Cold War: The Wall Comes Down & Conclusion
The Cold War has been described as a clash between Capitalist and Marxist-Leninist ideologies. The war ended when in 1991 the Soviet Union—the bedrock of communism—collapsed, and Marxist-Leninism was no longer capitalism’s worthy adversary. The period since its end has been labled the Post-Cold War era, but this lable has yet to acquire any true meaning as in its ten years, academicians can not fully agree on international system in which we currently live.
There is some debate over the origins of the Cold War. Some argue that the conflict has it beginnings in World War II, where the mere fact that the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the worlds only two powers, made them natural enemies (Kegley and Wittkopf 2001). Others however, indicate that the seed of the conflict were sewn in the 1917 Russian Revolution—long before the second world war—for it was then Americans began seeing Marxist-Leninism’s triumph as a possible threat to Wilsonian liberalism and the American way of life (Brown 1997).
Whatever was its true conception, the Cold War as we know it became a way of life and a defining international event, in the late forties, the Soviets and Americans became suspicions of the other’s actions and began reacting to them. Soviet implementation of communist governments in the Eastern European States, broke the agreements made during the 1945 Yalta Conference. America responded with the Marshall Plan in order to combat communism’s appeal in war torn countries. Soviets viewed this as America’s continued imperialistic endeavours and they reacted by invading Czechoslovakia and constructing the Berlin wall. American in turn saw these developments as evidence of Soviet’s intended expansionism and world domination.
These back and forth misconceptions made each side increasingly convinced of the other’s ill will and the fear this generated allowed for each to take an aggressive stance against the other. This signaled the beginnings of a period were war was always an immediate possibility. They divided themselves into military alliances: the Americans in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Soviets in the Warsaw Pact, to defend themselves from the others aggressions. This become the cornerstone of the East / West divide. The military capabilities of each became a restraint on the other’s eagerness for war and although there were many significant confrontations (e.g. the Cuban Missile Crisis), leaders on both sides realised that a war would produce no true winners, hence the Cold War began to wane. There was a resurgence of suspicion—propelled by Soviet actions in Asia—during the first Ronald Regan presidency, but by that time the Soviet Union was on the decline. In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev ascended as President of the Soviet Union and looking for the greater good decided to put aside the rivalry in order to save his country’s deterioration. The Cold War was beginning its end.
As documented in the Film the Cold War: The Wall Comes Down & Conclusion, Gorbachev and Bush’s first meeting in 1989 had the Cold War’s end on the agenda. It came at a time when communist regimes all over Europe were crumbling and Americans took German reunification as a sign that the Cold War was truly coming to an ended. But while Gorbachev permitted the satellite states to break from Soviet influence, he firmly opposed the break up of the Soviet Union. So when Lithuanians demanded their independence and flocked to their parliament to protect it, Soviet forces promptly trampled on them. Though Gorbachev refused to have his country disintegrate, he realised the system, in order to survive, needed reforming, so he allowed for a multiparty system, gave the people the right to protest and drafted a plan that would give the other members of the union limited autonomy by decentralising Moscow’s power. However the true communist at heart resented Gorbachev’s reforms and saw his policies as the destruction of the Union. In response they placed Gorbachev under house arrest launched a coup to seize control of the Union, but it was very unsuccessful and the dissidents soon conceded defeat, allowing Gorbachev’s return to Moscow. When he returned the President acknowledged that things has changed but it was not until he saw the power and following that Boris Yeltsin has acquire did he realise just how dramatic a change it had been. Yeltsin, anticipating the end of the Soviet Union, initiated the signing of a document that declared its disbanding. He did so without informing the president and when the deed was done, he informed President Bush before Gorbachev. Left with little authority Gorbachev resigned and upon the disbanding of the Union the Cold War finally ended. The United States no longer had an enemy.
The Realist theory of International Relations argues that the state is the primary and only important actor in an anarchic international system where war is a valid mean of gaining power. The actions and policies of the state are based on the need for power and non-influential states only factor into the international system when they can be used as pawns in the power struggle. During the Cold War when the world was divided in every sense under the Soviet and American planes of power, and non-powerful countries (e.g Cuba) were used by one superpower to undermine the other, Realism became the standard theory of International Relations as it managed to explained the international system perfectly. However, with the peaceful end to the conflict and the developments in its aftermath, Realism has undergone much scrutiny.
Now the international system is one of co-operation where trading is not determined by political blocs, where non-powerful countries receive assistance from more powerful nations and where International Governmental Organisations (IGOs)— such as the United Nations—and International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) —such as Amnesty International—play such a greater role in the international system, that some argue the role of the state has diminished. All of these factors combine to seemingly disprove the Realist theory on International Relations as these new developments seemingly more resemble the Liberal / Wilsonian view of the International system.
The Cold War and the documentary’s synopsis of its end, shows just how fluid the international system is. That at any time one major event can change the entire dynamics of how the world operates and that international relations is an ongoing ever changing study of the world.