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Kevin Wong (8) 09A202 Ronald Reagan deserves the most credit for ending the Cold War.

How far do you agree with this statement? The end of the Cold War, being a large part of modern world history, is complicated in the sense in comparing which factor actually brought about this significant event. Many people believe that Ronald Reagan deserves the most credit for ending the Cold War. But first, there are certain things we have to clarify. What does it mean by ending the Cold War? In my belief, it is the end of conflict between USSR and the West. Also, there is no exact date on when the Cold War actually ended; the time period does affect which factor actually made a more significant impact on the end of the Cold War. There are three other main interpretations of the end of the Cold War: the Soviet Initiative, People Power and Long Term Trends interpretations, all which will be explained further in this essay. So in my opinion, it is a big assumption to think that Ronald Reagan should be helmed the saviour in bringing the Cold War to the end; we must consider the other factors. The assumption that Ronald Reagan was responsible in ending the Cold War is part of the Western Triumphalist interpretation, whereby it stresses the fact that because of the relentless application of the Wests military superiority via containment and the arms race and the dynamism of its economic system, they helped to end the Cold War. The ideological offensive and military build up of the Reagan era forced the USSRs system of central planning into bankruptcy and submission that led to the end of the Cold War; this was known as the RightWing strand. In the 1980s, USSR was unable to catch up with the West in terms of military offensive and consumer goods, making it weaker than before. Furthermore, Reagans building up of USs military power was to gain clear superiority over the USSR through the huge military budgets of his first administration; this can be shown in his launch of the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative), which was an idea to block all nuclear weapons that were coming from space. This had a defensive impact on Soviet policy because it threatened an arms race with USSR, who could not compete. He also abandoned the SALT talks and sabotaged the Geneva Talks of 1981 and 1983, and weakened USSR by denying it access to western technology. His doctrine aiming of rolling back Communism and labeling USSR an evil empire also strove him to destroy USSR. Reagan indirectly caused the collapse of the USSR due to his military, economic, political and psychological policies and with it, came the end of the Cold War. However, it is a major assumption that the initiatives by the Soviet government was a direct response to the first Reagan administration and there is no evidence that the Soviet military budget increased as a result of US military

spending. The other side of the Western Triumphalist interpretation states that it was the unbending determination and persistent strategy of military vigilance exerted over a long haul (starting with the Truman Doctrine and the policy of containment, carried on by subsequent Presidents) that wore down the USSR, thwarting its expansion, straining its economy and triggering the internal reforms of Gorbachev, which led to peoples dissatisfaction with him and wanting for separation from Communism, which eventually led to the collapse of the USSR. Central to this success was the policy of deterrence and the resoluteness of the Wests stand throughout the Cold War and this was known as the Centrist strand. So, this strand states that all the Presidents from Truman to Reagan each contributed in their own way in containing the spread of Communism and destroying USSR piece by piece until it collapsed. But, the Western Triumphalist interpretation is assuming that the Cold War ended when the USSR collapse in December 1991, and also assuming that the 1917 Revolution in Russia was the start of the Cold War, which can be said. However, there are definitely other interpretations that may counter this point. One other interpretation we can look at is the Soviet Initiative interpretation, which emphasizes the role of Gorbachev and how he himself brought the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev began making changes in USSR; this was because USSR was approaching a crisis by the 1980s. Its economy was on the decline, it was technologically backward compared with the West and there was an overstretch of resources in maintaining its military power and global ambitions. Hence, he made changes. He signaled a change in the ideological content and declared goals of Soviet foreign policy. Gorbachev began to re-evaluate USSRs military doctrine, introducing the idea of reasonable sufficiency (smaller number of nuclear weapons would be required) and a move towards defensive defence, in order to quell Western concerns about a surprise attack. Examples of initiating this policy were the Reykjavik Summit in October 1986, where he met with Reagan to call for the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons. In December 1987, he signed the INF Treaty, eliminating a whole category of nuclear weapons. And in 1988, in his famous speech in the UN, he announced significant unilateral reductions in military forces in Eastern Europe and Western part of USSR. The latter two examples may be one of the dates that the Cold War ended; the INF treaty marked that starting of trust between the two powers, and paved the way for peace and end of conflict between USSR and US. And for the UN speech, it was a public declaration of the breakage from the Brezhnev Doctrine, and made it impossible for USSR to intervene in Eastern Europe to crush any uprisings, which led to the breakaway of Eastern Europe, which led to the collapse of the USSR.

This signified an end of the Cold War. But one main part of the Soviet Initiative was Gorbachevs New Political Thinking. This was Gorbachevs rethinking of the traditional principles, concepts and goals of Soviet foreign policy, which represented a break with the old thinking. This unleashed revolutionary forces in Eastern Europe and within one year, communist regimes in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the GDR, Hungary, Poland and Romania collapsed. It was Gorbachevs political conviction that people had the right to decide their own future that led to the unwillingness to relinquish Soviet grip over Eastern Europe. If we are considering 1989 (the collapse of Eastern Europe) as the date of the end of the Cold War, then the Soviet Initiative can be said to be responsible for ending the Cold War. Another interpretation is one of People Power, which emphasizes the role of citizen activism and of peace movements in ending the Cold War. The pressures ending the Cold War were peaceful and democratic in nature, not military. Western peace movements began to change in the early 1980s, opposing nuclear weapons and deployment of INF weapons, followed by nonviolent revolutions of Eastern Europe democracy movement in 1988 and 1989. Hence peace was achieved in spite of, not because of, the arms build-up. Examples of how peace movements affected the end of the Cold War are as follows: it forced the Reagan administration to negotiate with the USSR, shaped the zero-option proposal, stalemated-d the MX missile, imposed limitations in SDI funding and testing, and prevented over military intervention in Central America. Hence, peace movements were able to bring down the twin syndromes of Stalinism and nuclearism; they contributed to making the conflict between USSR and US end hence having an indirect impact on the end of the Cold War. The final interpretation is one of Long Term Trends. This interpretation states that a culmination of long-term trends throughout history led to the end of the Cold War. Examples of these trends are: the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, Soviet-US agreements of the early 1970s, Ostpolitik of the West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, formation of the Conference of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) and a variety of professional, scientific and cultural exchanges. These events in history have significant impact on the Cold War and were stepping stones in ending the Cold War. In the end, it is difficult to make that assumption that Ronald Reagan had effectively ended the Cold War and deserves the most credit. All the factors stated above have contributed in some way to ending the Cold War and without any of these factors, it may be possible the war would still wage on. Furthermore,

the fact that the exact time period of which the Cold War ended is not clear, a lot of consideration has to be placed upon this and increasing the doubt of giving one sole factor the most credit for ending the Cold War. 1450 words