Cold War: Soviet-Western and Soviet-American Relations

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The Cold War was a “state of tension, hostility, competition and conflict” which characterised Soviet-Western and Soviet-American relations for much of the post-war period (Roberts, 1999: 2). For forty five years, the Cold War was the focal point of world politics, and not only affected American and Soviet institutions, but “the foreign policy and domestic politics of most other nations around the globe” (Leffler et al, 1994: 1).

According to John Mearsheimer, an esteemed security scholar, three factors were responsible for the onset of the Cold War: “the near- complete destruction of German power, the growth of Soviet power, and the permanent American commitment to the European Continent” (Mearsheimer, 1990: 26). It was both a battle of ideologies and a battle of anxieties, which divided the planet into a bipolar system where the threat of nuclear war was “constantly on the mind of the international public opinion” (Taylor, 2003: 250).

During this period of tension, Soviet-American hostility was “overdetermined” (Russett, 1993: 3). Each state led large alliances in the bipolar international system, where if one hegemonic state enhanced their military capacity, the other hegemon would become anxious and consider this a threat to its own security (Russett, 1993: 3-4). The competing ideologies, democracy and communism, forced many states in the international climate to pick sides. This led to a number of proxy wars, such as the Korean War and Vietnam War, where each hegemon would arm and support regimes that subscribed to their own set of ideologies.

Despite a rapid rise in Soviet military power in the 1970s, and a decline in the US economy, the “global distribution of power remained tilted against the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War.” (Leffler et al, 1994: 333). In the 1980s, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev recognized that military expenditures “were crippling their nation’s economy and thwarting their desire to improve the standard of living of Soviet citizens.”

Moreover, Gorbachev concluded that having fewer nuclear weapons could actually prevent a prospective attack from the United States or from any other potential enemy. He and his colleagues sought to relax tensions in order to focus on a set of domestic reforms known as glasnost and perestroika (Leffler et al, 1994: 334). Many scholars assert that the declining capabilities of the Soviet Union, along with Gorbachev’s leadership, helped lead to the unravelling of the Soviet bloc and therefore the Cold War.

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Cold War: Soviet-Western and Soviet-American Relations. (2020, Sep 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/cold-war/

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