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“The West won the Cold War” Discuss
The year 1991 saw the collapse of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic). At thetime, the USSR had been one of the two most powerful and pre-eminent military and political powers in the worldalongside USA. TheUSSR power, role, and influence grew dramatically after the end of the World War 2. By 1950, the USSR had control over most of the countries located in Eastern Europe with strong links with its counterpart communists China. The influence of the USSR was even spreading to other regions in this case Africa, Carribean and South America. At the time, the USA alsoemerged as a superpower at the end of the World War 2. With the two superpowers and each in a quest to dominate, collision was inevitable. The conflict started in Berlin in the late 1940s where the two superpowers engaged in what later came to be known as the Cold War. The war lasted until the 1980’s. During the Cold war era, the two conflicting sides did not engage in direct conflicts. Rather the two used proxy wars. The two nations engaged in courting and recruiting nations into their conflict in a supremacy contest. The USA and those who were aligned to them became the West while the Soviet Union and those aligned to them was the Eastern bloc. The tense standoff between the two sides raged for the better part of the 20th century but came to an end in 1991 when the USSR collapsed. From then on, there have been countless debates on whether the fall of the USSR was inevitable or marked the victory for their nemesis in this case the West. Many argue that there was no outright winner during the Cold war but this is only because there were no outright fights as witnessed in the earlier conflicts. However, it was a struggle all the same and in this case with a winner.
This document is a discussion in support of the victory of the West being led by America. The document reviews the various strategies used by the West with the USA in the forefront toshow what and how victory was achieved making them the Cold War winners. The document will highlight the various struggle platforms which generated conflict and with the West plans and strategies marked the fall of the Eastern bloc the USSR being the mainplayer.
Thesis-Though heavily debated, the West won the Cold War.
USA and the USSR were the main players in the Cold War struggle. The rise of the two superpowers during the Second World Warmarked huge enmity and struggle. Each tried to outdo and contain the other in various fronts. Before Ronald Reagan came to power and was elected President of the USA, his predecessors Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman used a containment policy when dealing with the Soviet Union. The same did not succeed. The Soviet empire had an ultimate goal of global communist revolution which made containment hard. Stepping into office, Ronald Reagan initiated a policy to confront the Soviet Union, which marked the departure from the “détente” policy applied in the 1970’s (Smith 1997, pp. 145).
With Reagan, a radical agenda was advocated. The Soviets were to be challenged in every area. This included politically, economically, militarily and psychologically. The soviets were to be defeated by all means. There was noco-existing with the soviets as far as Reagan was concerned. There was to be an end game in their renewed struggle in this case the Cold War leading to the destruction of the Soviets. With the various strategies to achieve the same, Reagan desire and effort to end the Cold War and see the demise of the Soviet Union indicates that there was a struggle between the two though there was no direct confrontations. Though it was not directly put forward as so, the West with the USA as the leaders and Reagan at the helm was going to be victorious in the game through thick and thin (Calvocoressi 2001, pp.30). Strategizing is one of the strong points in overcoming an enemy especially in war. The fact that the USA planned the demise of the Soviet marked their desire and subsequent effort in winning the Cold war.Reagan had realized that a planned economy was no competition against a market economy especially with a renewed arms race. A plan was devised to dismember the Soviet Union part by part. The war would be coercive. The win over the Soviet Union in the cold war took place in four planned bits with each being a success (Nye 2008, pp.98-114).
First, there was the war of action. The USA with the assistance of its allies applied covert action, paramilitary operations and small unit combats which saw them engage with the enemy though indirectly. With the action, there was the support of anti-communist Afghan freedom fighters, the anti-communist Polish freedom fighters and the anti-communist Nicaraguan Freedom fighters (Halliday 1989, pp.1-10).
Secondly, there was the material war. The USA started mass re-armament which based on the use of high technology which in the process obsoleted a generation of weaponry used by the Soviets.Before Reagans reign,the defense technology in the USA was far behind as compared to that of the Soviets as witnessed with Jimmy Carters administration. The new defense upgrade included a 600 ship Navy, new missiles, tanks, Army divisions and planes. With orders from the President, Caspar Weinberger the then Secretary of Defence cleared the Defense Department belonging to the former Carter regime and within itsrank was instilled aspirit de corps (Ambrose 2011, pp.235). The military was rebuilt in such a way it would be an instrument which the Soviets would fear. This was an unpredictable method. The Soviet Union was intimidated and embarked on increased military spending. This was to their disadvantage. While the Soviet was engaging in this, the USA throughCIA (Central Intelligence Agency) became free to inflict huge damages to the Soviet in Central America and Afghanistan without the USA being directly involved. These damages led to the combined weakening of the Soviet Union and subsequent failure and collapse. The strategy as devised by the USA was working and effective in dismantling the Soviet Union (Ambrose 2011, pp. 147).
The war of ideas was the other instrumental strategy in the victory of the West over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Reagan’s administration had recognized the power of the mass communication as the new and most important instrument. With this realization, radio stations such as the Voiceof America, Radio Marti and Radio Free Europe were used to bombard the captive nations under the Soviet Union with broadcasts. Encoded messages were sent to the movement leaders. The West realized that the struggle against the communists was not just between the two political ideologies but was fundamentally about core values, beliefs and the faith in a higher being (Halliday 1989, pp.5). America changed the radio stations in consecutive regions and made them into voices advocacy. Religious programming was added. In Poland, the Catholic mass was provided to the listeners which were a mobilizing and energizing influence. The resistance to communism and Catholicism was a strategy that worked well. In the Soviet Central Asia, the Muslims were provided with spiritual food and information. Brochureswere printed alongwith radio programs that focused on the incompatibility of the forced militant atheism of communism and Islam. With this ideology strategy, the revolution movements under the rule of the Soviet Union gained momentum.In this case, there was no direct confrontation between the USA and their adversaries the Soviet Union. Indirectly, the USA was able to overcome the enemy’s strategies which led to the subsequent loss of the Soviet Union control over the same regions. This was victory(Nye 2008, pp.109).
The war of money was the fourth strategy which shows that the West won the Cold War. There was a plan to bankrupt the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union economy was small compared with that of the USA. The USA through the CIA were able to gauge the economy of the Soviet Union in this case being 500 billion compared with their at 2.5 trillion. With this difference and the economic advantage of the USA, an economic war would ensure the USA supremacy and thus the West victory over the Soviet Union. The dollar was the weapon. Since 1917,the Soviet system had been in crisis but they always found a way in Kremlin to have the West bail them out. There was to be no more bailing out. The struggle of the credits and dollars had to be won.Oil was the stage in the battle (Calvocoressi 2001, pp.31). The Soviet Union obtained its hardcurrency from a single source in this case the mineral wealth in natural gas and oil. The USA sent William Casey in secret to Riyadh to strong arm Saudis into tripling the production of oil. This way, the oil prices were cut by half. Reagan wanted to achieve an economic boom in the West which would cripple the economically struggling Soviet. With the need for hard cash, the Soviets embarked on the gas fileds in West Siberia. They decided to build a 4000 mile pipeline which would connect the Siberia fields to the markets in West Europe. This way, there would be billions of cubic feet of gas into the market and a hard currency flow back into Moscow. The USA took this chance to overthrow the Soviets domination of the Western Europe natural gas market(Ambrose 2011, pp. 194).
The Americans were determined to win the economic warfare in any place the Soviet struck. Poland being the epicenter for the Soviet Union became the battle ground. The rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland was met with force by the Russians who declared the martial law. The USA took the chance to fundthe movement secretly. The sponsorship of martial law in Poland by the Soviet response by the USA was economic sanctions. Trade agreements were cancelled, credit was restricted and grain sales made tougher. With USA leading, the rest of the West nations knew there was no stopping America and they fell in line with them also tightening the lending to the Moscow regime(Nye 2008, pp.119-128).
With the West’s plan to meet the Soviet Union on their terms, there was a power shift in their favor. By 1985, the West’s plan and ultimate victory was underway.The Solidarity movement in Poland had refused to surrender. In Southeast Asia and Africa, the anti- communist CIA operations were well underway. The anti- communist freedom fighters in Nicaragua continued to fight with the support from the USA. The Soviets were retreating in Afghanistan. The effect on the Soviet Union economy was that they lost billions. The increase in defense spending and the bolstering of third world communist dictators led to nothing but loss of billions in hard currency and the loss of lives of Soviet citizens. The ten year war against the USA supported freedom fighters in Afghanistan exhausted the morale and resources of the Soviet Union. The Soviet withdrew their forces and admitted defeat in 1989. The Polish Solidarity organization legalization and permission to participate in elections sparked off anti-communist revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe (Calvocoressi 2001, pp.3-33).
As it turned out, the Cold War strategies by the USA led West convergedto finish off the Soviet Union. The covert actions, economic sanctions, military build-up and support of socio-political upheavals in Soviet controlled stateswere more than the Soviet Union could take. The Soviet Union’s ultimate surrender and loss of control in their earlier controlled sections such as arms and states such as Poland signified defeat. With the strategies, it had worked out as planned. The evidence thus shows that indeed there was a winner in the Cold War in this case the West.
AMBROSE, S. E., & BRINKLEY, D. (2011). Rise to globalism: American foreign policy since 1938. New York, Penguin Books.
CALVOCORESSI, P. (2001). World politics 1945-2000. Harlow, Longman.
HALLIDAY, F. (1989). The Making of the Second Cold War. London, Verso Editions.
NYE, J. S. (2008). Understanding international conflicts. Harlow, Longman.
SMITH, J. (1997). The Cold War second edition: 1945-1991. Oxford, UK, Blackwell.