On January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan took office as the 40th President of the United States. Previous administrations had failed to keep up with the Soviet Union in what had become the most technologically advanced arms race the world had ever seen. The destructive capabilities of both nations had grown from a reason of concern into the potential for nuclear holocaust. There were few options to ending the Cold War which was approaching 35 years in duration at the time of President Reagan’s Inauguration. It would take strong leadership and an informed vision of a peaceful future to finally bring an end to the Cold War, but this leadership and vision could not be unilateral.
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” Gorbachev’s advocacy of Glasnost and Perestroika led to relaxed government economic and social control (Gillon, 300).
With hope that the expensive arms race could draw to an end, Gorbachev took numerous actions to decrease Soviet Military capabilities and asked the United States to do the same (Gillon, 300). In a progressive move, President Reagan welcomed Gorbachev’s reforms and supported a bilateral arms reduction. With this agreement, Reagan and Gorbachev met in four summits that drastically reduced nuclear capabilities of both nations (Gillon, 301). By this time, it was becoming obvious that the Soviet Union’s economy could no longer sustain its enormous military.
On June 12, 1987, at a speech in Berlin, President Reagan urged Gorbachev to further the Soviet reforms and challenged him to tear down the Berlin wall. It was not until November 9, 1989 that the wall began to crumble, destroying the barrier between East and West Germany as Soviet guards looked on. This symbolic “fall of the Iron Curtain” is a very tangible event. This, coupled with the numerous revolutions in Eastern Europe that went relatively unchecked, are often pointed to as the end of the Cold War and the inevitability of the USSR’s collapse (Gillon, 343).
The Cold War could not have come to an end without strong, forward thinking leaders in both the United States and the Soviet Union. The importance of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s more than civil relationship cannot be overstated. Without an open line of communication, the Cold War may have further escalated due to the Soviet Union’s collapsing economy.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States emerged from the Cold War as the world’s sole Superpower. Reagan’s vision of a New World Order was in place and although not completely peaceful, international tensions seemed as low as could be remembered. Remaining Communist nations such as North Korea and Cuba were suddenly isolated. Without support from the Soviet Union these nations were no longer seen by the U.S. as capable of starting a conflict that could lead to a third World War. China saw that strict Communism was not sustainable and gradually relaxed its markets and drastically improved its trade practices with Western Capitalism. ...