The Cold War: Mikhail Gorbachev
The Cold War took place between the United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from the mid 1940’s to the early 1990s.
It was a “cold war” in the sense that there was never any military engagement between the US and the USSR, but during the Cold War both superpowers invested in many different weapons. The Cold War finally started to wind down in the late 1980’s due to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s cooperation. Thus, Mikhail Gorbachev’s ascension to power in the USSR eventually ended the Cold War.
Mikhail Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931 near Stavropol in the USSR. He joined the Communist Party in 1952, and in 1953, earned his law degree at Moscow University. In the early 1960’s, he became the head of the Stavropol region’s agriculture department. By the end of the 1960’s he had risen to the top of the Communist Party in the Stavropol region. This would later help him in his rise to power.
In 1971, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected to the Central Committee, which was made up of elected delegates who made decisions for the Communist Party and were responsible for electing the Politburo. Gorbachev’s mentor, Andropov, succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as the Soviet Union’s president. This made Gorbachev the favorite to succeed Andropov as president. By 1985, Gorbachev had risen to the top spot of the Politburo, which was a very important political body of the USSR. Later that year he gained the presidency and had full power of the Soviet Union. This would allow him to put new initiatives in place to help end the war.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to end the Cold War eventually did help lead to the end of the war. Gorbachev cut the total Soviet armed forces by ten percent in an effort to show the US that the USSR did not want a full-blown war. This left the Soviet Union with enough troops to fight if necessary, but showed intent to end the war with the US. Gorbachev also withdrew 50,000 troops from Eastern Europe to ease the tension between the USSR and Eastern Europe. The number of soviet tanks in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were reduced by fifty percent as well. This also eased tension between the countries involved and showed the US that the USSR was trying to end the war as well. Gorbachev argued in favor of ending the arms race with the West and he met up with Ronald Reagan on four different occasions to attempt reform and an end to the war. Not only did all of the initiatives led to the end of the war, they also led to an end to the Soviet Union and Gorbachev’s reign as president.
In August of 1991, hard-line communists staged a coup of the government but failed miserably due to incompetence, lack of support, and protesters. Even though the coup failed, the USSR writhed in agony because of it and Gorbachev lost his political initiative. Gorbachev was forced to resign at the end of 1991 as president of the now non-existent Soviet Union. He no longer had any political or legal authority, but thanks, in part, to his political initiatives and efforts to end the war, the Cold War was finally over.
Although Mikhail Gorbachev led the USSR to its demise, history will not forget him and his efforts that helped end the Cold War and save the world from nuclear annihilation. Without Mikhail Gorbachev, the Cold War could very well still be going on, or worse, have ended in the destruction of nations from nuclear bombs.