The long confrontation between the United States and U.S.S.R. backed proxies in Afghanistan had frustrated and weakened the latter. During the 1980’s the U.S.S.R. was going through a severe economic slump as well. At this juncture, the Soviet Union was no more in a position to strengthen its war machinery, which gave its rival undisputed advantage, bringing an end to the Cold War.
The deteriorating economic conditions stirred the people of the Soviet Union to openly demonstrate against their government’s failure, which by the late 1980’s had reached abysmal levels. People from the communist bloc nations were making desperate attempts to flee to countries in Western Europe. Likewise, people from East Germany were attempting to escape to the more prosperous West Germany in order to avail of better economic and social prospects. The upper echelons of the Soviet government were facing tremendous pressure to act decisively and quickly. The only option left was to dismantle the Union and open the countries to political and economic reforms. Bringing down the Berlin Wall in 1990 was the symbolic act that ushered in a new post-cold war era in the world.
The ascent to power of Ronald Reagan was to prove crucial in the lead up to the end of the cold war. Ronald Reagan devised a grand defense strategy, popularly called the Star Wars initiative. The implementation of this strategy would give the United States a decisive advantage over their superpower rival. The Soviet Union on the other hand neither had the resources nor the political will to respond to this threat – due mainly to their uncertain economy and growing domestic unrest. Thus, Reagan’s brain child, the Star Wars initiative, proved an important factor in putting an end to the Soviet Union.
In Michael Gorbachev, the Soviet Union had a reformist and practical leader. He saw the folly of continuing the cold war efforts and drafted policies facilitating a transfer to more democratic and capitalistic forms of government.
Lech Walesa, the polish politician, played a small but significant role in bringing the Cold War to an end. When the 10th plenary session of the communist party ended, Walesa played a crucial role in organizing Roundtable talks with the party members. His energetic and enthusiastic campaign for Solidarity ensured that it was eventually given legal recognition and opportunity to contest elections. In a way, Walesa paved the way for reforms in other countries by taking the first step. In hindsight, the Roundtable talks and the success of the Solidarity proved very important for further developments in the Soviet bloc.
In a last ditch attempt to save the Soviet Union, its military generals tried to overpower Gorbachev and take control of the governance. The failure of this plan proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Union. Subsequently, Boris Yeltsin became the premiere of the Russian Republic and the satellite states of the communist bloc were given political autonomy. The newly independent countries of Eastern Europe encouraged privatization of many services and adopted a western model of democracy.
The collective diplomatic efforts of the NATO countries under the guidance of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher pressured the U.S.S.R. towards a more appropriate model of economic and political organization. But public discontent and disillusionment had already grown to unmanageable proportions that dismantling the union was the only option left. This radical final step effectively put an end to the Cold War and had given peace and hope to the world community.