Cold War - Ending of the Cold War - Revision Notes - 6/6

Ending of the Cold War, 1985-91


  • Reagan 1981-89 / Bush 1989
  • Brezhnev 1985 / Gorbachev 1985-91 / Yeltsin 1991
  • Thatcher 1990 / Major 1990-7


  • 1985 - Gorbachev becomes leader of USSR. Initiates campaign of openness ‘glasnost’ and restricting ‘perestroika’
  • 1986 - October - Reagan and Gorbachev resolve to remove all intermediate nuclear missiles from Europe
  • 1987 - October - Reagan and Gorbachev agree to remove all medium and short range nuclear missiles.
  • 1989 - January - Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

              June - Poland becomes independent.

              September - Hungary becomes independent.

              November - Berlin Wall demolished and East Germany allows unrestricted migration to West Germany.

              December - Communist governments fall in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Rumania.

  • 1990 - March - Lithuania becomes Independent 

              May - Yeltsin elected as President of Russia

              October - Germany reunited.

  • 1991 - August - End of Soviet Union, Cold War ends.
  1. Gorbachev and the ending of the Cold War


Problems of 1960-70’s

  • 1930-70’s, Soviet geared for heavy industry and military - production of steel and cement - Common economy.
  • Brezhnev stagnation in 1970s was aggravated by Afghanistan war, this led to further economic stagnation / stand still between 1979-85.
  • 1970s, Low morale of Soviet workers harmed the economy, led to cynicism, alcoholism and less pride.
  • Brezhnev years was energy inefficient with oil and natural gas, very costly. Due to decline in foreign sales of oil and purchasing food abroad there was a trade imbalance.

Gorbachev’s Approach

  • 1980s, Soviet economy now had negative GNP, soviet economy in decline.
  • Believed economy needed radical change.
  • October 1985, Gorbachev published plan to increase production of consumer goods and increase services.
  • Gorbachev convinced that reductions in military spending were needed.
  • Cracked down on alcoholism
  • These approaches led to the ideas of openness and freedom (glasnost) and economic restructuring (perestroika).

Gorbachev’s Problems

  • 1986, Chernobyl nuclear disaster exposed the backwards failing Soviet system. — Radiation killed hundred, contaminated rivers and agriculture and spread across the world due to evaporation and rainfall.
  • Government reduced the importation of consumer goods and soviet citizens had less to buy, reduced revenue.
  • Gorbachev made problems worse, printed too much money, money had less value.
  • Soviet technology fell behind the west, despite trying to spread techniques under the 9th 5 year plan.


KAL 007 incident

  • 1983, KAL 007 incident revealed old political leadership was inflexible and trapped in old CW mentality


  • 1980’s, Soviets had a series of incapable elderly leaders.
  • Brezhnev 1964-82; Old, physically unable to make change.
  • Andropov 1982-4: Hooked up to dialysis
  • Chernenko 1984-5; Dying of emphysema.

Dissident Opposition

Rise of opponents to the whole political system increased after Helsinki 1975.

  • Czechoslovakia - Charter 77 by Havel
  • USSR - Helsinki Human Rights watch led by Sakharov and Sharonsky
  • Poland -


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