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Was Gorbachev the main reason for ending the Cold War?

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Was Gorbachev the main reason for ending the Cold War? The most turbulent period in diplomatic history, when the world edged on the brink of annihilation, the Cold War was an agglomeration of factors united together in a post-war power vacuum to emerge as one of the most potent conflicts in history. Combining economic rivalry and personality collision, arms and space races, ideological opposition and human discord, its nature is as multifarious as its origins. Yet although responsibility for the initial increase in Cold War tensions belongs to both Stalinist Russia and post-war America, accountability for its continuance and exacerbation rests fundamentally with the USA, who, by acting on ?the grandiose idea that their identity depends on a special responsibility for world order?, according to Feinberg, intensified hostility between the two superpowers to create what Halliday refers to as a ?New Cold War?. This second cold front was achieved thanks to Reagan?s belligerent new approach that largely prevented a resolution to the Cold War, and crucially a result of the strongest country in the world using its might to create an even greater enemy, whose strength Russia had not and could not ever hope to epitomise. ...read more.


What Gorbachev did do, however, was salvage some semblance of world order before nuclear arsenals obliterated it completely. Ronald Reagan, however, did not share the same foresight that characterised his Russian counterpart, and grossly misunderstood the nature of both the Cold War and the USSR, as his Reagan doctrine and relentless rhetoric, arms increases and Star Wars visions undid the majority of the progress nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction had made towards the end of the conflict. Reagan?s ?military build up, with the intention of so straining an already inefficient USSR?, in the words of Gaddis, was an incredibly politically naive thing to do, that went against the grain of historical lessons learnt in the past. For to underestimate the power of nationalism, the force that had and could and would surmount in Russia when faced with criticism and attack, was to act as the west had done in 1917, and the Nazis at Stalingrad in 1940; both had failed in the face of a unified Russian defiance, where budgets had stretched to barricade national security. Reagan?s Strategic Defence Initiative was above all things a move towards active nuclear war, for far from bringing ?the prospect of making nuclear weapons obsolete altogether? in Gaddis? opinion, the more likely prospect would have been an active conflict while the two superpowers were still on a level playing field, before SDI could be implemented. ...read more.


It was Gorbachev too who broke the destructive spiral of retaliation between Russia and America, as both countries undoubtedly participated in their Cold War, and to Gorbachev that the world owes its gratitude for procuring a semblance of peace. Nevertheless, due to its complex origins and breadth of conflict across history, of all the many facets of Cold War, some still remain unresolved. Although the conflicts in arms and space came to an uneasy truce and the economic rivalry collapsed when the USSR did, the conflicts of power and mistrust still remain. As the Great American Psyche outlives both the perpetrators and conciliators of the Cold War, McCauley asserts that ?Russia today is as fearful of America as ever?. The Cold War action as the world knows it is over thanks to Gorbachev, but the mutual suspicion and mistrust behind it remains. Sewell asserts that ?with the red flag no longer flying high over the Kremlin, the Cold War ended?; yet the superpower rivalry was never about an ideological dichotomy, and extends far beyond the mere presence of a flag. Being a conflict so deeply ingrained into the minds and mentalities of its witnesses, the most menacing war to rear its head in history may take many more lifetimes to reach its long-overdue end. ...read more.

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