of the cold war was characterised by a period of American strength and involved a de-facto Soviet capitulation. However: (1) I’m unconvinced that the Soviet capitulation brough about solely, or even mainly, by American strength; and (2) the American strength, and Soviet weakness, was economic rather than military. The Reagan years, in particular, were characterised by a great flexing of American muscle involving almost anything you can think of from the reactivation of old naval ships and old military bases; to a more interventionist approach abroad; to the deployment of middle range balistic missiles in Europe; to the space based Strategic Defense Initiative (the so-called “Star Wars Programme”). Not all of these frightened the Soviet Union. The new interventionism sometimes gave the US a bloody nose (think Beirut) and sometimes made even close allies laugh (think Grenada). And, awful amounts of money were wasted on weaponry of virtually no tactic relevance. However, one important strategic message was sent to the world: America is back, America is assertive and America is going to do whatever it takes. Meanwhile in the Soviet Union the government of Mikhail Gorbachov was determined to earn legitimacy and longevity by “doing something” for the common people. They had to content with two problems: (1) the Soviet economy was sick, essentially shrinking under the weight of a declining productivity as capital equipment grew older and a new generation of blue-collar workers had virtually no incentive to make an effort; and (2) the satellite states in Eastern Europe had long-since ceased to be a profitable acquaintance and now caused a further deterioration of Soviet finances. In this situation the Soviet Union made one last stand to secure its strategic domination of Central Europe, namely the massive deployment of SS22 missiles in this theatre. The country relied on the European peace movements to prevent the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles in response, and actively subsidised them. To no avail. So……Mr. Gorbachov found himself faced with another arms race, in Europe and, potentially, in space. Which the Soviet Union could have embarked upon, but which would have put its economy – which, again, the reform communists wanted to effectivise and even liberalise a bit – back in the frost box for another 20 years. They chose not to. Instead, as the least of several evils, they decided to lift the lid on the “unprofitable” East Europeans. The rest is history. It is fair to say that the Soviet Union did not dream of the vigour with which the East European broke away from them, nor that the dynamics of the process would spill over in a breakdown of the Soviet Union itself. But, once the process started, they could do nothing to stop it… short of an all-out war that would have made Budapest 1956 look like picknic.