The Cold War in 1980s – The Prone Seigneur Between the Two Superpowers
Since Cold War began at the end of World War in the late 1940s, the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were racing their power to get their dominance over another. Each side feared the other’s superior weapons, such as the United States had nuclear weapon and the USSR had their mighty Red Army. The Cold War spread through decades and seemed to be indefinite.
Two superpowers with the race of weapon not only weakened their economy but also threaten each other with their massive arsenals.
Two sides negotiated to reduce half the numbers of nuclear weapon on each side as they worried that if the war started, it would be the third World War, and the destruction of the third war would be tremendous and severe. 1980s turned out to be the most important decade with many events which lead the Soviet Union to dissolved officially and breaking up into fifteen separate nations on December 31, 1991.
After the U.S.S.R invaded in Afghanistan to hold up the U.S.S.R government’s instability, the United States decided to delay arms treaty with Soviets. The United States denounced the Russian invasion in the United Nations warned to boycott the Moscow Olympics. Yet, the Soviets refused to withdraw their armies from Afghanistan made President Carter to boycott the games. Carter told the U.S athletes, “What we are doing is preserving the principles and the quality of the Olympics, not to destroying it” (Carter 13).
The athletes supported Carter’s decision reluctantly as the U.S government threatened to cut budgets. The boycott had no impact on the Soviet policy in Afghanistan, but the Russian later revenged the United States’ Olympics boycott by not to participate in the Olympics which held in Los Angeles in 1984. It is obvious that the Cold War effected many irrelevant events to political that makes the rivalry between United States and Soviet Union more tense. In 1983, Reagan first applied the phrase “evil empire” to the Soviet, Reagan said: They preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth.
They are the focus of evil in the modern world….So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil (Zigfeld 4).
Reagan’s words strongly declared Soviets were the empire which were just wrong and evil. Soviets wanted to dominate and influenced their Communism to any other countries. In relations with the Soviet Union , President Reagan’s policy that has declared a policy of peace through strength . He clearly stated his opposition attitude towards this country . Two events occurred as early Soviet – American relations more tense parts : “the event Solidarity labor movement in the Soviet missiles had caused 269 deaths in flight 007 civilian Korean airlines.
” The United States reacted, “ the Soviets knew the plane was an unarmed civilian passenger aircraft. President Ronald Reagan called the incident a “massacre” and issued a statement in which he declared that the Soviets had turned against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere” (“Korean” 18). Many analysts agreed that the incident was solely a tragic misunderstanding. In November 1983, NATO conducted military practice “Able Archer 83”. It was a realistic simulation of a nuclear attack by NATO forces made reasonable alert to the Soviet. It is considered to be the closest to start nuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis. The United States also condemned Soviet participation in Afghanistan and continue military aid to the time Carter Mujahedeen insurgents in Afghanistan .
During Reagan ‘s first term , his government has spent huge sums of money ever for strengthening the armed forces , including the transfer of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe to respond to the Soviet Union deploying similar missiles . During a heated debate in policy for two of his presidency , Reagan announced research program on Strategic Defense Initiative ( SDI ) “to find the advanced technologies such as lasers and missile warheads, high-energy defense against intercontinental ballistic missile sites” (“The Strategic” 32).
Reagan’s idea, at that time, was to intercept and destroy the incoming ballistic missiles far away from his country. Although many scientists have expressed doubts about the feasibility of SDI technology and the economy have shown the enormous costs , but the government continues to implement this project . The Strategic Defense Initiative was eventually abandoned, and after a few years, it was nothing but a short chapter in history books. The program was hopefully a new revolution in defense system which was told to be impenetrable. But under the political pressure, the Strategic Defense Initiative was slated for failure.
The Strategic Defense Initiative was not solely a failure, it had an important meaning of Reagan. Reagan was feared that the US actually could not protect their soil from aggressive weapon which the two superpowers were racing for so many years. Reagan knew the USSR feared the same threat. The Strategic Defense Initiative made the Soviet Union panicked for their easy penetrable defense by cruise missiles.
Wise and knowledgeable Reagan saw that the Soviet Union had lost their ideological, and economic strength as before. The Soviet Union was in unstable situation that they could not hold the arm race with the US. They knew that they could not keep up with the US in computer technology field. The Strategic Defense Initiative which Reagan proposed on March 23, 1983 made the USSR felt impotent and obsolete. Reagan’s bluff strengthened the threat that the US was protected and ready to attack the USSR anytime knowing that the US technology at that time far away from developing a missile defense capability. This move lead the relationship between the two superpowers more tense, but also made the USSR fell into a hopeless state.
The USSR was exhausted by catching up in offensive missiles, let alone catching up new technology of defense missiles which required more skills in the field. With a person that cannot defense, the only way is to attack. So did the USSR. The reason they shot down South Korean airliner was because the plane accidentally flew into Soviet airspace, and they thought they were attacked by the US somehow. Maybe, just maybe that was the test the US probably cruel, but necessary to test the Soviet Union. On November 2, 1983 the US and its allies NATO exercised “Able Archer 83”. “Soviet anti-aircraft misinterpret a test of NATO’s nuclear warfare procedures as a fake cover for an actual NATO attack” (Jones 30). The tension after that increased and the USSR was put on high alert, but they wouldn’t dare to attack each other.
U.S. forces invaded Grenada in an attempt to crush the Communist’s influence, deported Cuban troops, and blocked the airstrip of Soviet. The Washington contended that the action were supposedly motivated by concern for “human rights”. According to Gordon, “the United States mounted Operation Urgent Furry: the invasion of Grenada. After a short campaign, American forces were in control of the island nation; the troops, however, did not leave the island until they had supervised free democratic election and the drafting of a new constitution” (Gordon). The US invaded not just for human rights concern, it has some means that the US is getting their power over the USSR.
And another important reason is that the US afraid of the increasing economy of a Grenada which was just a small and poor communism state. Grenada’s foreign policy did not help the US government, its economy was not open to be dominated by U.S. corporate interests. A show of invasion can make other countries to react and condemn the United States. Under a socialist model, a poor and small Grenada can increase and develop quickly will make the bad influence to other neutral countries. Those neutral countries might followed Soviets’ side as well. In brief, Grenada got their housing, health care, economic independence and participatory democracy in a dangerous level.
The US feared that if the New Jewel Movement was populated in many countries followed the USSR, it would help them get back on their feet and even grow stronger. Thus, it would destroy Reagan’s plan that kept the way USSR was running and falling slowly: If the U.S.S.R. was crumbling, what could justify continuing to hold East Europeans hostage to the Brezhnev Doctrine—or, for that matter, continuing to hold Americans hostage to the equally odious concept of Mutual Assured Destruction? Why not hasten the disintegration? (Gaddis 888) This means the United States saw that the Soviet Union was falling and they would let the U.S.S.R destroyed themselves and release the struggle in East Europe.
On the other hand, and absolutely, the USSR strongly denounced the US invasive act that was unacceptable and against peace and humanity, “the Soviet Union resolutely condemns the aggression of the United States against Grenada denounces it as a crime against peace and humanity…The aggression against the people of Grenada must be stopped and the invaders must immediately withdraw from that independent state” (“What about the Soviets?”). Even though the Soviet Union condemned the Pentagon furiously, yet the USSR didn’t have any move. Maybe because they were still afraid of the SDI shield which Reagan launched to the world in March.
Reagan was a talented politician that bluffed the SDI shield to protect his country from the war between the US and the USSR, even though he did really want to build that effective defense. Nevertheless, Reagan truly aimed to power of speech and let the Soviet Union itself dissolved by it ancient and backward regime. This is also a powerful way to gain trust and power for the US that many countries indeed followed the US side or at least agreed with the US. An obvious example is the Olympics boycott, the US boycotted 1980 Olympics which was held in Moscow and made over 60 countries not to participate in that Olympics.
On the other hand, when Soviet revenged by boycotting 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, only 16 countries, which were on Soviet Union, didn’t participate the Olympics. Many people thought the reason that many countries stepped out of Olympics games was because of Afghanistan invasion by Soviet. Yet, in 1983 the US invaded Grenada which also made the world and Soviet Union strongly condemned too. But the 1984 didn’t draw that much support to Soviet. At that time, Soviet Union knew that they were isolated in their border. The USSR was in disturbance through alternately death of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, Yuri Andropov in 1984 and Konstantin Chernenko in 1985. The economy of Soviet Union suffered more and more with the arms race.
Soviet was extremely powerful after World War II as they were the number exporting oil in the world. Yet, their economy was still crumbling, according to John Lewis Gaddis, is a historian at Yale University, “The contrast with the moribund Soviet economy, which despite high oil prices showed no growth at all in the 1970s and actually contracted during the early 1980s, was an indictment from which Soviet leaders never recovered” (Gaddis 848).
Yes, Soviet’s most important income relied on oil. The theory of Communism was to share everything to everyone, the hard workers or the lazy ones will have the same benefit, no more no less. That sounds perfect, but only for lazy people. Then the hard workers would not work hard anymore because what they receive is the same after all, so they would sit back and relax too. That’s how Communism goes backward with modern ages. When the economy went down the USSR could not keep up with the US, they reluctantly negotiated to reduce missiles which was failed in the 1970s.
1985 was the start of many dramatic changes in relations between the US and the Soviet, and also the last pages of mighty Communism empire. On January 20, 1985 Ronald Reagan is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States. After re-election, Regan eased his tough stance on gun control. His wise tactic worked well to weaken Soviet’s power that he got many allies at that time. On March 11, 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party. This marked the new history and relationship between the two forces. Mikhail Gorbachev was unlike other senior Soviet leaders who were with coldness bordering on hatred”.
Anatoly Chernyaev, Gorbachev’s closest advisers wrote in his private diary, “Gorbachev was intelligent , well-educated, dynamic, honest, with ideas and imagination” (Gaddis 901). Indeed Gorbachev realized that Soviet’s pattern was falling in the pitch of poverty and struggle. He once told his wife that they cannot live like this, he meant the standard of living decreased every year. Gorbachev really concerned about the standard living in his country that he cut economy aid to Soviet satellites. In Gorbachev’s term of General Secretary, he listened and learned many lectures from President Reagan and Secretary of State Shultz. Gorbachev had realized that Soviets needed to be changed their way of governing, but he couldn’t know how to change before learning those lectures and philosophy from Reagan and Shultz.
When Gorbachev became the new Kremlin boss, Reagan was keen to meet Gorbachev face-to-face to negotiate getting rid of nuclear weapon. Reagan invited Gorbachev to share the SDI technology, but Gorbachev wanted to stop the SDI plan. Even though the summit broke up inconclusively, the common concern was that they agreed to get rid of nuclear weapon. That was the good news to people on both sides who worried about a nuclear war might occur. In many houses at that time, people even built a shelter under their house, people stored food that can survive for years in those shelters. This is a new page of history marked that the tense between two superpowers were cooling down and the risk of nuclear weapon will end soon.
On April 26th 1986, a nuclear disaster did occur. It was an explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The accident was the consequence of a improper reactor build that was managed with insufficient trained staff. According to World Nuclear Association: The accident destroyed 4 reactor, killing 30 operators and firemen within three months and several further deaths later. One person was killed immediately and a second died in hospital soon after as a result of injuries received. Another person is reported to have died at the time from a coronary thrombosis.
Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people on-site and involved with the clean-up and it was later confirmed in 134 cases. Nobody off-site suffered from acute radiation effects although a large proportion of childhood thyroid cancers diagnosed since the accident is likely to be due to intake of radioactive iodine fallout. Furthermore, large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond were contaminated in varying degrees. (“Chernobyl”) The tragedy had tremendous destruction and also rang the bell with high alert about the danger of nuclear control that no country in the world can handle at that time.
However, the tragedy helped the summit concluded to end all of nuclear weapon by 2000. Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty on intermediate-range nuclear weapon. As we can see that Gorbachev concerned was the dangerous that the war could do in reality, and he cared for his citizen’s safety. Even though the tension of the cold war reduced dramatically, the border between East and West Europe were still on the hot plate. Many people tried to climb over the wall which separated Germany into half, it also separated many family from reunion after World War II. When the Hungarian decided to eliminate the barbed wire at the border between Hungary and Austria, They just wanted to let their citizen get through easily.
The news came to East Germany that made large numbers of German took vacation to Hungary and head West Germany through Austria. This is the evidence that people under Soviets’ hands couldn’t stand the injustice and also independence. Also they couldn’t stand the low standard of living which was not taken care of because of the arms race for so many years. Gorbachev was a trendy man who saw and compared the standard of living, economy and the system between 2 sides. He knew that he should changed the system, but it was too late. People in Soviets’ empire did not trust them anymore, many strikes and uprising to overthrow their government in East Europe. Gorbachev tried to save the empire by changing its system and warning other countries in Soviet Union started to change their system and take care of their citizen.
Many leaders still want to keep their power and refused Gorbachev warnings. During commemorations in Beijing, Gorbachev witnessed the marchers’ slogans, “Gorby, help us! Gorby, stay here!” (“Gaddis” 959) Even China’s people wanted the revolution as Russia did. The Cold War gone into the end when Soviets announced that all citizen can cross the border between East and West Europe. People gathered at the Berlin Wall brought their drills and hammers to smashed down the wall which resisted them from reuniting West Germany. Even though many countries declared independence in East Europe, Germany finally reunited in 1989.
That marked a big success of both Reagan and Gorbachev. Gorbachev was the one who advised East Germany to reunited with West Germany, finally his effort succeeded. Many countries got independence continuously after that. Cold War came to an end at last in 1991 with previous signs which people in around the world felt relieved. Five decades with continuously arms raced and competed, citizen in two sides can sleep well at night without worrying about abrupt warfare anytime. And the most important thing is that the plan the US had planned in order to weakened Soviets worked well in the long run as reviewing in history.
The Cold War completely ended when Soviet Union declared to dismiss in 1991. Even though Soviets’ collapse was in President George H. W. Bush, Reagan was the one who lead the United States to glorious victory. He saw the obsolete and backward economy system of Soviets, he knew Soviets could not keep up with the US technology. Thus, Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative which made the Soviet Union fell into fear. The United States raced arms in the long run weakened Soviets’ economy, let the Soviets abandoned their citizen that made Soviets shattered from inside.
From another aspect, Gorbachev might be the one who made the Soviets came to an end. On the other hand, with United States, Gorbachev was the hero that save many countries from the backward evil empire. The most fortunate of the end of the Cold War that its end with the least bloodshed amazingly which people depress worried about the third World War might occur. I think President Reagan is an excellent strategist. Even though he was opposed to launched SDI plan due to its high cost, Reagan kept the plan as his super defense power which was a nightmare to the Soviet Union.
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