05 February 2013

1989: The True End Of The Cold War

Faye asks:

Did the Cold War end in 1989 or 1991?

There seem to be differing views on this and I'd value yours!

I'll give you the view of Mikhail Gorbachev, who became Soviet President in March 1985, interviewed by Katrina vanden Heuval and Stephen F Cohen of The Nation Magazine in November 2008, Faye!

Mikhail Gorbachev: 

... If President Ronald Reagan and I had not succeeded in signing disarmament agreements and normalizing our relations in 1985-88, the later developments would have been unimaginable. But what happened between Reagan and me would also have been unimaginable if earlier we had not begun perestroika in the Soviet Union. Without perestroika, the cold war simply would not have ended. But the world could not continue developing as it had, with the stark menace of nuclear war ever present. 

Sometimes people ask me why I began perestroika. Were the causes basically domestic or foreign? The domestic reasons were undoubtedly the main ones, but the danger of nuclear war was so serious that it was a no less significant factor. Something had to be done before we destroyed each other. Therefore the big changes that occurred with me and Reagan had tremendous importance. But also that George H.W. Bush, who succeeded Reagan, decided to continue the process. And in December 1989, at our meeting in Malta, Bush and I declared that we were no longer enemies or adversaries.


So the cold war ended in December 1989?


I think so.


Many people disagree, including some American historians.


Let historians think what they want. But without what I have described, nothing would have resulted.

When you consider that after Reagan and Gorbachev first met in 1985, Reagan declared: "Gorbechev is a diehard Bolshevik!" and Gorbachev stated that Reagan was "A real dinosaur!" it seems amazing just how their relationship thawed. Do read the full article, it's fascinating (here), but the dramatic events of 1989 certainly left most of us agreeing with Mikhail Gorbachev that the Cold War had ended. Things no longer felt "Cold" - hadn't felt that "Cold" for a few years in fact - and there seemed no prospect of a "War".

Why this tendency persists to state that the Cold War ended in 1991 with the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, I don't know. Nothing 'signed' in 1989? The Cold War was never signed into being in the first place. I suspect though that many of the "great and good", including many highly respected historians, have a hard time allowing the limelight to fall on the 1980s, a decade many of them like to scapegoat and revile.

So they gabble things like: "and in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. In 1991 a whole new era began as the Cold War ended and the world looked on stunned as the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place before their very eyes..."

I'm afraid, after 1989, that was no great surprise.

1989 - the year the Cold War ended? I'm sure that sticks in more than a few priggish gullets! But I'd much rather listen to Gorbachev.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recall Thatcher as early as 1988 proclaiming that we were no longer in a Cold War with the Soviet Union.