Cold War 1980-90

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 15:03

The 1979 Soviet invasion into Afghanistan increased tensions between the USA and the USSR which were further exacerbated when Ronald Reagan was elected as the new US president in January 1981. He had been elected on a  tough anti-communist stance; referring to the Soviet Union as ‘that evil empire’. He believed that Carter had been too soft on the Soviets.

Reagan actively began a new Cold War:

  • He increased the USA’s defence spending from $178 billion in 1981 to $367 billion in 1986
  • New weapons, e.g. the cruise missile, were developed
    • NATO agreed that 464 cruise missiles should be positioned in Western Europe
  • In 1981 USA developed the neutron bomb – which was a lot more powerful than atomic bombs or hydrogen bombs
  • The Americans were also developing the MX missile, which could be fired from underground launch sites

In 1983 US scientists began working in the SDI. This project was informally named ‘Star Wars’. The aim was to prevent Soviet nuclear missiles from reaching US targets by creating a huge laser shield in space. In 1982 meetings between the USA and USSR resumed under the banner of START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks). Reagan demanded huge cuts in Soviet nuclear capability. In response, the Soviets pulled out of the 30 talks. Reagan’s statements were very aggressive – this terrified the Soviets into thinking he was preparing the US to fight a war with them.

However, it soon transpired that the Soviet Union would not be in existence for much longer. The Soviet Satellite states started to rebel against Moscow and from 1989-1990 they left the USSR. On 10th November 1989 the Berlin Wall was came down, this symbol of Communism and the Iron Curtain was physically torn down by protestors. In 1990 the three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, declared independence from the Soviet Union – these were not just Soviet satellites as they had been part of the USSR itself so there impendence was a massive hit for the USSR. Gorbachev became increasingly unpopular:

  • People felt he had done too little to stop the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, they saw this as an act of weakness
  • The economic reforms, perestroika, he had introduced had had no immediate effect. There was still food shortages and rising prices

Other Russians wanted the complete collapse of the communist system. In February 1990, 250,000 people demonstrated against the communists in Moscow. In the annual May Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square, Gorbachev was booed. In August 1991, there was a hard-line communists led a coup against Gorbachev, they imprisoned him in his own country home in the Crimea.

Boris Yeltsin, the new president of the Russian Republic, led a demonstration against the coup. He insisted that reform had to continue in order for Russia to be saved. Yeltsin was seen as hero who would save Russia from a slide back into communism repression. He was also seen as the man with the power. Yeltsin went on to disband the Soviet…


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