In 1945, the joint forces of the allies managed to defeat the Axis, which resulted in the end of World War II. However, the Soviet Union and the United States had different opinions concerning the world structure, and it led to significant geopolitical tension between the nations. The USSR wanted to establish communist governments in Eastern Europe and Asia, while the USA tried to limit the power of the Soviet Union and help various nations build and preserve their democracies. Thus, the competition between the two nations to increase their spheres of influence was known as the Cold War, and the USA took specific steps to meet the perceived Soviet threat during the 1940s-1960s.
Iranian crisis of 1946 was one of the first events of the Cold War. The USSR refused to leave occupied Iranian territory irrespective of the previous agreements. The US diplomatic pressure made the Soviets withdraw their forces, but it became clear that similar conflicts would be likely to occur. Consequently, 1946 witnessed as Winston Churchill presented his “Iron Curtain” speech, where he accused the USSR of building an iron curtain that divided Europe into two competing parts. Joseph Stalin considered this speech a declaration of war against the Soviet Union, but he did not want to change his aggressive policy.
Another significant event of the Cold War was connected with Greece that was suffering from the Civil War in 1946-1949. The USA was afraid that communist forces could gain control over the nation, which made American officials develop a response. It referred to the Truman Doctrine of 1947, where the president offered a policy of containment of Russian threats over the world. It stated that the United States should have taken specific measures, both financial and military, to help free peoples combat communist regimes.
The Doctrine above had significant outcomes for the whole world. On the one hand, it referred to the US Marshall Plan that implied sending financial aid to West European countries. West Germany was among these recipients, and it led to the Berlin Crisis of 1948. The Soviet Union blocked all the connections between East and West Berlin, which divided the city into two different parts. On the other hand, the way of how the USSR responded to containment measures denoted that the financial assistance could not be sufficient to succeed in the Cold War. That is why NATO appeared in 1949 to oppose the Soviet intervention in world democracies. Irrespective of its goal, NATO did not take any military operations during the Cold War.
In addition to the United States, the Soviet Union also invested money in gaining control over various countries. Consequently, the opposing powers supported sympathizing groups throughout the world, which led to regional conflicts. Firstly, the Chinese revolution resulted in the victory of the communists, and they established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Secondly, the Korean War showed the American attempts to gain control over both North and South Korean, but the US failed to cope with the task. Finally, the Vietnam War that was unsuccessful for the USA was another example of how the Cold War opponents could decide on the fate of Asian nations.
In conclusion, the Cold War was caused by the intentions of the two opposing sides to become a hegemon in world politics. The harsh actions of the USSR made the United Stated implement specific measures to oppose the communist state. These actions included both financial and military assistance sent to various countries that were threatened by the Soviets. Consequently, multiple regional conflicts emerged over the globe, and they implied different consequences for the USSR and the USA.
The Collapse of the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union was a large state that consisted of European and Asian republics. It was one of the main competitors of the USA, and its collapse was considered a victory of the democratic world over communism. Even though it disappeared in 1991, the events that led to this result started occurring relatively long before that year. Thus, the process of the USSR dissolution began in the early 1980s and included ineffective management procedures, national movements in the Soviet republics, and social unrest in the 1990s.
As has been mentioned, the first essential issue happened in Poland in the 1980s. Repression and economic-political struggle of the Polish population resulted in the fact that people organized multiple strikes and demonstrations. Even though the independent trade union “Solidarity” was created, martial law was further implemented to defeat political opposition. However, the tragic situation in Poland became more moderate when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985.
When he was elected General Secretary, Gorbachev understood that the country needed some changes, and perestroika was one of them. The term denoted the reformation of the state structure to meet the needs of individuals. However, the economic and political reforms, instead of positive outcomes, resulted in shortages, various problems, and the rise of national movements in the republics. Gorbachev’s another significant policy referred to glasnost, meaning openness and transparency.
Since strict censorship had been a characteristic feature of the Soviet Union, General Secretary decided to eliminate this negative phenomenon. Even though the changes were said to produce positive outcomes, they failed to work. For example, irrespective of glasnost, the truth about the Chernobyl disaster was revealed to the public a few days after the catastrophe. Consequently, Gorbachev’s reforms were not sufficient to change Soviet society and eliminate existing problems.
Since the Soviet government showed its incompetence, negative consequences referred to both foreign and domestic affairs. On the one hand, the Warsaw Pact countries believed that they could be free from communist influence. As a result, 1989 witnessed as these states expressed their intentions to leave the international agreement, which, in turn, showed that the USSR lost its control over East Europe. On the other hand, domestic affairs represented a significant issue for the government. For example, tragic events happened in Lithuania, where independence supporters organized strikes. In 1991, Soviet troops were sent to suppress this movement, which resulted in approximately 20 casualties. It was another mistake of the Soviet government, which strengthened the independence movement in all the republics.
That state of affairs required some actions, and the 1991 democratic elections were organized, where Boris Yeltsin managed to become the first Russian president. Even though he opposed Gorbachev, the two were allies during the August coup of 1991. Then, some members of the Soviet government organized civil unrest to gain control over the country and implement harsher reforms. The protesters were confronted by the forces led by Yeltsin. Even though it only took a few days to suppress the coup, it was considered one of the leading causes that resulted in the collapse. Since the situation was becoming worse, the officials decided to sign the Belavezha Accords that marked the collapse of the USSR into 15 independent states.
In conclusion, the information above has shown that the dissolution was a logical outcome of a range of events. They included political, economic, and social inefficiencies made by the Soviet government. In addition to that, almost every republic witnessed national movements and demonstrations for independence. Consequently, it would be wrong to say that the Soviet Union collapsed unexpectedly because numerous events approached this outcome with every year starting from the early 1980s.