The end of the Cold War, 1985-91

  1. The impact of Gorbachev, 1985-91
  2. The collapse of Communism in the USSR
  3. The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the cold war
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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 20-04-14 20:53

events leading up to Gorbachev

  • 10th March 1985 Chernenko died - Gorbachev comes in
  • Gorbachev bought modernity and new vitality to address crisis S.U was facing
  • solution to the S.U crises lay in foreign policy specifically S.U-U.S relationship
  • Gorbachev memoirs, 1996 - "vitally necessary to correct the distorted ideas we had about other nations" - "misconceptions made us oppose the rest of the world for many decades" - "progress is unthinkable for any society which is fenced off from the world"
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the impact of Gorbachev, 1985-91

  • June 1985 - Gorbachev replaced Gromyko as Foreign minister with Shevard
  • Secretary of State(U.S) - "contrast between Gromyko and Shevard was breathtaking...he could smile, engage, converse."
  • Gorbachev bought 'new thinking' to Soviet foreign policy. No certain defense against nuclear attacks. Security was political rather than military.
  • 'new thinking' also included interdependence
  • Gorbachev acknowledged states common interests - these would be best served by working together
  • bought an end to traditional soviet notion that class war innevitable between Comm. and capitalist states
  • 'New Thinking' - Europe is our common home. Developed from 1986 during a visit to Paris
  • The concept of common European home envisaged an end to division in Europe
  • did not suggest end to communism in eastern bloc, but suggested peaceful coexistence between all European states. No need for nukes in this environment
  • greater economic links between east and west forged and Soviet bloc would enter capitalist system so vital to its survival
  • Gorbachev intended to abandon Brezhnev Doctrine
  • October 1985 - Gorbachev introduced concept of 'reasonable sufficicency' - based on open rejection of aggression. S.U would maintain levels of nukes + men 'sufficient'
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the impact of Gorbachev, 1985-91

  • for the first time S.U leaders were willing to accept military cuts
  • shift was of fundamental importance in enabling Intermediate Nuclear Forces(INF) agreement being made in 1987
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The Geneva Summit, November 1985

  • Reagan + Gorbachev wanted this summit to look like a success
  • some historians refer to the summit as a 'watershed in relations'
  • Joint statement following the summit - "a nuclear war cannot be won and must be never thought"
  • joint statement also referred to the "important of preventing any war between the U.S and S.U, whether nuclear or conventional"
  • agreements underlined the fact that Gorbachev had removed the ideological split between East and West
  • Gorbachev wrote between March-December 1985 - "was an extremely important period, marked by an intense search for new policy approaches leading to conclusions that became the core of the new thinking"
  • Reagan primarily wanted an indication that Gorbachev would materially change soviet attitudes
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complications beyond the next summit, 1986

  • Gorbachev wanted to leave clear impressions that S.U was serious about ending the nuclear arms race
  • the 'initiative' amounted to a declaration that all nukes established by 2000 - 1st step would be a 50% cut in strategic nuclear weapons
  • reaction of west was mixed - U.S welcomed initiative but was not willing to abandon SDi programme
  • Britain and France simply refused to discuss - Thatcher called it "pie in the sky"
  • August 1986 - Soviet employee of United Nations, Gennady Zakharov, arrested for organising spying activities against U.S
  • 23rd August Zakharov arrested
  • S.U responded by arresting Nicholas Daniloff, U.S journalist in Moscow
  • problem resolved - Daniloff released, Zakharov expelled from U.S
  • opened up way for Rejavik summit
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The Reyjavik Summit, October 1986

  • 1990, Reagan - "I realised he had brought me to Iceland with one purpose: to kill the Strategic Dfense Initiative...I was very dissapointed - and very angry"
  • October 14th - Gorbachev - "with reagan, we had to struggle in Rejacvik not only with a class enemy but with an extremely primitive one, a feable-minded cave man"
  • Reagan would not compromise on his determination to continue research and testing of nuclear defense systems
  • Western Europe leaders largely behind Reagan commitments to SDI because it meant U.S would not attempt an end to nuclear weapons
  • Thatcher+French could not understand Reagan's hatred of nukes
  • some commentators - chance to create most sweeping and significant arms cointrol agreement ever facing superpowers was lost at Reyjavik
  • However, summit did convince Gorbachev that reagan wanted to end arms race
  • He believed Reagan saw SDI as means to make nukes irrelevant
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The Washington Summit, December 1987

  • Strong supporters of SDI office left before talks
  • Reagan and Gorbachev signed INF treaty - some historians say most siginificant step taken by U.S+S.U to end arms race
  • Treaty designed by Shultz(U.S Sec State) +Shevardnadze(S.U foreign Min)
  • removed all nukes carried by intermediate range missiles. S.U would remove **-20 missiles while U.S would remove Cruise and Pershing II
  • S.U removed more nukes than U.S
  • S.U even removed their **-23 missiles which only had ranged of 400km - treaty only asked for removal of missiles with range 500-2000km - S.U went further than needed
  • Importance not from amount of missiles removed, but precident set:
    • first time S.U+U.S had agreed to remove whole class of nukes + verify the removal on each other's territory
    • S.U made no demands that treaty was signed conditionally on U.S withdrawing from SDI
    • S.U made no demands that it should be able to retain 100 **-20 missiles as defence against China
    • S.U accepted British + French nukes need not be part of the deal
  • meant S.U had accepted all elements of the 'zero option' Reagan proposed 1981
  • As consequence of talks Gorbachev pulled out of Afghanistan - announced Feb 1988 - May 1989 all Soviet troops out
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The Washington Summit, December 1987

  • was also clear that S.U indefinitely trapped in Afghanistan - Afghan army was in no position to defeat Muja heddin
  • by 1980's S.U had lost 15,000 men and economic cost rising
  • support for Khabul finally ended with collapse of S.U in December 1991
  • following the Summit, S.U army major - "now its time to live"
  • Gorbachev no longer referred to political dinosaurs and cavemen. Looked as if end to cold war finally in sight
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The Moscow Summit, June 1988

  • content of this summit relatively unimportant. Old arguements of SDI and ABM Treaty rehearsed
  • Gorbachev + people of S.U believed SDI programme designed to put offensive missiles in space
  • most important factor = Moscow summit gave Reagan access to Russian public
  • Reagan gave speech at Moscow State University - there was freedom - shared vision of S.U free from totalitarian rule
  • Journalists asked Reagan "do you still consider this n evil empire?" reagan replied "No. that was another time, another era"
  • 7th December 1988 - Gorbachev 'new thinking' speech at united Nations - emphasised rights of states to make their own choices - essentially end of  Brezhnev Doctrine and therefore end to S.U commitment that socialist states must remain socialist
  • S.U foreign policy no longer based on international class struggle
  • Gorbachev went on to announced that S.U would reduce army size by 500,000 men
  • Gorbachev speec to U.N suggests end of Cold War ideological conflict
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the position at the end of Reagan's presidency

  • some historians argue Reagan was prime mover in the relationship
  • rejecting detente and pursuing aggressive U.S arms build up and focus on SDI has been seen as strategy of forcing S.U into position where could not compete with U.S
  • this view rejected by George Kennan in 1992 - "The suggestion that any administration had the power to influence decisively the course of  tremendous political upheaval in another great country is simply childish. Nobody - no country, no party, no person - 'won' the Cold War"
  • by the end of 1988 seemed end of Cold War near, but end was drawn out
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A New President: George Bush, 1989

  • ordered review of U.S policy toward S.U
  • he needed to reassure right wing he was not simply following Reagan approach
  • Arms control negotiations resumed September 1989
  • S.U facing meltdown in Eastern Europe and Gorbachev's ability to negotiate from a position of power was rapidly diminishing
  • Malta, December 1989 - moves made toward closer economic relationship between S.U and U.S marked end of cold war economic conflict
  • S.U slowly moving toward market driven economy and away from state controlled economy
  • some informal agreements reached for Eastern Europe. Gorbachev made it clear S.U would not use force to prevent eastern europe states from determining their own future
  • less consensus over reunification of Germany. few supported reunification
  • Bush agreed not to intervene over Germany or future of Baltic states. No formal agreements signed
  • 6 months later summit held in Washington
  • by the tie U.S and S.U met at Malta, Eastern Europe communist regimes were falling from power
  • Bush expressed his views on outcomes at malta - "we stand at the threshold of a brand new era of U.S-S.U relations"
  • November 1990 - Conventional Forces in Europe(CNF) Treaty signed by Gorbachev, Bush + European leaders in Paris
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Collapse of Communism in the USSR


  • relaxation of control tates had over media-censorship
  • was not about suddenly injecting democracy
  • was the means by which people could support wider reforms he wanted and criticise those who stood in the way of their fulfilment
  • relaxation on oppression was undoubtedly outcome of glasnost
  • main problem for glasnost was it expose the dominance of Communist party to challenge
  • glasnost effectively undermined the dominance of power of the communist party. - unintentionally begun the process of ending Comm. rule in S.U


  • designed to reinforce the socialist system in Soviet Union
  • first step in restructuring was reducing power of Communist party
  • Congress of People's Duties was to be created 2/3 directly elected. 1/3 remain in hands of Communist party - Comm. party power undermined once again
  • Gorbachev wanted to ensure power and be able to drive reforms his way - created executive presidency not subject to elections
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Nationalism within the USSR

  • Soviet Union more accurately named Soviet Empire
  • multilingual and multiethnic state made up of 15 republics
  • largely held together by force+power of Comm. party
  • as power of Comm party diminished under Gorbachev, nationalist feelings in the republics became stronger
  • 1988 Azerbaijan crisis - Armenians in Nagorny demanded separation from Azerbaijan and incorporation into Soviet Armenia
  • Gorbachev showed insensitivity for nationalists when he sided with Azerbaijan
  • 1989 - demands for Georgian independence flared in 1989. 20 independence marchers were killed, increasing demand for independence
  • Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia clearely wanted independence. May 1989 these 3 has Baltic assembly in Tallinn - talks on united actions to promote economic + political sovereignity from S.U
  • January Gorbachev sent troops to Vilnius, capital of Lithuania - 13 killed
  • overall failed to appease the nationalists by giving them more power and he also failed to use enough force to destroy them
  • August 1991 coup to overthrow Gorbachev set in place. Response to imminent introduction of a Union Treaty which would have given significant freedom to the 15 soviet republics. Would have marked end of S.U
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collapse of Comm. in east Europe + end of C.W

  • Richard Crockatt - "It's effects on East-West relations were such that virtually at a stroke Cold War notions became redundant"
  • key event which opened flood gates for communist opposition was Gorbachev's rejection of Brezhnev Doctrine
  • Gorbachev's move to liberalise eastern Europe and consequent collapse of Communism oversimplifies events of 1989
  • process of change stretched back to 1956 Hungarian uprising and Prague 1968 spring
  • most significant part of the process = emergence of east-west detente driven by Willy Brant's Ostpolitik from 1969
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the background to 1989

  • 1973 onward West faced economic recession as result of escalating oil prices
  • East-West trade declined - East became dependent on S.U. Led to long term damage and reduction in exports from east-west
  • Western technology+loans did flow into eastern European economies
  • contributed to 'westernisation' of east European - Toruism + Business
  • 1979-82 - another recession hit west. Soviet economy facing Brezhnev 'years of stagnation' and so was unable to prop up western economies as it had during 1970s
  • eastern Europe was stuck between stagnant S.U economy and west recession
  • 1979-89 western economies faced recession and zero growth
  • these factors plus 'gorbachev years' contributed to an end to Communist rule in eastern europe, and also end to Cold War
  • added to this was S.U withdrawal from Afghanistan - showed S.U had stopped using military force in affairs of neighbouring states
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the era of revolution, 1989-91

  • by 1980's clear socialist solutions to meet needs of people had lost creibility
  • bringing limited capitalist economies in to eastern Europe were not working
  • some historians - Collapse of Communism was outcome of apathy with Communist leadership. Sense of hopelessness they could not address
  • Once S.U abandoned Brezhnev Doctrine floodgates for change were flung open
  • April 1989 - Poland solidarity legislation allowed for multi party elections. August government dominated by Solidarity elected. East Europe 1st non-Comm PM since 1940's
  • May 1989 - Hungary opened border with Austria - September allowed East Germans to escape to west. 200,000 East Germans took holiday in Hungary. few returned
  • Oct 1989 Gorbachev visited East germany and made clear no military assistance available to help Comm. regime there
  • Sept 1989 - Democracy founded in 1989, East Germany, as dissatisfaction with Comm regime. Countries economy collapsing. 5.2% growth 1985, 2.8% 1989
  • Nov 1989 - East germany new leader denied economic aid by Gorbachev
  • 9th Nov - thousands of East Germans stormed Berlin and guards had to let them through "The taking of the wall...transformed the world"
  • no evidence that Gorbachev had a plan to dismantle communism in east Europe. He wanted to replace hardline Comms with men similar to himself
  • peaceful transition from Comm didn't happen everywhere. Violent overthrow in Romania. Leader + his wife executed on Christmas day, 1989
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reunification of Germany

  • by 1990 Berlin wall had gone
  • West German chancellor Kohl wanted unified Germany and for it to be a full member of NATO
  • October 1990 - formal reunification of Germany
  • July - Kohl met with Gorbachev. Gorbachev reluctant for NATO and its military power to expand into East Germany. Gorbachev accepted it was an inevitability - S.U in need of money so prepared to do a deal
  • many historians - Gorbachev agreeing to unifications + acceptance into NATO = end of cold war
  • Gorbachev agreed to remove S.U military power from GDR and insisted on no restrictions of German sovereignity. Initiative was taken by Gorbachev alone, no consultation
  • collapse of Berlin Wall + Communism in East - Cold War effectively ended
  • no more Communism-Capitalism clash
  • Threat of nuclear war subsided - new era in int. relations began
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