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What caused the Cold War to End? ‘Peace Through Strength’ or ‘New Thinking’

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Presentation on theme: "What caused the Cold War to End? ‘Peace Through Strength’ or ‘New Thinking’"— Presentation transcript:

1 What caused the Cold War to End? ‘Peace Through Strength’ or ‘New Thinking’

2 Orthodox The first school of interpretation to emerge in the U.S. was "orthodox". For more than a decade after the end of the Second World War, few U.S. historians challenged the official U.S. interpretation of the beginnings of the Cold War. [2] This "orthodox" school places the responsibility for the Cold War on the Soviet Union and its expansion into Eastern Europe. [5] Thomas A. Bailey, for example, argued in his 1950 America Faces Russia that the breakdown of postwar peace was the result of Soviet expansionism in the immediate postwar years. Bailey argued Stalin violated promises he had made at Yalta, imposed Soviet-dominated regimes on unwilling Eastern European populations, and conspired to spread communism throughout the world. [2] From this view, U.S. officials were forced to respond to Soviet aggression with the Truman Doctrine, plans to contain communist subversion around the world, and the Marshall Plan. [2] [5] Thomas A. BaileyYalta [2] Britannica Encyclopedia

3 Revisionism U.S. involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s disillusioned many historians with the premises of "containment", and thus with the assumptions of the "orthodox" approach to understanding the Cold War. [2] "Revisionist" accounts emerged in the wake of the Vietnam War, in the context of a larger rethinking of the U.S. role in international affairs, which was seen more in terms of American empire or hegemony. [5] [2]RevisionistAmerican empirehegemony [5] While the new school of thought spanned many differences among individual scholars, the works comprising it were generally responses in one way or another to William Appleman Williams' landmark 1959 volume, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. Williams challenged the long-held assumptions of "orthodox" accounts, arguing that Americans had always been an empire- building people, even while American leaders denied it. [1]William Appleman Williams [1]

4 Post-Revisionism The seminal work of this approach was John Lewis Gaddis's The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947 (1972). The account was immediately hailed as the beginning of a new school of thought on the Cold War claiming to synthesize a variety of interpretations. [1] Gaddis then maintained that "neither side can bear sole responsibility for the onset of the Cold War." [2] He did, however, emphasize the constraints imposed on U.S. policymakers due to the complications of domestic politics. [2] Gaddis has, in addition, criticized some "revisionist" scholars, particularly Williams, for failing to understand the role of Soviet policy in the origins of the Cold War. [1]John Lewis Gaddis [1] [2] [1] From this view of "post-revisionism" emerged a line of inquiry that examines how Cold War actors perceived various events, and the degree of misperception involved in the failure of the two sides to reach common understandings of their wartime alliance and their disputes. [3] [3]

5 Orthodox View- End of CW Scholars who may be labeled either conservative or otherwise sympathizers of the orthodox school of cold war historiography have tended to see in the end of the cold war a vindication of the peace- through-strength policy of the Reagan administration.

6 Post-Revisionism In the field of political science, adherents of the realist school have claimed that the cold war ended largely as a result of a combination of Soviet economic decline and the renewed assertion of US power.

7 John Lewis Gaddis Gaddis, has ventured the early judgment that the militant policies of Ronald Reagan's first term set the stage for a successful negotiation- from-strength policy with the Soviet Union after 1985.

8 ‘Peace Through Strength’ Wins The argument that the West won the Cold War by forcing the Soviet Union to respond to the West's military build-up, and thereby crippling its economy, is a contentious one, for it is difficult to determine whether the arms race caused the Soviet economy's collapse or was just an exacerbating factor. Although it is notoriously difficult to determine how much the Soviet Union spent on defense, it is widely accepted that the priority given to defense was to the detriment of the Soviet economy. However, did the collapse result from the strain placed on the economy by the defense industries as the military attempted to compete with the USA, or did the economy collapse because it was poorly managed?

9 ‘Peace Through Strength’ Wins The view that US power and policy brought down the Soviet Union is one echoed in the explanations of the end of the cold war propagated by hard line Communist and nationalist politicians and intellectuals in post-Soviet Russia.

10 ‘Peace Through Strength’ Wins It has, however, been argued that the Reagan era brought a more competitive approach vis- a-vis the USSR than during previous administrations, and that this is what brought about the Soviet economy's collapse. The contention that the Soviet military had to respond to the West's increase in military capabilities during the 1980s is known as the build-up argument.

11 New Evidence Weighs In What may be called a 'second generation' of studies examining the end of the cold war has now begun to emerge. While earlier studies, such as those by Garthoff, Michael R. Beschloss and Strobe Talbot, and Don Oberdorfer relied largely on the public record of reported events in the period between 1985 and 1991, memoir accounts by Western officials, and interviews with Western and a small number of Soviet officials, more recent studies have been able to draw on an expanding memoir literature by Soviet policy-makers, more extensive interviews with former Communist officials, and new archival material from the former Communist states. These new sources make it possible to look at the end of the cold war from the Soviet side in more detail and to begin to weigh the importance of various factors and forces as seen from Moscow.

12 ‘New Thinking’ Wins Jacques Levesque has assembled impressive evidence to support the view that Soviet policy in Eastern Europe in the latter half of the 1980s flowed from a form of ideological overconfidence. Levesque contends that the changes in Soviet policy which brought the cold war to an end occurred largely as a result of an ideological and intellectual transformation within the Soviet leadership itself.

13 ‘New Thinking’ Wins In an insightful analysis of what he terms Mikhail Gorbachev's 'political project', Levesque maintains that, influenced by a Soviet intellectual elite that had already been largely 'socially democratized', Gorbachev and his reforms in the Soviet leadership progressively embraced views similar in many respects to those characteristic of Eurocommunism. Accordingly, they sought to reconcile socialism and democracy and thereby greatly enhance the political attractiveness of socialism at home and abroad.

14 ‘New Thinking’ Wins Gorbachev and his allies confidently expected great benefits to flow to the Soviet Union as a result of these policies: not only would the viability of Soviet socialism be greatly enhanced by the success of their project, but the entry of the Soviet Union into Europe - the goal of the modern Westernizers grouped around Gorbachev - would be facilitated. The burden of the arms race would also be greatly eased and Soviet security significantly strengthened.

15 ‘New Thinking’ Wins but missed opportunity Overall, however, Levesque concludes that Gorbachev's cautious centrism, as reflected in his emphasis on non-interventionism in his dealings with the fraternal parties in Eastern Europe, led him to miss opportunities to enhance the viability of socialist regimes there until it was too late. This was particularly the case with regard to the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and Czechoslovakia where, in Levesque's opinion, more timely intervention by Gorbachev in support of reform might have made an important difference.

16 ‘New Thinking’ Wins Mike Bowker also sees little validity in the realist perspective which stresses the role of US power and resolve as key factors in the ending of the cold war. The substantial military build-up and increased support for anti-Communist movements initiated by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s changed very little in the overall political situation between the Soviet Union and the West, he argues, and cannot explain the subsequent shifts in Soviet policy in the second half of the decade. In Eastern Europe, where the most important developments leading to the end of the cold war occurred, the role of the United States in undermining Soviet dominance, Bowker concludes, was 'minimal’.

17 ‘New Thinking’ Wins In Afghanistan, while Bowker does not wholly dismiss US military aid to the mujahedin as a factor which increased the costliness of the war for Moscow, he rejects the view that the Soviets decided to withdraw because they had suffered a military defeat.

18 ‘New Thinking’ wins In the final analysis, Bowker argues that reason trumped power in ending the cold war.

19 Works Cited The End of the Cold War, Robert D. Schulzinger OAH Magazine of History, Vol. 8, No. 2, Rethinking the Cold War (Winter, 1994), pp /10/2011OAH Magazine of History Review: Soviet Behaviour in the Cold War William D. JacksonThe International History Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Jun., 1998), pp The International History Review


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