The End of the Cold War

notes on the end of the Cold War

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The end of the Cold War
Détente and economic reform in the USSR 1983-5
Brezhnev died in 1982
Yuri Andropov became leader of the USSR in November 1982
There were already signs that the Soviet leadership wished to resume détente
Wanted to make the Soviet economy more competitive with the West
Andropov died in February 1984 from kidney failure
Initiated the process of economic reform in the USSR
At a time of deepening tensions with the USA, the Soviet Politburo chose Konstantin
Chernenko, a cautious and elderly conservative
Re-opened negotiations at Geneva in March 1985
The problems facing Mikhail Gorbachev
A new and expensive arms race was caused by the collapse of détente in the late 1970s
1983: Reagan announces the development of `Star Wars'; setting up nuclear and
laser-armed satellites that would be able to destroy ballistic missiles in the atmosphere
Moscow lacked both the financial means and the technology to build a rival system and
feared that SDI might tempt the USA to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR
The USSR was increasingly suffering from `global over-stretch' (the situation when great
powers take on more global responsibilities than they can afford or manage easily)
The USSR was fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan
Giving financial aid to left-wing regimes which had seized power in Angola and the Horn of
This all cost a great deal of money
The Soviet economy desperately needed both technological and financial input from the
In the USSR's interests to restore the Soviet-Western détente
Resume negotiations on the reduction of armaments
Gorbachev wished to go further than that
Determined to end the Cold War
Waging it was too costly and stopped him implementing his policies of perestroika and
glasnost (fundamentally restoring the Soviet economy and liberalising the Soviet political
Unlike Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, he did not conduct foreign policy according to the
Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideology
Did not believe any longer that Communism would eventually triumph over the West
Worked towards achieving international co-operation and a real co-existence between the
two systems, whose values and principles would eventually converge instead of conflicting
Gorbachev 1931 ­
1931 March 2 ­ born into a peasant family in Stavropol
1952 ­ Joined the Communist Party
1966 ­ Graduated from Agricultural Institute as an agronomist-economist
1970 ­ Appointed First Secretary for Agriculture
1979 ­ Joined the Politburo
1985 March 11 ­ elected General Secretary of the USSR
1986 February ­ launched the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction,
reform of the political and economic system)
1987 January ­ called for multi-candidate elections in the USSR
1988 ­ Announced the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and the abandonment of the
Brezhnev Doctrine
1989 ­ A string of mostly peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe

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­ Received Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Cold War
1991 August ­ Soviet hardliners launched unsuccessful coups against him
August 25 ­ resigned
Détente renegotiated 1985-8
Decision made to renew talks only months before Gorbachev
Quickly showed that he was determined to negotiate major reductions in nuclear weapons
August 1985: stopped increasing the number of SS-20s being installed in Eastern Europe
October: started to reduce the total number deployed
Failed at the Reykjavik Conference in 1986 to persuade Reagan to give up the SDI…read more

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The GDR faced a major challenge when the Hungarian government decided in August to open
its frontiers with Austria and some 150,000 East Germans poured across the border on their
way to the FRG
Under pressure from the West German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, Honecker also granted exit
visas to the thousands of East Germans who had travelled to Poland and Prague, and who
were quite literally besieging the West German embassies there in a desperate attempt to
flee the GDR
Honecker was now facing a…read more


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