World War II
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There is a historical aspect of debate on wars and their causes. World War II was successively followed by Cold War. Defined to have roughly begun between Yalta Conference of 1945 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cold War pitted Soviet Union and the West, led by Americans (Harbutt 4).
The first viewpoint, mostly referred to as the official viewpoint is surrounded by the reasons that the responsibility for the outbreak and intensification of Cold War was solely on the Soviet Union and specifically on the then leader Stalin due to the policies he spearheaded during and immediately after World War II (Thompson 1). Proponents of this view point see Stalin as a person whose style of leadership was so rigid for the international communism that required more flexibility.
The other school of thought is based on the orthodox view. It states that two nations can be sharply divided in relation to their policies (Thompson 1). Principally, this view was forwarded by the pro- Americans, supported by Truman Doctrine against the pro- Soviet Union, with their leader Stalin.
Analysis of the War
Cold War no doubt brought huge economic failure for the nations that were involved. Although time frame for Cold War end cannot be expressly defined, the causes of its end can be attributed to the Soviet Union’s collapsed economy. According to Baylis & Smith (49), Soviet Union stopped to participate in the Cold War primarily after their economy collapsed, as the governing elites could not keep up with the huge demand of financing their cold war programs.
It is believed that Gorbachev believed that Soviet Union could not sustain itself in the competition of arms race with the United States and NATO, which had marshaled huge weapons through their strong initiatives in terms of resource allocation and collaboration with other nations of the world. In other words, Gorbachev was placed in two competing ideas: choosing between rebuilding Soviet Union economy and competing in the arms race (Baylis & Smith 56). Considering the fact that he could not pursue the two simultaneously, he chose to rebuild Soviet Union’s economy.
However, there are more boarder prominent explanations for the Soviet Union’s economic collapse or why the Soviet Union leaders led by Gorbachev chose to pursue the reformists’ path rather than increasing their hard-faced arms race goal. There were “geopolitical and socio-economic shifts within the Soviet Union, which, when combined with Soviet economic collapse and Soviet leadership’s collective loss of nerve resulted in the radical modification of Soviet foreign policy to favor a position of coexistence rather than hostility towards the West” (Ray 326). According to Ray (326), Reagan had a strong conviction that US could afford to continue with arms race while Soviet Union could not due to depleted communism alliance members and economic collapse.
The soviet War in Afghanistan was a decade-long conflict that pitted Soviet Union in support of Marxist government in Afghanistan. This government was in bitter rivalry with Islamist Mujahideen Resistance, who had support of the Western nations of US and UK together with other Arab nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The war proved difficult for Soviet to sustain since Mujahideen union managed to occupy 80% of the country, leaving the Marxist government with only a small section of 20% to control (Harbutt 89). The United States support of Muslim insurgents managed to strain the Soviet Union and its allies, who could not cope with the guerilla tactics.
Following Gorbachev’s appointment in 1985 as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, a new leadership tactic was mooted. Gorbachev resorted to retreat in the war initiatives and concentrate in the building of the economy. It became apparent that Soviet leadership relied on its own survival, which depended on their ability to maintain mutual co-existence and security (Harbutt 90). More importantly, Gorbachev decided to shift the ideology of foreign policy from that of war superiority to mutual economic and social co-existence.
There was the desire to develop regional or marginalized nationalism. The political leaders and elites in general from USA and USSR believed that Cold War was actually a confrontation of two radically different political and social projects based on incompatible economic systems. There was no evidence that any of the parties wanted compromise. Each wanted to protect their national image and pride, and so decided to play hard in the build-up and during the war (Thompson 5). In adopting regional nationalism, the countries involved decided to neglect actual nationalism within their specific borders. The main goal of regional nationalism was to build alliances so that the other bloc could accept their leadership. This is why nations under Soviet Union decided to fight back by forming alliance with Cuba, under Fidel Castro (Thompson 79). However, the weakened economy and change of leadership led to the end of Cold War.
Cold War was the war between the west’s capitalism and Soviet Union’s communism. The economic collapse of Soviet Union, the new leadership in Gorbachev, and the strong alliance that United States built led to the end of Cold War. The United States’ strong economic and tight alliances with other nations were their turning point in ending up winners in the end.
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